Tyranny of the Representatives Peter Ronald DeSouza Indian Express: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 In Goa, the political economy of land is distorting the institutions and practices of democracy
If one were to think about the federal democracy of India, in the spirit of Tocqueville, then the current political happenings in Goa are an opportunity for us to examine our democratic practices...In all these shenanigans the people can only vote, shut up, and obey, as Schumpeter suggested in his magisterial work, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. In spite of the 52nd and 91st Amendments, the representatives display the same disregard for the electoral process. They focus, instead, on managing the process so that they can enter the zone of rent taking. When the stakes are high, the tyranny of the representatives reigns supreme, masked as it is by the illusion of parliamentary democracy...
We have in such politics the parting of ways between ‘the legal’ and ‘the legitimate’, for what maybe legal is certainly not legitimate, since the changes of government through such ‘waka or canoe hopping’ (as they say in New Zealand), diminish the importance of elections in the formation of governments and in making representatives more accountable. The locus of instability has changed slightly in recent years from representatives shifting to now groups shifting to form new coalitions. But the logic remains the same. Acquire power by any means even if it goes against the poll verdict.
Two new possibilities, therefore, need to be considered to make democracy in Goa more robust. The first is to change the electoral system. Perhaps we could have a mixed system. One for big states and one for the small states, where some variant of the proportional representation system, rather than the current first-past-the-post system, would be more appropriate. The capacity of candidates to manage elections through money, threat or manipulation, would thus be diminished. For candidates to aim to get only a majority of votes cast, that is in Goa less than 30 per cent of the electorate when the turnout is 60 per cent, a few thousand at most, is quite easy. They can then auction their candidature producing the resulting political instability. National government must look at such electoral reform.
The second is for the emerging movements to use what has been effectively used in the Philippines, Ukraine, Thailand, and Nepal — the weapon of ‘people’s power’. Let there be a call to peacefully challenge, through people’s power, such illegitimate usurpation of power. Lohia gave such a call against the denial of civil liberties by the Salazarist administration during the liberation movement of Goa. ‘People’s power’ is a weapon of democracy, especially when it is used to restore the legitimacy of the democratic order. The writer is senior fellow, CSDS, Delhi