Reading India through 'Dictator's handbook'

What's the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship?
The book says, not much. India, agrees. Current political dispensation especially agrees vigorously.

"Soma" of hindutva and past glory + divided impoverished amnesiac masses + legitimised attack on individual rights + tremendous wealth shared among few = brave new world of oligarchical India.

Essentially, democracies/ dictatorships etc., are simply variants of the same power dynamic between the ruler, essentials, influentials and inter-changeables.
Interchangeables are the nominal selectorate - the individual voters who have nominal (or cosmetic) power to choose leader - most of us.
Influentials  are the real selectorate - the guys who really choose the leader. In US recently, the electoral college famously went against the popular vote and elected a clown as their president instead. In India, theoretically, the system is a bit better in terms of a wider base of influentials - it could be religious gurus, party heads, caste leaders, union leaders and industrialists. But practically, this means many many palms to be greased. So instead the system has evolved to favour nepotism - most efficient way of electing influentials, because a change means disruption and inefficient and uncertain greasing of palms.

Essentials are the supporters of rulers, without whom ruler would lose power - they are the winning coalition. In US it is the 'swing votes'. In India, it is the actual MLAs and MPs whose no confidence motion can destabilise a govt.

Step one towards Dictatorship - Consolidation of power

Whereas in a democracy there are many influencers and many essentials that need to be kept happy to remain in power, dictatorship depends on very few of those. That is the difference, that's it.
And this is the big change happening under Mr. Modi (The Ruler). BJP (party of the ruler) won a landslide majority, thanks to its populist demagoguery and with the help of an absolutely useless and corrupt opposition - Congress. Once in power, BJP has been maniacally consolidating its power and subjugating everyone else - may it be opposition in media, universities, online and on the street with hindutva goons and in parliament with horse traded MPs and MLAs.
The effect is, BJP has reduced the essentials it needs to remain in power, either by horsetrading of MLAs, MPs or by making opposition voices suspect by branding them anti-nationals. Even within the party itself, there is a sharp consolidation of power with a select few people - Mr. Modi and Amit Shah at the the helm it. Regionally powerful party leaders have been sidelined and puppets have been promoted to leadership roles.
Even strategically critical resources for the nation such as oil, coal, cement etc - are now increasingly under control of businessmen close to the current govt - Ambani and his access to gas resources of India, Mr. Modi's friend Adani and his meteoric rise in fortune with infrastructure bets.

Step two - Undermine trust and create atmosphere of fear

The current govt's strategy is to undermine trust in institutions, obfuscate truth, spread fear and demand obedience.
Undermining trust -
Demonetisation - Can't trust in promise of RBI, cash rendered useless without any benefit to people
finance bill tax act - Can't trust for access to our own property, could be taken away without reason
aadhar mismanagement - Can't trust my financial data with govt, easy to hack and impersonate
aadhar surveillance - I am not trusted by govt. all my transaction are always under scrutiny.
clauses to protect babus and politicians in most new bills and amendments - Can't question authorities.
Political parties can access black money - can't trust political establishments for whose interetest are being served

Obfuscate truth -
Cultural bullying - Sentiment of the powerful get hurt far too easily and violence against opposition and minorities gets legitimised.
Discrediting institutes and intellectuals and fooling masses by keeping them engaged with trivial issues while silently stripping them of their basic rights. (Look how sneakily Finance bill amendments were shoved down the throat of Indian Legislation)
Environment of fear -Mildest of criticism by common men/ women are being threatened with FIRs and jail time, while hindutva trolls have a free pass to issue death/ rape threats
Trolls and hate-mongers elevated to powerful positions

Demanding obedience -
Crackdown on activists, satirists, educators (Prof Saibaba)...

Erosion of trust in all institutions and all that will remain is fear and obedience. a strategy for an expensive failure of a nation.

So what is India? Simply put, it is a sand tiger shark that lets few of its powerful children devour many of its smaller children. Its an oligarchy in disguise of a democracy. An Oligarchy closer to Putin's Russia than the dictatorships in Africa, though shifting towards the later.

In India, the majority of population is overwhelmingly poor, illiterate, amnesiac of its interests. Unlike China and some other similar developing nations in East Asia, Indian masses are unlikely to gain access to quality education and healthcare anytime soon. Governments promise a lot, but all that money allotted for education and infrastructure consistently gets pocketed by politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats. That's in their interest too - why would they want an educated mass who will be more difficult to subjugate?
When people talk about the economic progress in India, it is largely coming from urban centers with people like me prospering. The trickle down theory has been rubbished and the wealth is increasingly concentrating in the hands of a few.
Many in interiors remain subjugated and without access to resources, organisational capability or justice. Even the urban masses remain oblivious of their own interest - they lack the education to think for themselves and see beyond propaganda. Take for example the recent protests in China against pollution. Delhi or Kanpur are just as bad if not worse with pollution, but there's not even a market for masks here, let alone protests. That is the level of public awareness and organisation in India. What can such a disorganised and wretched mass achieve?

