Election: The Opium Of Democracy
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Pic Credit: HBR
If a democracy can survive loony leaderships and goofy governments, it surely can survive a delayed election.
Various scholars on democracy have emphasized the importance of communication between people and their representatives. For example: renowned political theorist Nadia Urbinati argues that it is extremely important to have conversation, communication, or dialogue between the represented and their representatives in a democracy. The role of continuous deliberation has also been stressed in a book called Between-Election Democracy: The Representative Relationship After Election Day. The book argues that elections help in keeping people informed. Citizens, during an election get more information about the government and governance. However, the authors also claim that there are various other ways in which citizens keep their representatives accountable between elections. In other words, elections are neither the beginning nor the end of democracy. This raises some important questions. For example: what is the role of election in a democracy? Do elections define democracy? What is the role of the exchanges between people and their representatives before and after elections? Most importantly, can democracy survive a delayed election?
Elections are one of the ways to ensure that those in power understand the will of the people. The winners get a clear message of what resonates as priority for their electors. However, any decision taken by those in power impacts all, regardless of them holding a position for or against the government. Therefore, it is imperative that elections as a process of conveying people’s message continue. However, it is increasingly becoming a vicious cycle of gaining and retaining power in which only the voice of the powerful is heard. It is rapidly changing into a wrestling match where the only job of the people/audience/voters is to clear the mess on the ground while the fighters prepare for the next one. This shift from the role of citizens to being voters to onlookers is not just an insult of the electorate but a deliberate act of undermining democracy itself.
If the idea of a democracy, as argued by Pierre Rosanvallon, is to have a citizens’ control over what happens between and during elections or, if the decision taken in a democracy has to have public consent as emphasised by Habermas, then, the largest democracy in the world might have proven them wrong. India – the largest democracy in the world is facing one of the worst global pandemics ever in the recent times. Currently, the rate of Covid infection in the country is soaring and any potential solution seems to be buried under the ground of uncertainty compounded by heavy handedness of those in power. By the way, this is not a result of any one government or person’s lack of prudence, but it is a collective failure of conscience more than governance.
The sheer rejection of the core principle of democracy that the government is responsive to the needs of the people could not have been more vivid with elections during a pandemic. There are queues not only outside hospitals but crematoriums. A respectful death and last rites is the right of any individual in a civilized world. Those standing and endlessly waiting as common citizens while alive are once again forced to wait for their turn post it. Pictures emerging on social media with family members of those not getting adequate medical attention breaking into tears is heart wrenching.
Now, contrast the above with the images of politicians being showered with flowers. Compare the pictures of those with hopelessly waiting for ambulances against those flying in fancy helicopters for election campaigns. Yes, an election campaign, right in the middle of a pandemic! Who is this election for? The immediate requirement is oxygen, not oxymoron of those morons talking about poverty and hunger riding convertibles. Could these elections not have been delayed until vaccines were rolled out for the majority of population? Currently, the elections seem to be the opium of democracy which gives people a false impression of monitoring and scrutinizing the government. If a democracy can survive loony leaderships and goofy governments, it surely can survive a delayed election.