Pummelling India’s democracy

FEW visiting heads are given the kind of adulation that leaders from China and Singapore get when they come calling, either to address trade meetings or to give speeches to august institutions in New Delhi. That’s when you will hear the upper classes bemoaning the chaotic nature of India’s democracy — it’s not even a “functioning anarchy” as some put it — and openly express their yearning for a strongman who would magically set right the besetting problems of misgovernance. Singapore’s autocratic leader Lee Kuan Yew was a particular favourite and it was routine to hear his fan following, specially businessmen, lament that India suffered from too much democracy; it needed a strongman to prise the country out of its rut.

Narendra Modi was an answer to their prayers. That’s why years before the Gujarat chief minister Modi came out into the open about his larger political ambitions, businessmen were rooting for him to be the prime minister. It was a chorus which included Ratan Tata, head of the Tatas, who continues to be Modi’s staunch fan despite the demonetisation mess, the economic downswing — or the social upheaval unleashed by the storm troopers of his Hindutva party.

In a recent newspaper interview, the head of India’s most respected corporate houses, explained why he continues to support Modi. When the Tatas’ Nano, small car factory had to quit Singur in West Bengal after widespread protests against the company in 2008, Modi offered him a location in just ‘three days’ along with a huge soft loan and other sops to get the project to Gujarat. Farmers in Sanand who protested against their land being taken over were also quickly bought out.

BJP governments, at the centre and in states, have been chipping away at the democratic laws and values of the Republic.