The constitution and the rules are the byproduct of these dynamics. (for eg., reservations, AFSPA are manifestations of power dynamic - appeasing powerful groups/ individuals at the cost of public.)
That perspective helps us understand power in India.

Unlike China however, Indian federal structure throws up many power dynamic variable - state governments, religious figures, media personalities, industrialists - all adding to the chaos of the power. So India necessarily remained a fractured power with many interest groups fighting each other. That worked to an extent for the better, since the 'argumentative India' became a rich space for new ideas and utopias and experiments.That argumentative space is under threat, and we need to fight to keep it accessible for all.

As I was writing this blog, news came from India that the Modi regime has sneakily amended the Finance bill 2017 to make Aadhar card mandatory. And yet, the cowed down media barely reported the matter. This is part of the bigger plan of the ruling party to consolidate their control over the treasure of not just the nation's resources but of individual wealth too.  Look at the recent diabolical step they had taken to demonitise currency. It was a clear attempt to wring money off of the powerless poor and deliver a windfall to central bank.

The intentions are very clear - there is nothing for people to gain with the current dispensation, no matter what bhakts might delude themselves with. Bhakts are selling their soul to the devil, and they will regret it sooner rather than later. 

So in brief - Masses are powerless. Even the middle class and upper middle class are brainwashed into conceding powers and rights - individual liberties are routinely trampled over now, surveillance is getting institutionalised with Aadhar, corrupt and hatemongers are being promoted within political class... The short term outlook is bleak for most of us.

The essentials and influentials are getting richer and more powerful with current dispensation, so there is no threat to the system - those in power. However, the wealth so far has been based on cheap labour and consumerism of the big Indian population. Demonetisation has already affected the demand side of equation. The government is busy cooking numbers, but how long can a con go on?

So the future scenario is this -
1. Economical squeeze on the masses,
2. Identity politics won't let them raise their legitimate concerns,
3. Wealthy in absence of a strategy and value augmentation in their businesses, will decline. Look at our IT industry for example - India's majority of IT companies will become redundant with AI's adoption in the next 3-4 years. India's manufacturing is nothing special - the only advantage was low cost, that too gets contested with other developing nations. There is no strategy for economic growth for India. What happens when our resources run out or become too costly to exploit? What happens to our service sector in the age of AI? No idea sirjee. No skills being developed for the new age too.
4. Power polarising in a single party's hand - opposition is neutered. Perhaps if opposition wakes up and does what is needed to hold the government accountable, we might still have a shot at justice. But it seems unlikely.
5. Environmental degradation and abuse of natural resources - Ganga, Yamuna are beyond repair. Global climate change might destabilise water supply from Himalayan glaciers. Real chance of emptying out of those glaciers in the next 20-30 years. Without water, we are screwed. Nation will be fractured.

Essentially, there is no evidence that points to a strategy to survive, let alone thrive in the next 20-30 years. The diagnosis is bleak.

India's stature internationally is borrowed from it's own future. We hear a lot of talk about India's 'potential'. Its been 20 years now, in the meantime China raced past us on most parameters. India has failed terribly to bring its poor out of poverty compared to China. Even with China's dictatorial government, people are organising now and becoming aware of their rights and interests. Even under Trump, US citizens are organising and questioning their idiot politicians. In India, the political process is simply not evolving. Under a frustrating power dynamic of very powerful v/s absolutely powerless, India remains a dystopian political playground - ripe for a dictator's conquest.


Strider said…
Yup. Now, tell us how your republic will work. How would an ideal utopian system should be without the inevitable grouping and dynamics between rulers, essentials, influencers, interchangeable...
Ajinkya said…
That's the point. The groupings cannot be done away with. That is how power works. There will always be rulers, essentials, influencer, interchangeables.
the utopia is about widening the base of essentials and influentials broad enough so that there are no interchangeables.

Take power in Switzerland for example. Here,every citizen gets to vote for referendums, not only figureheads.
Also, they don't have one president. They have 7! Their cantons are fairly decentralised and fairly autonomous.

So that there is recipe for my utopia -
Decentralisation of power;
Each citizen made capable of and with the right and duty to vote on referendums for issues that are consequential to them;
Eternally vigilant for attacks on the Ideal of fraternity, equality and liberty;

I have written a bit about how Indian democracy should be -

Ahmed said…
Good try, you even tried to be honeat at places but then concluded totally wrong. Bad analogy.

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