Democracy by SMS: Do we really know the best?

The Aam Admi Party in Delhi has made a virtue out of “consulting the people” whenever it has a sticky decision to make. Should Arvind Kejriwal take Congress support to form the government? Place a missed call. How should members of Parliament make laws? By asking the mohalla sabhas.

Inherent in this line of thinking is the wisdom of the crowd. That the top is uniformally rotten, compromised and far from the salt at the bottom of the earth.

Really? asks the economist Prabhat Patnaik in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The view that the top-down approach should be eschewed and the people, as they are, should be entrusted with decision-making, is based on flawed thinking. It idealizes the people as they are, and sees them as a pure and undifferentiated mass that is entirely a repository of virtue.

“In fact, however, the people in their empirical state of existence, are neither pure, nor pristine, nor homogeneous, nor free of the web of local-level power relationships.

“Consulting the people under these circumstances amounts to bowing before these power relationships; apotheosizing the people under these circumstances amounts to glorifying these relationships; and the decentralization of power and resources under these circumstances results not in an elimination of corruption, or even necessarily in a reduction in its level, but rather in a decentralization of corruption.”

Image: courtesy CNN-IBN

Read the full article: Wrong at the top

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9 Responses to “Democracy by SMS: Do we really know the best?”

  1. Shemej Says:

    The problems of this country is, largely because of the hierarchical structure of society.

    A shop keeper explained this to me in his own words:

    KrishnaDevarayaru was not Kannadiga. He was Telugu. He gave all land of Karnataka to Telugu people.
    Brahmins and section of Lingayats were land owners and they could afford to give good education to their children. We didnt have enough land so that we couldnt give good education to our children. We were always in debt. Some times 2000 rupees… some times 2 lakh rupees. But “saala” was always there.

    When we started small shop, Malayalis and Reddys would start bigger shops. Reddys have money. Malayalis get bank loan as all Malayalis have some land and gold. We cant compete with them.

    Marwaris own all wholesale shops on Avenue Road. All companies are owned by Gujarathis and Marwaris and north Indians. When Bangarappa came he gave bar license to Edigas.

    Influential people in this area are either bar owners, real estate business persons, and persons who give money for interest. They have a lot of time to do political work. Where do we have time to do politics? See this owner (of nearby lodge) is a BJP leader. He never comes and inquire who stay there and what is happening there. All works are done by Hudugaru. He only collects money every day. If we have any problem, we approach him. He takes care of everything. When Yeddyurappa came, all societies (milk society) came under BJP. They have given a job to my son in society.

    This is a rough translation of what was told to me by a shop keeper belonging to Devanga community.

    What he didnt reveal to me is, the local politicians helped him to take control of a shop (the space on which that stand) was originally meant to some one else. These small shop owners have to pay bribe to every one (as they stand on govt land). And these shop owners naturally become very corrupt and encourage all corrupt practices. He needs support of local thugs. So he encourages them.

    If a shop (or opportunity) is originally meant for some one else, with political influence that is changed in favour of some others. People from lower rungs of the society do not have their own opinion. The subaltern masses blindly subscribe to the opinion of influential people in the society. Influence in cities is decided purely in terms of money power, influential position in bureaucracy, (small or big) business ownership, real estate-mafia connection. Influence in rural areas is decided purely based on land ownership and ability to lend loan to others.

    When there is a hierarchical structure in a society, and when most of the problems in a society is purely because of hierarchical nature of society, the number of SMS messages would only reflect the opinion of the influential section in that society.

    A political party is supposed to crush and demolish this hierarchical structure of the society. And that can be done only through militant struggles of the masses. When I say militant struggle, I dont, even remotely approve violence. (the world militant is often understood as violent. But I mean an organized group, fully committed to goals who are determined and ready to do sacrifices for the larger interests of the society.

    What Arvind Kejriwals does is right and wrong. Wrong because he doesnt question the hierarchical nature of society, which is the root cause of all problems. He is doing right because, his gimmicks, in effect cultivate a culture of popular activism. Every autorikshaw driver is now encouraged to think that he can take law in his hand. He has the courage to question any one in power. (people may raise eyebrows when I say “taking law in own hands”- Please take it in positive meaning)

    We have a Feudal mindset. No one dares to question anyone. Now every local police constable is encouraged to question Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. That is good. This belief is contagious. That will have a good impact in the long run. It may lead to either anarchy or better democratic functioning.

    Look at some of our Churumuri posters. They cant even imagine to question a Corporate heads in India. They truly believe, Corporate heads are God sent people giving 5 or 6 digits salary to us. That is the slavery mind set of we middle class Indians.

    Corporates have their tactics to persuade a government to implement what they want to get done. Most importantly, they have money power.The corporate also influence masses through their media. There is a concept called manufacturing consent. Corporate can influence how ordinary people think and react using their media power. Corporate want political leaders to sit in an air-conditioned room and run the government. Why?

