Relevant modern views on democratic governance

By: Dr.Rajkumar Singh
The single criteria for a good government in democracy is progress; and by progress we mean peace, liberty and better life. To quote Gandhi. ‘Democracy must in essence mean the art and science of mobilising the entire physical economic and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all. It is a way of life; it is also a process forever recreating that way of life. In it, each person is important as an individual; his well being is vital in itself. Lord Acton, after a profound examination of historical processes came to the conclusion that the fate of every democracy, of every government based on the sovereignty of the people, depends on the choice it makes between these opposite principles; absolute power on the one hand, and on the other the restraints of legality and the authority of tradition.
Jayaprakash and Nehru
Democracy is meaningful only to the extent it leads to the participation of the people. Sensing the dangers of democracy Jayaprakash Narayan felt that unless democratic system involves masses in its working the ideals of freedom, equality and justice could not be achieved. Following the view of Harold Laski, he, in his paper published in 1959 entitled ‘The Reconstruction of Indian polity,’ held that the worth of democracy must be judged by the amount of voluntary activities within it. It is not the formal institutions like Parliament, assemblies, elected governments which constitute democracy. It must live in the life of the people. Rejecting the theory of parliamentary democracy with multi-Party system, he advanced the system of Partyless democracy of participatory democracy. For practical purpose and in order that the people might participate in the government, the government must be brought as near to the people as possible.
Nehru did not confine his opinion to the realm of politics alone but the arena of economy was not out of his reach. He considered that political democracy by itself is not enough except that it may be used to obtain a gradually increasing measure of economic democracy. Nehru believed in industrialisation and a strong industrial base. The Russian five year plans and the progress made in that country had a great impact on the mind of Nehru. Though he was impressed by Russia’s economic progress he was against the dictatorial form of rule.
Views of B.R. Ambedkar In the context B.R. Ambedkar, while piloting the Constitution Bill said, I feel that, however good the constitution may be it is sure to turn out bad if those called upon to work it happen to be a bad lot. However bad a constitution may be, if those who are called upon to work it happen to be a good lot, it will turn out to be good’. The constitutional structure of the world’s newest and largest democracy as held by Sachchidananda Sinha, Provisional Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, that it all may Perish in an hour by the folly, corruption or negligence of its only keepers, ‘The People’. These prophetic words came true. The foundations of the constitution have been shaken by the folly of the people, the corruption of our politicians and negligence of the elite. In the last fifty years, we have reduced the noble processes of our constitution to the level of a carnival of claptrap, cowardice and chicanery. Just as it is not enough to import the latest technology if a country lacks the scientific temper and skills to harness it, so the Parliamentary system too can become arid if members of Parliament, on both sides of the political divide, continue to display a lack of democratic temper. The essence of Parliamentary democracy lies in the tolerance of dissent and a willingness to hear and even heed a point of view contrary to one’s own.
M.N. Roy on Parliamentary Democracy
Several Political Philosophers of modern time including Manvendra Nath Roy have disliked Parliamentary democracy, as we too feel it is not suitable particularly for countries who lack a political society. The basic guiding philosophy of Roy’s idea is that society and state are instruments created by man to serve his own interest. He argued that man as a creator, is prior to society and state. There is one of ends and means, the means are justified only in so far as they can promote the end. Society has no interest independent of the interests of individuals who form the society.
With this assumption at the heart, Roy has analysed the pros and cons of Parliamentary democracy in the Indian context. Although he admits that the problem of the relation between the society and the individual is becoming more and more complex, the original purpose of all social organisations, is to help man to develop the potentialities inherent in him as a biological organism. His first objection relates to the concept of democracy itself, in which people elect a few representatives to the legislature and these representatives claim the right to rule the country in the name of the sovereign people. This practice of the delegation is a negation of democracy and considered by him as incompatible with the principle of popular sovereignty. If power is taken from the people, even for the shortest period of time, democracy is killed. Periodic power of electing representative is a thorough negation of people’s actual authority. The voting right in election is thus, simply a way to surrender power in favour of a particular candidate. The people exercise their sovereignty by surrendering it from time to time, making it a contradiction of democratic practice.
Parliamentary democracy concentrates political power in the hands of the few representatives through the election and by on means, it can establish a government of the people, for the people and by the people which is the essence of democracy. Under it, if the representatives are inspired by a spirit of popular welfare, they can at best set up a government for the people and the same is not a democratic one. However, in comparison to dictatorship he prefers democracy but considers its practice as inadequate for realising the principles of popular sovereignty.
Roy in searched of the solutions presented two documents that contain his conception of organised democracy in which a government will be based on a network of People’s Committee. This organised democracy in which a government will be based on a network of People’s Committee. This organized democracy would be the source of all constitutional authority, to be exercised directly through local committees in villages, towns and cities. The draft constitution provided for recall of elected representatives. In political as well as economic sphere Roy strongly pleaded for decentralisation in place of centralisation as we find in Parliamentary democracy in which intelligence, integrity, wisdom, moral excellence do not count for much. In operation it is full of grave defects. The people are powerless between elections. Political parties with their countrywide organisations and vast financial resources become agents of centralisation. Through decentralisation Roy’s political philosophy aims to achieve individual freedom with a view to build a new social order.

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