Mainstream Weekly

Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > July 12, 2008 > Democracy, Who Needs It?

Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 30

Democracy, Who Needs It?

Three Men in a Quandry

Wednesday 16 July 2008, by Badri Raina



Ah, the travails of high office.

The cruelest thing being that, once elected, Presidents and Prime Ministers should be expected to honour what a majority of the citizens feel or think about issues.

Nothing more debilitating than that the exercise of executive power should be cribbed and confined by the nit-picking sentiments of petty reason and common sense.

Nature may break the levees and uproot whole populations, but Presidents and Prime Ministers may not. You might well ask what is a President or Prime Minister for, if the little fellows should cussedly latch on to the sandbags of suspicion and sanity.


GEORGE W.BUSH: ah, would he not give the remainder of his brain for that world-historical strike on the “evil empire” called Iran. Imagine, if that other past President who was a True Man could blast away in Japan, thereby rendering the world free of a whole wrong-headed nation, why can’t George W. do the same?

Having so conclusively cleaned up the evil in Iraq and Afghanistan, what a grand finale Iran would make.

No more black turbans, no more terrorists; only Exxon, Shell, Chevron and so on everywhere, carrying forward the story of human advancement.

Alas, but no, because an undemocratic majority of some 70 per cent fellow countrymen will not stand for it. And do you know why? Because more Americans feel dispirited now than at any time since the great Wall Street Crash. Indeed the death of patriotism, what else?

Recent polls show—damn those pollsters—that the always bubbly, always forward-looking Americans seem baffled that destiny no longer seems to obey American diktat.

The Associated Press-Ipsos poll has only some 17 per cent thinking that their country is going in the right direction; a figure that sinks to only 14 per cent in the ABC News-Washington Post survey.

Thus, at the least, some 83 per cent Americans seem to have chickened out, and for the pettiest of considerations:

rocketing gas prices; —sinking home values; —astronomical air fares, college tuitions, health care; —long term food scarcity caused by diversion of cropland to alternate fuel feeds; —tripled price of rice, leading to riots and rationing in some places; —defeat and disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the loss of precious white American lives; —the loathing with which America is now viewed in most parts of the world, with only the Indian middle classes and NRIs standing firmly loyal; —and, as some sort of divination, the great Mississipi and sundry rivers breaking levees one after the other, storms and tornadoes rampant, destroying millions of acres of cropland, not to speak of whole habitations.

Not for a minute do Americans stop and think that whereas, now in his last year of office, there is little that their President may realistically be expected to do to remedy these petty-fogging irritations of common life, he may at least be encouraged to order that last ride of the B-52 and drop that cleanex over Tehran so that a lastingly unforgettable contribution is made to the peace and well-being of the world.

Democracy, thy name ought to be headache. None of which of course means that the almighty President cannot say to himself how democracy ends when elections conclude, however flamboyantly Floridal. After that, the American President may say, as American Presidents often have said, “I AM THAT I AM.”


HERE in India are the two cases of a sulking Prime Minister, and another also sulking because he would be Prime Minister.

More than a year ago, taking the full load of national worry on his economical shoulders, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to America, where else, and signed off a 123 Agreement with George W.

Suddenly, we were invited to see the uranium lights left, right, and centre: cars and buses, trains and aeroplanes, running on uranium batteries; domestic gadgets, even children’s toys in time, powered by uranium cells; computers and machines, turbines and turnstiles running non-stop on uranium chips; and lots and lots of uranium left over for bombs dime a dozen.
Result: end of pollution, endless energy, end of the Chinese threat, all of India incandescent with uranium bulbs and chandeliers. And all of that with only some seven-to-nine per cent of India’s total energy output coming from uranium by circa 2020! Ah, Reason, thou art gone among the beasts.

Narry for a moment could he imagine that this particular world-historical signature could come up for as much cacophonic outrage as it has since done. Ah, again, the nettled darts that lurk everywhere in the dark corners of democracy. And most of them against the self-evident “national interest”.

