Dear liberals, reports about the death of democracy are greatly exaggerated

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Dear liberals, reports about the death of democracy are greatly exaggerated

Democracy has the ability to self-correct when vested interests fail to address the problems plaguing the electorate.

By Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)

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Published: Sun 26 May 2019, 10:48 PM

For all those pluralists and progressives who opined over the last few months that the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retaining power in India Elections 2019 will signal the death of democracy, the good news is that democracy is very much alive - and kicking. After all, the 900-million-strong Indian electorate did manage to collectively kick out the politics of caste and clan to a large extent. But it'll be foolhardy to presume that the electorate's psyche at the grassroots level changed overnight. The tectonic shift that began in Indian politics in the 1990s, a clear glimpse of which we saw with the BJP-led alliance assuming absolute majority in the 2014 elections, has now, in 2019, manifested itself as an electoral quake.
For those liberals and hitherto ruling elite who seem to have a problem with accepting this mandate of the masses as a victory of democracy, it is time to wake up and smell the chaiwalla's chai - this mandate has massive future ramifications and has, perhaps, changed the Indian political spectrum irreversibly. The BJP, which has this time won a huge mandate (303 seats of its own while 352 if you include allies), had but a token representation of two Members of Parliament (MPs) in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. Three decades later, for the first time since, the Indian voter offered absolute majority to a single party in 2014, and the BJP's Modi accepted his first term as prime minister. He made no bones about the fact that he was running a political marathon - not a short poll sprint - and made references to a second term in his very first address to the nation.
Several of the so-called Indian liberals at the time wrote him off, maintaining that the vote was not so much for the BJP as it was a verdict against the policy paralysis of the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government.
Five years later, the Indian masses have spoken again - and they've spoken louder than they have in a while. The Indian voter, having long played into the hands of those willing to divide the electorate on caste and clan for electoral gains, decided to let Modi, the son of a tea-seller, into the pantheon reserved for only the most iconic political leaders. The latest general elections installed Modi as only the third incumbent Indian prime minister to retain power with an absolute majority.
If this isn't democracy, then what is?
Democracy, for the uninitiated, is a time-honoured concept of governance - warts and all. At its heart lies the idea of governance by consensus, which may be as old as mankind itself. Old it may be, but it is neither dead nor decaying - not by any stretch of the imagination. The notion of democracy remains as relevant in the modern world as it was in proto-democratic societies, in Sparta, and even in Ancient India.
Democracy has neither lost its relevance or potency in the modern world nor is it so fragile that it can be crushed by a monocrat - even if she/he is an elected representative.
No, Sir, democracy didn't die of panic when Donald Trump was elected to become the 'leader of the free world'. Nor did it die from shock when the British voted for Brexit in a referendum on the UK's EU membership in 2016. Democracy did not catch a flu when the right-wing coalition of incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison unexpectedly won the Australian elections last month.
These - including the emergence of Narendra Modi as a tribune of India's taciturn masses - are manifestations of how the democratic mechanism has the inherent ability to self-correct when vested interests fail to address the problems plaguing the various factions of the populace, especially (but not necessarily only) the majority.
The liberals cannot and must not be allowed to forsake the interests of the average citizen at the altar of keeping up appearances. For, that will be against the very grain of democracy.



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