Musings on South Asian ‘Dynastocracies’, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan. Some democracies!
It is raining Badals in occupied Punjab in India’s DemoNcracy
February 11, 2009: India’s Democracy? “No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people,” wrote Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) one of the greatest American journalist of all times, editor and teacher, in his 1914 book ‘Revolution and Culture – A preface to politics’. Lippmann’s maxim, a statement of a general truth, applies to the dynastic democracies one currently sees in South Asia (S. Asia Population about one billion four hundred seventy five million much more than China) in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Bhutan, which countries boast the largest number of ‘unwashed’ illiterates in the world.
The induction of Sukhbir Singh Badal, on January 21, 2009, as Deputy Chief minister into the Punjab cabinet of his father, Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, the Badals have, proved the wisdom of Walter Lippman’s above mentioned comment, and has set a record of sorts in the corrupt dynastic politics of the 60-years old Indian demoNcracy, nay Castocracy, which masquerades as the ‘world’s largest democracy’.
It is unprecedented – even by the low moral standards set by India’s corrupt political parties – to have father and son simultaneously holding the top two jobs in a state or at the center. What makes this even more special is that Badal senior’s son-in-law Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon and nephew Manpreet Singh Badal are also cabinet ministers in the government of Indian occupied Punjab. The tragedy is that the freedom-loving people of Sikh-majority Indian occupied Punjab (the Sikh Homeland) have accepted the ‘coup d`etat’ (without a protest or a murmur) that Sukhbir Badal will eventually succeed his father Prakash Singh Badal as Punjab’s chief minister. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) offers no exception to the dynastic succession that’s a feature of most of India’s political parties today, including the ruling Congress party at the center ruled by an uneducated Italian import, Mrs. Sonia. So it was hardly surprising that on 21 January, 2009, Sukhbir was sworn in as deputy chief minister of Punjab at a grand open-air function in Amritsar without reference to the electorate. There was a crowd of Akali Dal supporters (read sycophants) and quite a few senior leaders of the coalition partner, BJP, who also graced the function proving the wisdom of the great Irish philosopher, playwright, critic and social reformer, George Bernard Shaw, (1856-1950) who in 1903 wrote in “Maxims for Revolutionists” that, ‘democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.’
Political observers of the Punjab scene are asking whether Sukhbir got what he and many in the SAD wanted? The orchestrated calls from the party ranks, as well as some senior Akali leaders, which preceded the announcement were always for Sukhbir to take over as chief minister. Few expected that he would have to settle for deputy chief minister-ship.
In fact, ever since the SAD-BJP combine came to power in Punjab two years ago, Sukhbir has never let anyone be in doubt that he will call the shots in the government and the party. After the party’s victory in the February 2007 assembly elections, he first became party president, installed his own men in key party positions and Prakash Singh Badal went into the background as the patron-in-chief. Sukhbir then orchestrated a victory in the panchayat and zilla parishad elections, which were marked by unparalleled violence that left many Akali stalwarts queasy. In recent months, Sukhbir’s increased meddling in government affairs was causing embarrassment to his father as he had taken to making official announcements of development works, accessing files and approving postings of key officials without holding any office in government. After the party’s victory in the February 2007 assembly elections, he first became party president, installed his own men in key party positions and Prakash Singh Badal went into the background as the patron-in-chief. Sukhbir then orchestrated a victory in the panchayat and zilla parishad elections, which were marked by unparalleled violence that left many Akali stalwarts queasy. A party insider may have been speaking the truth when he is reported to have said that, “Sukhbir is a man in a hurry to take over as chief minister. Even the deputy chief ministership is something he has snatched from his father, who would ordinarily have made him wait.”
Some media reports have quoted the loud mouth Bholath legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira as suggesting that, “Sukhbir’s curious elevation as deputy CM is a manifestation of the power struggle within the Badal family—more precisely, of the rivalry between Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur and her mother-in-law Surinder Kaur Badal. The latter will never allow her daughter-in-law to be called the chief minister’s wife till she is around.” Both women are now criss-crossing the state, apparently trying to build rapport with the masses. Meanwhile according to a report in the Tribune of 10 February. 2009, (> http://www.tribuneindia.com/2009/20090210/punjab.htm#6 <) headlined, ‘SAD decides to field Harsimrat,’ the Shiromani Akali Dal has, “almost made up its mind to field Harsimrat Kaur, wife of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, from the Bathinda Lok Sabha segment. Formal announcement is expected shortly. Party insiders said liaison had been established with actors like Akshay Kumar, Hema Malani and her daughter Isha Deol to campaign for Harsimrat and her ‘Nanhi Chaan’ project in Bathinda. Some demoNcracy!
Looking at post independent India (after 1947) one is reminded that the legacy of one of India’s founding fathers, and first Prime minister, Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, a Kashmiri Brahmin, has always seemed divisible by a simple dynastic arrangement, for India, through his only unread daughter, Indira Priyadarshini Nehru (1917-1984) who married one Feroze ‘Gandy’, a Parsi, in 1942. She fine-tuned her married name into Mrs. Indira ‘Gandhi’ before being made Prime minister of India in 1966. A so-called ‘democracy’ currently being ruled by an uneducated Italian import, one Signora Sonia Gandhi nee Maino whose only qualification is that she married a scion of the Nehru family dynasty, one Rajiv Gandhi, (others of that evil dynasty, Prime Minister Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru, his daughter Prime minister Indira Gandhi) who inherited the Indian Prime minister’s ‘throne’ when his evil mother Prime minister Indira Gandhi was dispatched, in October 1984, by her angry Sikh bodyguards, for ordering the Indian army assault on the Sikh holy shrine of Durbar Sahib in Amritsar (also known as the Golden temple in the West) in June of 1984. After Rajiv Gandhi his wife, Signora Sonia Gandhi nee Main, has turned king maker and is trying to keep the ailing Manmohan Singh as Prime minister until, (> http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13059701 <)as the Economist magazine pointed out recently, her ‘gauche 38-year-old son, Rahul, is considered up to the job’. As a background on Indian demoNcracy readers are urged to read Khalistan Calling dated September 26, 2007, headlined, “The Indian demoNcracy, to the eternal shame of a billion Indians, begins a new era of the corrupt Nehru/ Indira dynastic rule’, by clicking at the following link: > /home/khalistancalling/2007/september26.aspx <
If one looks at Bangladesh (area; 55, 599 sq. miles: Population 153 million) there too the story is ‘dynastic’. The daughter of founding father Mujib-ur-Rahman is again sitting on the Prime minister’s ‘throne’. In Bhutan (area 18, 147 sq. miles; population about 700, 000) the Crown Prince has been ‘elected’ head of state. In Pakistan too (area; 310, 403 sq. miles: population, 172, 800) ‘democracy’ has been given a bizarre dynastic twist. There, the widower of former Prime minister Benazir Bhutto, one Asif Zardari has been ‘elected’ President of Pakistan.
South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, all fail the true test of a democracy as laid down by a great 5th century B.C., Greek historian and philosopher, Thucydides, when he wrote that, “We are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few.” Administration in all of South Asia is NOT in the hands of the many!