When the government abidingly wants to flaunt its power and so-called decisiveness, and variously bypass tribunes of opinion and weaken checks and balances all too familiar in a multiparty parliamentary democracy, competing political parties and leaders become a hindrance and are deemed a nuisance and so extinguishable.
The latter tend to be annihilated in various ways — Opposition-mukt Bharat. The executive government takes on a predatory role.
Electoral politics becomes vitiated and parliamentary majorities are manipulated, defections are engineered, the survival of the fittest and arrival of the strongest operates or political Darwinism is in place.
And politicians ever focused on crumbs of office and astronomical amounts of funds for life and bequeathing, on ensuring victory in next elections, and national ideals and sense of idealism are of no concern to them, are easy prey for this predatory habits/practices or deeds.
Nothing succeeds like success and defections; floor-crossing is the way. This complex, long-drawn predatory process is additionally aided by a sycophantic media, that portray any demand for adherence to veracity, human rights and justice as anti-government and therefore anti-national. This show of governmental power is supplemented by resorting to militarism heroics in its various covert and overt ways.
It includes utter contempt for the state of human rights and civil liberties expected in a democracy; lies and exaggerations rule; truth loses its value; issues about accentuating inequality, unemployment and economic downturn are brushed under the carpet by ostensibly foregrounding military, security and terrorism issues in all its rhetorical frequency, all an easy election staple.
The continuously discredited sedition laws, along with so-called anti-terrorism laws, clothed in national security paddings/concoctions, are invoked to browbeat contrary opinions and to send opponents to jail. This includes manipulation of the mechanism of RTI Act, judiciary and premier prosecution agencies. Detractors are asked, either fall in line or face adversity and annihilation.
Look at the killings of journalists and other intellectuals and soft pedalling of these cases — the covert ways of power are as unfathomable or unrecognisable as the footprints of birds and fishes.
Sending opposition leaders to jail is not only a deliberate, unabashed violation of equality before the law but also the destruction of the electoral level playing field; an annulment of the goals of the Election Commission.
This predatory nature of executive power has many ramifications and moorings. First is the vested interest for exercising personal authoritarian power, jeopardy to rule of law and due process as opposed to open, transparent exercise of consensual democratic power periodically legitimised through conscientiously fair elections, not elections by telling lies and spending undisclosed amounts of black money.
The latter makes the wielders of power pro-criminal, pro-rich, sub-serves oligarchical and parochial, divisive interests. Such practices have enabled large scale infiltration of criminals into parliament and legislatures and are top influential persons in political parties.
Personal, authoritarian power cares the least for public political education and parliamentary checks and balances including the accountability-enforcing committee system, interpellations and House debates.
This authoritarian power is often advertised as necessary and hankered after for cleverly concealing one’s own past and present crimes, with the hollow jargon of development and worse, nationalism in all its dubious, divisive connotations.
Taking a backseat
Democracy means a process of spreading participation and sense of citizens’ individual agency. When the government is bent on brandishing and strengthening its authority, complementarily the citizen is threatened and the cause/ideal of his understanding and rationality takes a back seat.
The government and its leaders pretend to be paragons of virtue, sense, national interest and all practical wisdom and want citizens to think that elections absolve the elected of all crime and misdemeanour.
This pretention is, in fact, based on fear, fear of being shown their folly and unwholesome pathological axioms. Contriving the stalling of debates in parliament, blaming the opposition, weakening the committee system, guillotining of issues etc, all tantamount to predatory political behaviour.
These unwelcome developments can be fought against only by non-electoral movements or politics, by civil liberty activism and spread of studies and awareness about public issues, economic and political.
Farther away from home, we find the British parliament becoming suspended to facilitate unscrutinised Brexit, with or without a deal with the EU; and all against nation’s interest and parliamentary support or acquiescence.
Also, a potential opponent in presidential elections in the US was sought to be portrayed in uncomplimentary light by colluding with a foreign country. Such practices are acts of a predatory executive, a perfidious subtraction from democracy norms.
(The writer is former professor, Maharaja’s College)