The distance to Delhi

In contemporary India, democracy has engendered a process of differentiation that can make a critical difference. The appeal to the people and people's desire for a specific leader is mediated through the institution of the political party. Here, within the party, the authoritative personality that appeals to many may, in fact, be a hindrance rather than an asset to working as one-among-many.

Besides, India has a strong multi-party system. The influence of a regional party may be limited in its reach but it has deep support in its own area. There are also strong regional interests and identities, often competing with each other. So slogans of "Gujarati asmita" and (in a different context) "Marathi manus" may have only localised appeal and are unlikely to translate into, or be supplemented by, an equally compelling sentiment at the national level.

Democracy has thus created not only a differentiated public but also a pluralised public sphere. There are, in addition, several small but sustained social movements that cannot be readily squashed. Hence, while it may be relatively easier to manage dissent in Gujarat, for instance, dissent against land acquisition for industry (and dissent there must be for the BJP to lose in Sanand, the hub of the development projects), the same is not possible on an all-India scale. Governments in different states are going to follow their own agenda, and frequently in opposition to that of the Central government.

The success of Indian democracy is that it has yielded plural centres of power it has created diversity of interests, space for protests, social and political, claims of recognition, all of which create internal pulls and pressures. They require negotiation and accommodation. And for this, once again, all that makes the authoritarian personality attractive is an obstacle rather than an asset.

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