Who Are the Free Riders of Indian Democracy?

The NDA’s refusal to engage in argumentative politics results in the violation of democratic norms.

 

It does not bear emphasising that the very acts of protests and dissent by the marginalised groups who want to lead their lives with security and dignity are indeed the ones that promise to uphold the democratic norms and enrich the democratic content of the Indian nation. These protests are inherently democratic inasmuch as they are aimed at seeking freedom from poverty, unemployment, rural distress, anxiety, fear, and frustration. The content of these protests is persuasive and deliberative or argumentative. The arguments in the case of the common people may not necessarily originate from written texts, but flow essentially from the necessity that underlies the truth. This necessity can be, for example, that of getting employment, howsoever dangerous, archaic, and obnoxiously alienating it may be. Most of the members of the Valmiki community are forced to get down into manhole to clean it, such is their helplessness. It has to be understood, first in terms of the non-availability of decent work, and second as the fear of losing even such a job to others. Even the distress migration of footloose labour is a forced move in any direction that will give them any kind of work.

Whichever be the ruling party at the helm, in order to guarantee freedom to its citizens, it is duty-bound to minimise if not totally remove the conditions that entail distress, anxiety, and frustration. Any government that claims to be committed to ensuring freedom to its citizens and upholding democratic norms, cannot seek to be exempted from taking part in arguments about its direction and functioning. A democratically formed government must be enlightened enough to see an element of rationality in the argumentative mode. Engaging with an argument promises to make its claim for electoral support stronger when it is approaching voters. The unilateral defence of its “success” in fulfilling its promises or riding on the success of the nation’s defence forces results in an unreflective endorsement of the government, despite its failures in many crucial spheres, because it has been reached by avoiding arguments. The main question that we need to ask is: How much, during the last five years, has the central government led by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) sought such an exemption from argument that is at the core of deliberative democracy? Is not this government then a free rider of democracy?

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Updated On : 26th Mar, 2019

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