TCS Daily

The Illiberal Democracy of India

By Sauvik Chakraverti - February 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Indians often boast that theirs is "the world's largest democracy", but electoral politics in India offers the voter surprisingly little choice. The Indian voter can choose between the socialist, dynastic Congress party; the Hindu nationalist BJP; and the Communists. Tweedledee, tweedledum and tweedledumber. None of these parties is liberal in a free market sense. Currently, voters are stuck with the Congress party, which is stuck with Communists in a coalition.

At the last election, neither Manmohan Singh, the current prime minister, nor Sonia Gandhi, currently head of the Congress party, could generate a clear majority. As a result, the Congress is in office only with support from India's Communists. This support has meant that every liberal policy option is vetoed by the Communists, who decry the "crisis of bourgeois rule" in India.

But there is something more fundamentally illiberal in India's democracy than the current parliamentary arrangement. Indian liberals are legally barred from forming parties and contesting elections, because legislation has decreed that all "recognized" parties must swear by India's socialist constitution. This is reflected in legislation and has enormous consequences for the quality of electoral politics in India.

Take the current situation: in all other ways, the situation is ripe for a liberal, pro-market party. In the past 15 years the ordinary Indian has seen ample evidence of the benevolence of market forces and the malevolence of statism. For example, long distance phone charges have plummeted, as have airfares, as private companies have been allowed in. In areas like consumer electronics and automobiles, Indians now have quality, choice and low prices. A newly formed liberal party could have a go at translating this positive experience into electoral victory, if given a chance, and could thereby free the rest of the economy. But this would require the liberalization of the political sphere, through the repeal of restrictive legislation.

The failure to embrace markets has immediate consequences for social cohesion. As is commonly known, the inability of socialist policies to help the poor in neighbouring Nepal has meant that many have opted for armed insurrection, based on Maoist thinking.

Less well known, in many states of India in dense forests there are alarmingly frequent reports of "Naxalite" activity. The term is used to describe armed revolutionaries who routinely attack and kill police to carry away their guns. As with Peru's misguided Shining Path guerrillas, these rebels need to be weaned away from violence and ultra-left thought by liberals offering them market solutions, like property rights and free trade. If this does not happen soon, social decay will continue.

Liberalism also needs to be allowed to enter the educational system, hitherto exclusively the domain of Marxist professors. Westerners have hailed the current government's stress on education, but the real danger is that this education will consist only of socialist and communist propaganda.

If the political sphere is liberalized, then liberal ideas will float in the open, liberals will be heard, liberal policy options will be mentally weighed by the people -- and then only will the contents of state education be challenged. The liberalization of politics will lead to the liberalization of the mind of the average Indian.

Many years back a group of Mumbai liberals petitioned the courts, challenging the restrictive legislation that reserves India's democracy for the illiberal parties that hold sway today. This has been pending hearing for almost a decade. It is time pressure is built towards securing a speedy hearing of this petition. It is only through liberal politics that India's future can be secured.



This is about nothing
Start your own party Sauvik Chakraverti if you don't like the ones that are running.

What's to be done?
This was a fascinating article, although it was also appalling. So no libertarian or conservative party can be formed unless they swear to uphold a socialist constitution. This is nightmareish for India, has the potential of being one of the three richest and most powerful nations in the world within the next 50 years.

Sauvik Chakraverti - what can be done?

No Subject
wwwgeek1 -
RTFA you dumb head, One cannot start a classical liberal party in India, read before commenting otherwise f@#$off

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