Mango people & media monsters

If you have been feeling lately that Indian politics has become a circus, you are not alone. Officially we still are a parliamentary democracy with an elected government in charge. But, the country's political agenda is being dictated in the streets by 'mango people' in funny white caps who believe lynching elected leaders in the public square is the solution to India's problems.

Cheering them on are prime time television anchors whose idea of political journalism seems limited to gathering commentators every evening to chatter away about the mob's latest victim. The victims thrown their way have come so fast and furiously that no news channel has time to conduct an independent investigation so wittingly or unwittingly, they have endorsed the mob. Political discourse these days takes place only on television and mostly without the participation of our supposed leaders. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to think of India as a serious country in the middle of a serious economic crisis.

How did we come to this? That is the easiest question to answer. No government in recent years has weakened democratic institutions more effectively than this one. It started with the emasculation of the Prime Minister. After he helped the United Progressive Alliance win re-election in 2009, he was allowed to take charge and appoint a Cabinet but it soon became clear that he could not appoint a minister or sack one without Sonia Gandhi's approval. She then proceeded to give so much power to her National Advisory Council that the Cabinet became a subsidiary. The executive wing of government was reduced to a caricature.

The damage to Parliament has been more insidious and has been accomplished with the participation of every political party. Hereditary democracy is the main cause of the damage. It is an idea that originated from the Congress Party but is now the norm so Parliament, and state legislative assemblies, have become private clubs into which ordinary Indians are denied entry. This is the real cause of the rage we see in middle-class Indians who believe they have been totally excluded from the political process. When Arvind Kejriwal says that political leaders across party lines are hand in glove in subverting the system, he is not wrong.

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