Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Bhakts makes leaders infallible

The dividing line between the use and abuse of power is very thin. It is not adulation, but criticism that keep people in power from crossing the line. Bhakti makes political leaders believe in their own infallibility, inflates their self-opinion and, inevitably, leads them to take missteps. History has shown that every authoritarian regime has ended up doing harm than good to their countries. 
  • In the history about the rise of authoritarian regimes in 20th-century, two questions confound us. First, how did entire nations and populations allow themselves to be so hypnotised by a person or a political party? Second, how did they permit leaders or regimes to take absolute control and then chip away their liberties and then they could hold sway with an iron grip for decades thereafter?
  • The process is even more inexplicable and intriguing in countries that were once democracies and democratic takeovers of power, which eventually degenerated into authoritarian reigns.
  • The demonetisation has been aggressively touted as a master stroke against everything from black money to terrorist funding to counterfeit money to corruption, while also being hailed as a major reform towards a cashless economy. 
  • Any criticism is almost considered blasphemous and anti-national. This sentiment was not only stoked by the government or party in power but also ordinary middle-class citizens have started behaving like accomplices of the regime by shouting down, mocking and denouncing any contrary views, branding these as unpatriotic. 
  • The shoddy and inept planning and execution of the demonetisation exercise is being defended as inevitable. We are being exhorted to treat it as our patriotic duty to suffer long queues, inconveniences, disruptions to our lives caused by this man-made crisis, without complaining or criticism.
  • We became so much mesmerised by the larger-than-life aura of a leader that we refuse to believe that he and his government can do any wrong? 
  • Popularity has never ever chastened any politician, except very rare exceptions — a Nehru, a Mandela. Most of those who have relied on personal appeal over everything else, have eventually led their nations to grief, when their self-belief descends into megalomania. Megalomania is always fed by popularity and fawning bhakts. The bhakts create an echo chamber, which resounds only with what the leader wants to hear and believe, totally shutting out different viewpoints and realities. 
  • Modi and his party won a majority single-party mandate for the first time in 30 years in 2014 and his personal popularity has remained high, despite many questions that still remain unanswered. The authoritarian and majoritarian streak cannot be denied. 
  • In the case of the surgical strikes, Modi and his party exploited nationalistic and strong-man sentiments to the hilt. In the case of demonetisation, we have seen him play the brave, lone-crusader card, the selfless, sacrificing leader rhetoric and the emotional appeal. In case of GST, introducing in Lok Sabha as 'money bill' undermining the rights of Rajya Sabha and avoiding constitution amendment speaks volumes about Modi's crookedness in defeating the spirit of constitution, laws and institutions. All these points to his tendency to personalise all his government's decisions to make his regime seem almost presidential in nature and help to build his image as a towering, decisive leader.
  • What kind of leader Modi is for time to tell. Many people have bought his spiel hook, line and sinker, while others are sceptical. Whether his regime turns into a democratically elected one with autocratic tendencies, especially if he gets a second term, depends on his bhakts. \
  • People are free to support and adore the Prime Minister but they must realise that love for one's country is completely different from love for a particular leader, party or a government. 
  • These bhakts have no right to attack, browbeat and brand as unpatriotic those questioning the policies of their beloved leader. If India turns less-than-democratic once again, the bhakts are to be blamed squarely. Every leader derives his delusions from the reflections seen in the distorted mirrors put up by his fanatic supporters.

The theory that leaders are infallible is trash. That is why in our parliamentary democracy, constitution provides checks and balances in the form of independent judiciary, parliament to account for government's actions and independent institutions. How ever a simple parliamentary majority makes all these checks & balances vulnerable and two-thirds majority makes constitution ineffective. Financial interests exposed weakness of media houses and they tow line with authoritarian rulers. For democracy to survive and deliver what is expected these things must be incorporated in constitution or statutes: (1) Truly federal structure with near total autonomy for states and local bodies. (2) Prime Minister's and Minister's executive powers must be severely restricted except during war like situations. (3) All discretionary powers must be replaced with robust processes. (4) No expenditure should be allowed without prior legislative approval. (5) All projects must undergo tendering process and all allotments either by merit or auction. (6) All appointments must be through open & transparent process providing chance to all eligible candidates. (7) Lok Pal and investigative agencies must be granted total autonomy with their scope covering every one and excludes no one. (8) Finally thrift should be the guiding policy in government spending with no extravaganza of any kind.

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