Democracy remains as an ideal for most Asian societies. For some it is a mere façade for their western patrons, while for others it is tantamount to sacrilege. South-east Asia hasn’t exactly been a pacific region. The raison d’être for some countries were century long pogroms and communal tensions. Contemporary South Asia does not present too heartening a picture either, as far as political stability is concerned. Sri Lanka continues to confront its aftermath of ethnic persecution, Nepal with its Maoists and Bhutan with its constitution caricatured as a ‘King’s constitution’ and Bangladesh’s history of political turmoil.
The book, The Miracle of Democracy by T.S. Krishnamurthy elucidates the experiences of a Bureaucrat and an erstwhile Election Commissioner in India. The author believes that democracy, with its problems of corruption and sycophancy, is an ideal worth the endeavor. Managing the electoral proceedings of a country with 600 million voters is not exactly an exhilarating experience. Corruption in a political regime and perpetual threats to an election commissioner are leitmotivs of the book. The author eloquently goes through instances of officials being proffered bribes and occasional intimidation. Despite such precarious instances, the author refrains from carping about the same.
Krishnamurthy considers the Indian political regime as exemplar for a case study; the way democracy should function; of whether the notion of people governing themselves is a mere delusion. He is rather expressive about his paranoia of politics being incarcerated by cast and religion. As detestable as these institutions may be, they are not frail and need to be abated in order to achieve an egalitarian society.
Barring the 1975 emergency, India is a paradigm of democratic structure. This might be partly due to the clout legislative control over the military, which in turn is regulated by the judiciary. It is a prototype of philosopher Montesquieu’s separation of powers. Nevertheless, as a young democracy, it faces rhetoric of China’s dominating prowess over the South Asian region. This idyllic economy does need to answer a few sustainability issues:
1. How long can China support its export driven and inexpensive labor economy?
2. Wealth distribution patterns are disturbing. Of the 20,000 affluent individuals in China, about 95% are directly related to the communist party.
Moreover, China continues to flout human rights for state aggrandizements. The polemic is well documented and corroborated by Humanitarian researches across the globe. Besides, there is a growing pathological fear amongst various economies towards the Chinese export and currency policies, so much so that they have cordoned off China from their economic maps altogether.
The largest democracy continues to persevere in the tumult of hostile and vulnerable neighbors. It’s heartening to see, how a political system that is exhaustive in its ideologies (left, right, central), still manages to put up a celebration of constitution and democracy every five years.
The insightful experiences unfold over 243 pages and the book, published by Harper Collins India, is priced at Rs.395