[Editorial Analysis] Single party dominance, democracy imperiled

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Representation of People’s Act
Mains level: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Context:

• The nation is set to witness a series of elections to several State Assemblies elections normally do not attract too much attention, but as the nation moves inexorably towards single party dominance.

• India, more accustomed to glacial changes in political behavior and attitudes, is today confronting a new phenomenon that the winner seeks to take all at any cost, the outcome of each and every Assembly Election becomes critical to the end objective.

Shadows over elections:

• India is approaching a new ‘gilded’ era. Unfortunately, electoral politics in the country appears to be out of sync with this portrayal.

• Threats to the conduct of orderly elections are increasing, more so in some States than perhaps in others, and must not be underestimated.

• Pressing the stop button is not a viable option as of now, as it is a reflection of the pervasive decline in political attitudes and behaviour in the nation.

• The Violence, money power, and communal attitudes tend to exercise, disproportionately greater influence on the outcome of elections as of now.

• Across India, we are witnessing a near daily ritual of individuals belonging to one political party or the other shifting their allegiance and, while doing so, indulging in a diatribe against the party they exited.

Question arises on democracy:

• The shifting patterns of party alignments are, in turn, converting democratic politics into a kind of charade which could damage the fabric of both electoral and democratic politics.

• Questions do arise as to what kind of polity will emerge as a consequence of all this. Of serious concern is that elections could hereafter become an instrument to traduce democracy.

• With all political debate becoming highly polarised, elections could well degenerate into a ritualistic exercise, without truly reflecting the democratic will of the people. Attributing motives is no panacea for what could well lead to the demise of electoral democracy.

Power though proxy:

• It is only to be anticipated that northern state elections will witness the finessing of a strategy employed successfully previously, including that of encouraging defections of key Opposition members, an incitement to violence, specially of the communal and sectarian kind, selective use of state agencies to build an atmosphere of fear, to gain an unfair advantage, etc.

• In the southern States that will be going to the elections, there could be one significant variant, viz., the objective of achieving power would be through proxy means.

• This is already an issue of unstated and unspoken concern, but the greater fear is that in return for electoral support this time, many more demands would be made, resulting in an acceptance of subalternity, Delhi effectively demolishing all pretence of regional exclusiveness and autonomy. From Kerala to the Northeast:

• The principal objective of the ruling party at the Centre would be to reduce the Congress into insignificance while seeking to simultaneously reduce the influence exercised by the Left, even as the BJP can hardly hope to capture power here just yet.

• In the Northeast, Assam. In the backdrop of controversial policies such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, which created quite a stir and dented the image and influence of the BJP to some extent.

Battleground West Bengal:

• Almost all the tactics mentioned would be, or are already on display in the State. This is likely to intensify further as elections approach.

• In west Bengal where caste identity has seldom if ever been a factor in elections or otherwise, a manifest attempt is being made to whip up caste frenzy, and rallying slogans ‘Vande Mataram and Jai Sri Ram’ by rival groups are being projected as the battle cry of the Forward versus the Subaltern classes.

• In west Bengal where communal tensions are manifestly evident, the State has been witnessing severe communal violence over many months, some of it as serious, as that seen during Partition.

The danger to democracy:

• The extant circumstances, is that pent-up anger against a distortion of electoral verdicts or confronted with unpredictable results should result in something more serious and dangerous as an open rebellion against participative democracy.

• Electorates are singularly ill-prepared for such eventualities. History is replete with instances of this kind. There is only a thin line which protects democracy from the ravages of its opponents.

• The 19th and 20th centuries provide enough examples of how wittingly, or unwittingly, democracy could become imperilled, leading to unforeseen situations.

• Ensuring that the current status quo is not challenged beyond a significant threshold is critically important for the future of democracy.

Conclusion:

• Till March 2018, the single party dominated India’s map. It along with its allies controlled 76 per cent of the country’s area and over 69 per cent of its population. Single party dominance most has democracy implication with miner opposition.

• All those who believe in progressive politics to ensure that the situation does not get out of hand, and that winning elections through any means can never be an objective.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the guidelines for floating structures in India, consider the following statements:

1. It is applicable only for facilities in coastal areas.

2. Floating structures is being promoted by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Describe the salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

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