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

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The Wages of Patronage Democracy


In the context of the recent state assembly elections in five states, the election analysts and observers have pointed out that the distribution of free ration by the central government was one of the important factors that contributed to the Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP) electoral victory, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. One may even consider the role of such a factor in converting the voters judgment in favour of the party that is reaping the fruits of such patronage. It may be hypothetically possible to arrive at such a conclusion. Put differently, in the electoral victory, the distribution of free foodgrain or other assistance to the people may or may not have been the crucial contributory factor. In fact, the language of patronage that was unambiguously articulated in the election speeches of the leaders, particularly from the wining party, should be taken as the basic premise on which the patronising character of Indian democracy could be delineated, in fact, interrogated. Democracy, which is being regularly pushed into the modalities of a patronclient relationship, can be interrogated by providing the following grounds.

First, the language that is spoken in communicating to the voters, claims that a leader or the party is doing a favour by distributing the foodgrains, as opposed to suggesting that they are performing their constitutional obligation to protect the lives of the people as enshrined in the directive principles of state policy in the Constitution. It is in this sense the constitutional idea of welfare cannot be collapsed into patronage on the grounds that the former is to be achieved as a constitutional duty, unlike the latter that is defined in terms of a personal favour done to the voters. Thus, the concept of welfare does not go against the constitutional directive principles of state policy. Those who are motivated by welfare as a constitutional responsibility are expected to eschew the language of doing favours that necessarily create what could be termed as the sedimented authority of a person or political party. Conversely, those who are covered under the welfare schemes are also supposed to identify themselves as the rights-bearing citizens and not the passive or humble recipient of such schemes.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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