ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Professional Democracy


What has been the character of democracy in India? Has the practice of democracy been sensitive to its professional requirement? How has it been attentive to the normative demands of delivering justice and, at the same time, promoting institutional well-being? Has it been able to provide institutional context within which its promise to be fair to the principle of egalitarianism could be fulfilled? These questions have once again become important in the context of the recent stalemate that has kept the approval of 12 members of legislative council (MLCs) on hold in Maharashtra. It seems the governor of Maharashtra is yet to approve the list of these MLCs who were recommended by the council of ministers for the approval of the governor of the state. While the governor may perhaps have his good reasons to put the approval on hold, the Bombay High Court has asked the governor to reveal the reasons for the delay in deciding the case “either way.” It is up to the governor to take a call. But the delays in responding to the council’s recommendation, however, necessitates a reflection on the much larger issue of examining the very character of institutional democracy in two respects. First, what it means to be professional in processing democratic structures towards its ongoing task to make it gradually robust. Second, is democratic professionalism antithetical to the need to achieve justice that essentially enriches the very content of democratic Indian polity?

One could try and define the democratic professionalism in terms of the layers of structures that are expected to run according to the constitutional framework. This would mean that those who are at the helm of affairs, are supposed to follow procedural protocols such as working within the framework of set rules and established methods. The professional handling of democracy would also mean that those personnel who are part of the decision-making process, have to be rationally efficient to clear the business. The aptitude to be rationally efficient is necessary to ensure sensitivity towards moral integration of institutions as well as enriching the deliberative content of these institutions. This could become a possibility only in the condition where the representatives or the members of the councils are able to enter these structures. Thus, being professional in a modernist sense becomes a precondition, to enter the democratic institution of democracy. However, this understanding of professionalism is problematic inasmuch as it is based on the elitist conception of democracy. It expects to have in the institutions only those who are already professional in their demo­cratic disposition. It is this socially privileged and historically arrived at position that led certain elitists in the early 20th century to oppose the representation of the members who belonged to the underprivileged background. The question of democratic aspiration to be achieved through representation of the underprivileged was pushed in the tension between modernist professionalism and egalitarian democracy, which would consider the entry of the subaltern as an initial condition and professionalism as essential condition of robust democracy. Ultimately, having robust democracy is in favour of the underprivileged communities and, hence, the need to stabilise this framework. But one has to be fair to allow them to enter the house. Then they would be fair to democracy by adopting and internalising professionalism that has become all the more important when democratic procedures are gone for a toss.

Keeping representatives in the waiting room of democracy has implications not only for the future of professionally informed democracy but also for the development of argumentative capacity of those who are pushed in the waiting room but are waiting for their turn to enter the council. It is the opportunity to be present in the council with an opportunity to prove one’s argumentative capacity in the deliberative process that is the lifeline of dialogical democracy. Dragging feet on procedures of approval would deny members to the ethical ­capacity to be professional in terms of adding to enrich the content of the debate in the language that is appropriate to the debating culture in the council. Democracy and not liberal modernity can guarantee you justice. In order to ensure justice, it is necessary to practise justice by allowing people to get into the structure. Failing to do so would amount to doing injustice. In fact, it is not inherent in democratic structure to tolerate the face of injustice.


Updated On : 30th May, 2021
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