    Corporate head knows that, no one can sit in a Minister’s chair and solve India’s problems. They dont want some one disturbing their crony capitalist activities. Till date, political parties and their small strikes have only given some vent for people’s anger. They organize small protests and small dharnas. But such small agitations can not solve India’s problems. When no agitation solve their real problems, dangerously, people start thinking on regional, linguistic, communal and caste lines. Forming smaller states cant solve any issues here. It can lead to more complex problems related to water / resource sharing, migration issus etc.

    There is only one thing that can build a process of alternative thinking among the masses of this (or any) country. That is, people’s agitation.

    Agitation was a “foul word” during Mahatma Gandhi’s time. Now all of a sudden it has become a dirty word. Times of India would never print a news about a people’s agitation.

  2. Deepak Says:

    This fellow is unique – joker cum anarchist cum marxist cum megalomaniac. Whatever respect he had earned, he has lost with his non-stop nautanki. He has no idea of politics and administration, its a tragedy that the person who had administrative experience – Kiran Bedi is now completely distanced. More than Kejri, it is the band of clowns surrounding him – the Comrade Gen Secy Yogendra Yadav, the law breaker spamming law minister, the stand up comic Amethi candidate – who have brought things to this stage. The whole lot have messed up a wonderful movement and reduced it to a sick farce.

    MSM guys breathes fire at BJP accusing them of abusing people on social media. But fact is most abusive people on twitter are the AAP guys. Check out the way they launched vicious attack on Kiran Bedi and Chetan Bhagat for attacking them. And their childish boycott of Arnab and Rahul Kanwal will not win them any friends.

    It is unfortunate that a potential third alternative has been completely destroyed because of the lunacy of a few people. A golden chance India had to have a clean party has vanished forever.

  3. Srikrishna uvari Says:

    What the author says is correct to a certain extent. As long as the AAP govt does not take every single decision to the people there is no harm in going to them on certain decisions. In fact the USA des this with the various propositions that are brought to vote during the election every Nov. In fact is this not a refreshing change from normal where we have a bunch of no good crooks making and passing laws they please. What AAP is doing should ensure everyone remains tuned to what the govt is doing and thereby should increase involvement of the public in running the nation and getting the props they need passed rather than limit their role to just voting every so often and living with the consequences of that vote or non vote.

  4. Shemej Says:

    See this video- Who is better- Arvind Kejriwal or Arnab?
    (it appears a commercial video- nevertheless, looks good)

    4 Brahmin story, 3 Karnataka nostalgia, 2 cricket, 2 Hindutva, 1 welfare politics/socialist policy/personality…. and once in two months a remotely leftist view. This is a formula. Whose formula it is? I dont know.
    When a left policy discussion comes, I only want to make it interesting. Hence the above video.

  5. bigheight Says:

    Pandit Umesh Sharma is a Member of Aam Aadmi Party and He is standing in election of MP at West Delhi. He is a social worker in his area and do more worke for neede people.
    Umesh Sharma Aam Aadmi Party

  6. sir Says:

    Public polls can be conducted for emotional issues for e.g how Scotland will be holding one shortly whether to break away from UK. Scots are demanding this for centuries and it is only now that they are getting a proper channel.

    But holding polls asking whether people like to pay for water/electricity, whether they like police to come under delhi govt, whether public want to have an open discussion on lokapal, whether people want to pay tax, whether they think modi or ambani is corrupt etc is absolutely rubbish and very childish.

    Democracy is limited to electing representatives and then leaving the job to them to do, with mutual interaction when required. But this drama troupe think the people voted them for conducting polls! Laughable.

    The more I think of these dumbheads contesting from rest of india the more it is worrying me esp I hope Kannadigas do not fall for their tricks and keep them at bay. We Kannadigas should desist voting for a hindi fanatic party filled with nonsense ideas like AAP.

  7. Vinay Says:

    Shemej: I wish the “formula” excludes and boycotts “left policies” altogether. That would be real progress.

  8. Shemej Says:

    “boycotts “left policies” altogether. ”

    Well, in Vishweshwaraiah Tech and Scientific Museum in Bangalore, there are hundreds of show pieces and thousands of people come to see and make fun. How many stalls, security guards, equipments, images, tableaus.. But there is only One Vishewshwaraiah Statue. At the end of the day it is Vishweshwaraiah’s scientific vision that remains in the mind of people… That is the connecting thread….the underlying core spirit…

    In other words, there would be more monkeys in any Zoo, but very few lions. (the analogy is about the number of discussions in the forum and not about number of individuals participating.). And people spend more time watching Lions and not monkeys. But when a lion stand on a street, people would run away in panic. But if ten monkeys stand on road side, children would enjoy watching.

    People think their left hand is of more use than their head. But what is factually true?

    I am sure Vinay will show more suicidal tendency than earlier after reading this–

  9. s k muthanna Says:

    People = mob. Individual always is superior to mob. AG’s going to people often is strategic. He does what he wants to but masquerades it as people wanted it so!

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