Thursday, July 28, 2005

Seductions in Democracy

Generally, voters on the West side of Atlantic have admiration for British Democracy. One distinctly remembers the in-depth debate about Iraq war in British Parliament before the ‘Shock and Awe’. It is impressive to see that the ministers who are responsible for making decisions, are hold accountable at least for the duration of debate and they have to defend their proposed actions in front of elected representatives. Such debates are the heart of Parliamentary Democracy. One can only imagine how Rumsfeld and Condi Rice would have answered to the grilling of Congress members. Senate and occasional House hearings do not occur before the event in many cases and Secretaries do not go to defend war resolutions in Senate or House. In any case in the land of Uncle Sam, Secretaries do not need to get elected in the first place; they all are President’s Women and Men.

But Democracy is a very delicate animal. British Parliamentary Democracy is not immune to its own weakness and excesses. As the drama of Terrorism unfolds in London for past few weeks, we could observe some of the darker aspects of British Parliamentary Democracy.

First, we have Red Ken; in the mould of British MP George Galloway. One has to admit how much enjoyable the site was when Galloway, fresh from his rebel victory in the Parliamentary election despite getting kicked from Labor; blasted Republicans in Senate. Oh boy, that was fun. But then slowly it starts to dawn on you that such theatricals do not necessarily solve our problem. One starts to get the feeling that may be American ‘drab and gray’ way of conducting Congress debates and staying away from colorful British style penchant for caustic remarks are not all that bad. And now we have Red Ken simply trying to push the envelop. What a timing! He talks about morality in killing Israelis, portrays himself as the last bastion of Rational Liberal Custodian of West and very next day you find the second attempt of bomb blasts in London. Indeed at that point you realize, yes that stylish, cerebral, vaunted British Democracy may miss to provide answers we need for the problem on hand – Islamic Radicalism emerging as contemporary Terrorism.

This suspicion is confirmed when Michael Portillo goes on writing in Times that there is some truth in what Pakistan President Mushraff says – that Britain has a problem to solve rather that Pakistan to address the issue of birth place of Terrorism. Portillo’s animosity towards Blair is understandable – they sit on facing aisles of House of Commons. But from that to jump to give any kind of credibility to a despot like Pakistani President – it does not matter in a good way or a bad way – so as he can take pot shots on three times elected British Prime Minister; ‘Hay Ram’ it is too much.

The same democracy, which impresses every one around the world, seduces weak politicians like Portillo and Livingstone to short circuit rules of a democratic polity for the sake of votes. In this case substantial votes of British Muslim. One just has to look to Indian Polity where that path leads to. India had the misfortune of having a PM like Rajeev Gandhi who failed to combat such communal politics, passing highly divisive laws to handle wrongly the Shah Bano Case. The saddest part of that was that at no time in India’s history ruling party was in such a commanding position to ignore any kind of communal pressures. Rajeev had got four fifth majority in Loksabha. And yet, he and Congress party maddeningly choose to travel the path of appeasing extremists’ political views for no reason. Hindu Nationalism got the fillip in that and then rest is history, rather the violent history of Indian Politics.

Democracy in itself is no guarantee to bring peace to the society. Even the stylish, entrenched, blessed and intellectual Parliamentary Democracy of Britain can fall victim to these games – the games likes of Red Kane and Osma Saeed of Muslim Association of Britain want to play on the background music of exploding bombs in London subways. If this show continues, then as a starter we will very soon get a British version of Jean-Marie Le Pen speaking impeccable English paving the way made quite familiar by the journeys of Rajeev’s Congress. Then, next time a British PM visits India; she can recount what Britain learnt from an Independent India.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA
July 28, 2005.

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