Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America made a famous statement about democracy, which is oft quoted by those having faith in democracy. That statement — Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people — is no longer valid in many parts of the world, more so in India.
It is now commonplace for political leaders and elected representatives to form new alliances and switch parties at the drop of the hat and all this is attributed to public good. No political leader has ever stated that s/he has switched parties or alliances for personal gain, monetary, political or any other type. All of them do it in the larger interests of the public and for the glory of the nation.
Abraham Lincoln’s statement needs to be modified given the way governments have fallen like ninepins, in different states in India, over the last few years. The new definition of democracy should be, “Democracy is a government of the leader, by the leader and for the leader” or better still, “Democracy is a government of the greedy, by the greedy and for the greedy”.
The real motives of the leaders are often camouflaged under the phrases like ‘for betterment of the poor’, ‘the backward class’, ‘the underprivileged’, ‘to fight unemployment’ or ‘to fight inflation’. The list is long, however, after contesting elections or changing sides in the name of these goals, the situation of the common people or of the people for whom they promise to work, once elected, has not changed. The economic situation of the common people is worsening by the day, while that of the political leaders and a few industrialists is flourishing.
As a nation, we appreciate the rags-to-riches stories of numerous politicians in the country, belonging to various political parties, without wondering how many of these leaders made big money.
In Maharashtra, it has been common to say that the aim of all the political activity, including defections or switching sides, is in the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar or Mahatma Jyotiba Phule. In the current political scenario in the state, Bal Thackeray’s name is also being exploited for personal political gains or to cover personal political ambitions.
Almost all the political parties in the state have been swearing in the name of Shivaji, Shahu, Ambedkar and Phule, yet neither the teachings of these great men or their lives are being emulated by any of the parties or their leaders.
Shivaji Maharaj was not just a warrior; he was an able administrator and had with him men with good administrative qualities. It was his dictum that there should be no injustice towards anybody in his kingdom. Shahu Maharaj, Phule and Ambedkar strived for social justice and the well-being of the underprivileged. Even after various political parties being elected to power in the name of these personalities, the situation of the underprivileged remains the same.
Congress was among the first political parties, to witness defections and since many of the leaders who quit the party had Ram in their name, the phrase Aayaa Ram, Gayaa Ram and that became a phrase to describe defections. Today, in Maharashtra the phrase should be Aayaa Sainik, Gaayaa Sainik or Aayaa ED, Gayaa ED, given that so many Shiv Sainiks are switching sides, with most of the legislators and parliamentarians, elected on Shiv Sena ticket, opting to go with Shinde and only a few stayed back in the party led by Uddhav Thackeray.
Needless to say, ED stands for Enforcement Department, lest it be misunderstood to be Eknath (the) Defector. The department seems to love for certain political leaders and divorces them when they shift political loyalties.
The repeated claims by the Eknath Shinde faction that it is still with the Shiv Sena, are hollow, given the various moves by the faction. It does not matter to the public what happens to the Shiv Sena or its leaders. What matters to them is that whoever is in power should run the government properly. But there is no government, so to say, in Maharashtra, since the current cabinet comprises only two members, the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister, making the cabinet meetings a farce and a mere formality. A majority of the decisions are being announced as Government Resolutions (GR) issued by bureaucrats, in the absence of ministers.
The delays in the constitution of a proper cabinet, defeats the purpose of democracy. Eknath Shinde and his cronies, criticised the Uddhav Thackeray government, of which they were a part, on the ground that the government failed to work for the people. If they really meant to serve the people of the state, they would not have delayed the formation of a proper council of ministers by such a duration.
First the rebel ministers in the government led by Thackeray betrayed the people by staying away from work, holidaying in Surat, Guwahati and Goa. Now they are busy justifying their stand and giving new reasons for their rebellion.
Instead of wasting energy on the show of strength by supporters of the Shinde or Thackeray factions, they should put pressure on Shinde and his deputy, Devendra Fadnavis, to form a proper cabinet and run the state.
The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi