A CRAVING TO BE RULED BY SHANTONU SEN

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With General elections 2014 round the corner are voters being persuaded to desire/ crave for an authoritarian ruler for India? The pollsters say it in no uncertain terms. The surveys that have been commented and written on extensively have come to this conclusion The various betting syndicates gives odds that favour this conclusion. Common sense also suggests that as the present ruler of India is perceived as weak and indecisive his successor has to be strong and decisive. Politics is all about perceptions. This is the perception. Hence the desire for some one who is strong, decisive, having his own way crushing all frivolous opposition. He will lay down fiats. His subjects will run to comply,His own subordinares will obey with out a murmur. To paraphrase an aphorism it wtll be a period of ‘not to question but to do’ .

This desire for an authoritarian dispensation has, therefore, not come from a powerful and inner conviction that such a person is best to be the Prime Minister of India. Ten years of a perceived opposite kind of a Prime Minister is at the back of this demand. The elemental desire which flow from belief that the grass across the road is greener is at the the base of this chorus .
Westminster democracy is grounded in healthy dissent and more important, respect for this dissent. Hence regular debates in parliament where those in Government and in authority are subject to volleys of questioning on their policies , on their governance, on any matter that concerns their official , some times, even their personal lives , their own and their kins. Unlike State Assembly deliberations which can be of very brief duration twice a year the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are prolonged sessions and are convened more often. An authoritarian Ruler by definition disregards dissent and ignores hurdles placed on his way of governance by any one including the parliament. He knows best.

Two authoritarian chief ministers that come to the mind are Pratap Singh Kairon and Bansi Lal. They were blue eyed boys of the Congress Party. Punjab and Haryana, respectively , are their creations. Bansi Lal also became the Defense Minister of India. In their State they are remembered as achievers. Neither aspired to be prime minister on his record. The present Chief Minister of Gujerat is reputed to be authoritarian and is a Prime Minister aspirant of the BJP on the basis of the Gujerat model of governance, his brain child.

Does India need an authoritarian ruler? More important, between authoritarianism and the right to dissent what is our priority? Has Manmohaniacs been a total disaster ? Are we on our way tobecoming a second rate power / a banana republic under the present dispensation ? Will corruption and communalism be better tackled if an authoritarian ruler takes over? Voters are, I am sure, weighing these questions these days

. Democracy in India is of recent origin. For centuries in the past authoritarian rule has ben the mode of governance in our country. When a leader, an elected one, is authoritarian should one fear him? So what if he intolerant of dissent? If his governance module destroys/ puts down dissenters we can always throw him out after five years can we not? But what if in the period he is in power he throws out the baby with the bath water? if we find that as an elected leader of India he is not a democrat what will we do? In a nation as large as ours , surely, he cannot be for very long? If he is aren’t there many who will make it impossible for him to succeed? Even if he is intolerant he is expected to give us an era of economic growth. This claim, is it correct? One must trust the Indian voter to do the right thing by his country.

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