The Democratic “Republic” of India

Written for Campsghanta. Read the complete post here:

The results for the most hyped state election were out a few days ago. It was supposed to witness the triumph of the crown prince as he stamped his authority over the other mortals. But, alas, destiny had something else in store. A son did rise, but not the one who was expected to.

But I am writing this piece, not to discuss the results. But I write it, because I have observed a trend. Maybe what I see is really there, or maybe I am hallucinating. Our constitution calls us the Democratic Republic of India. Bah!

You will call me a cynic, yes. But I have my reasons.

The Beginning of a Republic

The Romans, the first to create the concept of a Republic had began the same way. No one person had supreme power. As a first draft, the concept was forward from its time. It gave power to the people. The power to choose their leaders. It allowed leadership to brew. The concept was simple. The senate would comprise of capable men, who would then vote for the person amongst them most suitable to rule for a specified period of time. And it was not an absolute rule, since all decisions had to be first approved by the senate. A triumvirate was created during the time of the first Caesar. Three heads with equal powers. It helped check the abuse of power by a single person.

In 1947, as India got Independence, we adopted a similar structure. Our triumvirate consisted of the Courts and the Parliaments. As Abraham Lincoln had said in his famous speech and I quote “Democracy is the government by the people, of the people and for the people” Working on the same principals, our leaders gave us a constitution that defined the rights of each citizen, promising to uphold the rule of the Republic.


The Demon of Corruption

Like most things, this concept looked good on paper and worked well too before it began it’s descent. As the society grew it also started cracking, and corruption started showing it’s head. It was a corruption of morals and ethics. When the seat in senate or appointment as a priest or any other position for that matter could be brought for a price. People voted based on favourites.

The same began to happen in India. Every man has a price, and appointments have a price and it is negotiable. People began voting, not for the ideology of the party or what it stood for, but to the person they favoured. Not that it is bad, but more often than not the favouritism is based on the fact that a particular candidate was of the same caste/religion/social background as the majority in the area.


Enter the Dynasties

The Roman Republic was created to ensure that no one person will have monopoly on power. Julius Jwas a General who was given supreme authority to wage war, but initially was part of the Triumvirate. He was assassinated when his lust for power increased. His successor Augustus, though promised a return to the Republic but could not or rather did not (I am not going to bore the reader with subtle intrigues of ancient politics). And as time progressed, it became a monarchy, where the next ruler was chosen by the previous one. And the once proud senate, became but a meeting ground for sycophants who deified every Caesar and met there to confer titles and honours on their lord.

Coming back to modern India. This is what we see. We blame one party, but look around. There is, in every state, at least one party that is being run by a dynasty. Who says Monarchy is dead? It is just an old wine in a new bottle.


The Society Crumbles

By the time Caligula took over as the 4th Caesar, the society was already on a decline. People had high hopes for him since he was the son of Germanicus, a leader who had commanded much love and appreciation from all. And he carried a very noble family name. His sister Drusilla was made a Goddess and he treated himself like one. Since the day he was born, he was told he was a ruler. While his brothers were banished.

Caligula was not fit to rule, and though the people loved him for his family name, they soon realised that the monarch was nothing but a spoilt child filled with ideas of grandeur.


Rome Burns

As Rome further went afar from the concept of Republic, it brought it’s own destruction at the hands of the 6th Caesar, who famously played the fiddle as the capital burnt.


As I see the Political scenario now, I can’t help but make comparisons with the ancient world. And I see history repeating itself. Only the characters are different. The stage is different.

One Response to “The Democratic “Republic” of India”
  1. madbull says:

    Excellent post, I was making similar comments to one of my friends when he remarked that Indians choose dynasty like styles not only in politics but also in business, film etc. I guess everywhere having parents in the same field makes you a favorite, but the effect is most dramatic and dangerous in politics.
    Today in India we have crappy choices, choosing between different monarchies, a monarchy and a theocracy etc, but atleast we have some sort of a choice which drives in accountability even in the most hardened dynastic parties.
    There is a reason the ruling class likes to keep the voters poor and illiterate, so that these ghastly flaws in their functioning can be glossed over by fiery rhetorical speeches, fake promises etc.
    I think the only reason a semblance of democracy is maintained in India is not because of some ideal that we want to live upto but because nobody wants another to succeed too much.

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