The relationship between Democracy and Middle-India needs a little counselling.
The scenario is all too familiar: A love affair that started out wildly romantic and adventurous grows bitter and dreary over the years. Communication breaks down. Disappointments replace dreams. And before you know it, the relationship can’t be salvaged. Is there a marriage counsellor in the house?
Counsellor: OK, let’s just start by listening to one another. No interrupting, no name-calling. We’ll start with you, Democracy. What would you like to say to Middle-India?
Democracy: When we first met 64 years ago, you treated me like a hero who swept you off your feet. Nothing could stop us; the whole world was ours to conquer. Now, you are out on the streets making a public show of your complaints rather than resolve it within the house.
Middle-India: What about me? You used to shower me with attention then. We were in it together. Now you always have gifts and freebies for the poor, the marginalised, the deprived and all others in the house but nothing for me.
Democracy: But they need it more. Wasn’t that what we decided when we started out? We will be inclusive in nature and take care of all those who are not well-off historically.
Middle-India: Ha, that’s gobbledygook. Why should this be at my cost? What’s in it for me? And don’t try to affix this figleaf of inclusive repeatedly before your name the way Ravishankar uses Sri Sri. You give these poor cousins gifts because you want their votes in elections. And some of them are not even poor any longer. Their parents and grand-parents were but you continue to provide the largesse to them.
Democracy: But it is the Parliament that I have provided which represents all of them, as it represents you. It is my job to look after them.
Middle-India: That broken toy called Parliament. Don’t you dare to even take its name. It stops more than it works. It may represent all of us but it comes to us only once in five years. How do I control it in between the festivals of elections? And even then my vote doesn’t matter because all these other fellows come and vote as a gang.
Democracy: Have you ever tried to control the toy? In the last election festival, you went for a weekend get-away rather than cast your vote. You don’t engage with the Parliament at all and then you denounce it. It works that way because that is the way we agreed to do it 64 years ago. Look at the Middle East, look at our neighbours, everywhere they want me but here you are decrying me, moving away from me.
Middle-India: I don’t know all that. Answer me one question. What have you done for me? Why should I care for you and all your friends called the Republic, the Constitution, the Parliament and the Indian State?
Democracy: Come on. See what all your house has got has come because of the economic growth of the last 20 years. Aren’t we better off than we were 20 years ago?
Middle-India: Ha. It has nothing to do with you. Look at our neighbour called Communist China. They were poorer than us 30 years ago. And now they are the richest family in the place.
Democracy: Yes, I know you always had a crush on that chap called Benevolent Dictatorship. Even though you know that no such thing exists. As for Communist China, don’t you know how you would be treated if you argued like this or demonstrated the way you did here? Surely you haven’t forgotten the way he dealt with the kids who publicly asked for the Tienanmen pudding in 1989.
Middle-India: Yes, I know. I would never want to live in that house. I love you for all the freedom you give me but you are not what you were or promised to be when we started out 64 years ago.
Democracy: Thanks. I agree. I can do better. And I need you by my side to keep me honest and upright.
Middle-India: So why don’t we decide on a few things? I will not make a public spectacle of anything if you try and improve yourself. Discard your laziness, respond to us faster and fix that broken toy called parliament. Remove all those barriers that your friend called the Indian State has placed all over which hurt us. Reform.
Democracy: Yes, I shall. But you should also come out and vote every elections. You should also hold the elected representatives accountable. You should also communicate to them through media, NGOs, pressure groups and ensure that they respond. And send a strong message every single time. OK. Done?
Counsellor: It’s clear that both of you still need and want each other; you’ve just forgotten how to show it. This could be a very fulfilling relationship again. Communicate, communicate, communicate! You’re partners, not adversaries.
You’re gonna be great together, once you leave all the old baggage behind. In Ramlila Maidan.