We need to build a deliberative democracy

Article by Neera Chandhoke: “There was a time when elections in India were described as ‘the carnival of democracy’. Today, they are a theatre of war. And war has no rules. In the Mahabharata, law-giver Krishna advises deceit: recollect the killing of Karna, the tragic hero who epitomised courage, valour, honour, generosity and loyalty. Analogously, in the current elections to five Assemblies, every rule protecting human dignity has been violated. Wild allegations are thrown around, history is distorted, people are divided, the hijab becomes a core issue, poverty and unemployment are non-issues and politicians strike Faustian bargains. Political languages are turned upside down, and we no longer know who stands for what, or whether they stand for anything at all.

The unnecessary hype over elections is odd. In parliamentary democracies, elections come and go, politicians appear and disappear, and life goes on. In India, elections are a matter of life and death. Television channels carry no other news. Ministers of the Central government focus their attention on state and even panchayat elections, and pay scant attention to what they should be doing: governing the country, providing jobs, ensuring wellbeing, moderating political excesses.

Considering that every year some or the other state goes into the election mode, we are fated to live amidst this hysteria and this name-calling, this empty symbolism and even emptier rhetoric…(More)”.