Tuesday, May 21, 2024

State of intemperate democracy

  • Obscene language, gestures by top politicians
  • Jumping ship order of the day
  • Falling standards of democratic institutions
  • Duty of politicians to safeguard values

Apparently, the freedom of expression or speech in India has been misused nowhere else to an extent than in the state of Telangana. Sadly, it is being used by political leaders in the state not as a democratic weapon for the sake of larger public good but to stay in the news or to smudge the image of opponents. Political leaders cutting across all the major parties have been resorting to personal remarks/mudslinging and rhetoric that is quite unacceptable in a democratic setup. In some cases, few leaders are acting like hooligans and snollygosters by shameless display of obscene gestures like thigh thumping in order to challenge their political opponents. It is important to remember that political freedom is not a space or an opportunity for half-wits and imbeciles to derail the spirit of democracy. Though these gestures might garner them support from their fanatic followers in the short run,  it would tarnish their image down the line. Moreover, history will not forgive them. Going by the rhetoric and abhorrent pomposity of political leaders in the state, the current political environment bears a resemblance to the state of nature.

Safeguarding democratic institutions

In democratic polity, political leaders are the ones who are bestowed with divine duty of safeguarding the democratic institutions besides setting the standards of public life for the future generations of a country or state. There is no need of hesitation in saying that criticism or dissence is the soul of freedom of speech or expression. Rational debate and genuine criticism on the public policies are not only necessary for the well being of democracy but also the progress of a nation in general or a state in specific. As a matter of fact, rightful criticism forms the bedrock of rightful governance. The political scene in a matured democracy revolves around public policies, governance and debates on issues or agendas that are put forth by different mainstream or off stream political parties. Whereas in democracies that are in nascent or in mid-way to be called as a matured ones, the political discourse will be dominated by charisma of political leaders and vote bank politics.

Dichotomy of criticism

There exists a dichotomy in or around the question of criticism. While political leaders of the day are enjoying it in limitless proportions, responsible citizens and dedicated journos who act as voice of voiceless are being forced to stay behind the bars by slapping them with the cases for exercising the same right in the way as it has to be.

There are twin reasons for this sort of phenomenon. One,  the falling standards of political masters. Two, the news channels’ appetite to bank in on the tactic of presenting the news that appeals to hoi-polloi.

The perception on news channels- as source of information and knowledge- has gone long ago. In the era of social media complemented by highly competitive news world, the conventional news media has been undergoing through a transitional phase. The news channels assumed the role of news makers instead of being the news carriers in order to catch up with the pace of social media and to compete with their peers.

This not what our forefathers dreamt of

This is not the political climate what the forefathers of this nation  aspired for or dreamt of. Apart from the menace of corruption, the falling standards of politicians is also responsible for the rotten health of democracy. There were times where political leaders hailed for their oratory skills and for the possession of in-depth knowledge on the aspects of public or political life. They stood as an inspiration and role models for the successive generations. The tag of being the world’s largest democracy cannot serve the purpose unless the quality of democracy is maintained. It has nothing to do with the educational levels of politicians. If truth be told, even the ones who have spectacular academic records are not falling behind in this race. Back in the day, the major bone of contention among the leaders of different political parties used to be ideology. Though they disagreed on a number of issues due to their ideological stance they never resorted to blemish the image of their opponents by defaming them. The present day political class should take a leaf out of their forefathers’ book.

Circus of defections

What is more disheartening is that it is not just secondary or peripheral leaders who are engaging in these verbal wars and street fights but also the heads of political parties who are endowed with the task of instructing their party men of values in public life. Unfortunately, this culture is not just restricted to public gatherings or media briefings, it has made inroads into legislative bodies too, posing a challenge to the sanctity of abodes of democracy. There is no exaggeration in saying that defections have turned the current state of politics into a circus. Although it is not cricket on the part of politicians to switch the parties according to their wishes and vested interests, they have been committing to waka-jumping without an iota of hesitation. Amidst an environment like this, it’s hard to expect magnanimity and integrity from them. Though it is understandable that there are no clear cut rules to go by the book for politicians in the matter of decorum, the forefathers and political leaders of yesteryears of this nation had set few unwritten conventions. At a time when horse trading has become a normal affair, can we expect that political masters are mature enough to understand them?

Save spirit of democracy

While leaders from the political parties that fall in centrist lines are busy making political discourse murky by these things, the leaders from the parties that fuse and breed rightist propaganda are resorting to divide the society along the lines of religion. Other worrying development  one could see in today’s politics is the growing tendency of body shaming.

Rather than arguing over trifles which has become the order of the day, it’s high time for the political class not just to save face but also to keep up the spirit and dignity of democracy.

Vamshi S Krishna
Vamshi S Krishna
A columnist on international affairs and trade, he is also the director of Samudrala VK IAS Academy, Hyderabad, Mobile: 7013108922


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