The Australian Prime Minister won another term in office from the electorate, against the predictions of the opinion polls. His rival accepted defeat and even resigned from the leadership of his party. This happened without any bad mouthing or leveling of charges against those conducting the elections, or the political rivals. This is a good example of a functional democracy driven by sound conventions. India’s is also a functional democracy, but the way things have gone recently compels one to concede it isn’t exactly a role model worthy of emulation. It is true that conditions are extremely tough and the enormous diversity makes it difficult to obtain the people’s mandate, but there has been too much tolerance of unscrupulous and corrupt politicians. The point has now been reached where the system, itself, is under threat. Elections are a time when the electorate is expected to weed out the bad elements and get a better lot into power. However, money and muscle power of various kinds, with India’s own brand of ‘tribal’ politics – caste, community, region and race – ensures that even the most discredited lot continue to get elected, again and again. Now, the point has come when they have begun even to challenge the constitutional institutions such as the judiciary and the Election Commission. Their own and families’ personal interests overcome those of the nation and the people. How else can one explain the continuance in politics of even those who are serving jail time for corruption, or have repeatedly betrayed the political mandate they have received? Hopefully, after 23 May, the political establishment will look to reforming and strengthening the challenged institutions so that they command the respect that is due to them for the performance of their duties. There should be a clear understanding of the tasks that are to be performed and little or no scope for petulant judges or election commissioners throwing public tantrums just because their will is not being done. It is the People’s will, be it through the mandate they throw up, or the laws that are legislated on their behalf, ought to be respected. No individual or group should be allowed to think that by position or birth they have the right to question the functional authority of the nation-state and its institutions. If one participates in the process, one has to abide by the rules and accept the results with the dignity expected of leaders in a democratic polity. Like the Australians have.
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