Questions asked:

— What of the Hyde Act that disallows reprocessing, mandates Presidential certification every year, forbids testing,—or if you do test, we shall take back whatever uranium and other stuff we may have given to you,— ordains an Uncle Sam-dictated foreign policy (thou shalt not side with Iran, sign agreements on energy with them even when that might indeed be the better option for you, thou shalt recast thine foreign policy always to be “congruent” with American interests, ensure “inter-operability” of thine military with American forces, training thine soldiers to use American weapons to facilitate such “inter-operability”, send them wherever Sam thinks they are needed, especially wherever the “Islamists” need to be liquidated, always keep thy infrastructure readied for use by American airforces and such like, give preference to American corporates in the matter of setting up nuclear reactors, embrace American sailors and retailers alike—Walmart shalt make thee smart)?

— Is it so clever to rely so exclusively on a country that has the world’s most brutally poorest record of reliability? One that relies on us to refurbish its economic well-being and to spread its tentacles throughout Asia, shooting from an obliging Indian shoulder, or more expeditiously, from the Indian hip?

— Is it not more sensible to mend our fences and deepen our cooperation with our neighbours, especially in the Middle East, and tested allies, both for economic and political reasons?

— Why is it we refuse to sign the tripartite gas procurement deal with Iran and Pakistan, when patently not nuclear energy but hydrocarbons alone can in the foreseeable future guarantee our overall growth?

— Why do we not mine the large stocks of uranium we have in Meghalaya and elsewhere, if uranium it is we need?

— Where is our sense of urgency about the well-thought-out three-stage thorium technology?

— What do we mean to do with the massive stocks of coal we have, if not use them to produce energy? And what of harnessing our inexhaustible hydel sources?

— How affordable will be whatever energy is produced by nuclear reactors? At present calculations, three times that from thermal and hydel? Who will buy it—Indians, some 77 per cent of them—who spend less than fifty cents a day?

— And are nuclear establishments so safe only because you say so? Why doesn’t America have more of them than they do? Do you know that they do not explore more than some 6% of their territory even for hydrocarbons-one reason why the conquest of the Middle East is so crucial to them? Why spoil your greenery when there is a whole world to despoil, eh?

— And should you, Mr Prime Minister, be so adamant about this deal when it is backed neither by Parliament that gives you legitimacy, nor by people at large, except of course the classes that have fattened on neo-liberal economic policies to the detriment and immiseration of the masses, and who rarely get out to cast their vote, so serious-minded their commitment to democracy? What, after all, is your take on the meaning of “democracy”?

Alas, for now, our Prime Minister seems only to be saying, give me my nuke deal, or I shall pack my wherewithal. And Democracy? Don’t worry about that one; hasn’t America taken upon herself/himself/itself to guarantee democracy throughout the world? What else has George W. been doing since that day in September?


TAILPIECE: third man in a quandary.

L.K. Advani, formally the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, and informally the head of the Bhartiya Janata Party, is past eighty. So, come on India, I ain’t got much time. By general consensus, I am the cunningest of them all, so make me Prime Minister please any which way you like. If it is the Hindutva hardliner you like, such I am; if some secular façade be needed, remember I went to say hello to Jinnah!

And do not forget that that Justice Liberhan Commission which has been looking into my (Advani’s, that is, folks) culpability in the crime of the demolition of the Babri mosque, and the courts in Lucknow and Bareilly doing the same, could soon turn in a verdict of guilty. Then what happens, I ask you?

Surely, the only best way to forestall all that is that you make me Prime Minister first.

And that wretched monster, Democracy, is still unlikely to oblige. Indeed, in nearly all polls conducted over the years on the question as to who are the fit candidates for the post (of Prime Minister), Advani has usually brought up the rear between one and nine per cent—cuttingly, below even that neophyte, Rahul Gandhi.

Which is why the classes invariably say how democracy is always inimical to merit, and has neither eyes to see nor a brain to consider.

And the people? They surely need to be changed, in both great Democracies of the world—America and India. Else, better that the aliens come.

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.