While addressing students in Belgium, sometime in April Chinese President Xi Jinping said that multiparty democracy did not suit China and would lead to catastrophic consequences if adopted by Beijing.
One can be sure that Xi spoke without knowing how multiparty democracy works in India. But the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon viewed the Indian general elections with great interest. In fact, tourists from the US, France, Nigeria, the UK and the UAE visited India to see the rough and tumble of polls.
If it can suit a country of 120 crore people, it should suit China with a 135 crore population. John Kenneth Galbraith, the American economist, had described the Indian model as a functioning anarchy. The catchword is, it is “functioning”. Indeed, some AAP leaders take pride in calling themselves anarchists.
Multiparty democracy involves periodic elections and polls bring joy to the people. The general election in India is said to be costing the exchequer roughly `3500 crores. The political parties are estimated to have spent ten times that amount to convince the citizens that they are the best bet for the future of the country.
Xi sees only red flags in China. He can see flags and festoons of all hues in India. Xi should see the number of painters, printers, t-shirt and cap makers, transporters, audio and video signal providers employed during the elections. In a bid to boost voter turnout, some pubs, restaurants, hospitals, malls and garment stores at Bangalore offered discounts to those who cast their vote and in the process, gave a push to their own businesses.
Election meetings require mobilisation of party cadres. Political workers cannot march and endure the summer heat on empty stomachs. The catering industry and biriyani specialists are in demand during elections.The tea and milk vendors do brisk business. Some leaders compete for the original chaiwallah tag.
The script writers of political parties specialise in digging out dirt of their rivals. Old muck is unearthed in sting operations and put on television shows to denigrate political adversaries. Hate speeches, wall graffiti, bribery, invoking religion, etc., are anathema to the Election Commission. The common man is free to slap or throw ink on the faces of his leaders if he can get close enough to them. Some leaders present bouquets to their assailants.
At election time, alliances are stitched up by political parties.Old enemies become friends. Old friends become foes. The entire range of alphabets is put to use and we have acronyms like UPA, NDA, LDF, PDF, CPI, SP, BSP, TMC, NCP, MNS, AIADMK, SS, MDMK and JD(U).
Every party’s manifesto paints a rosy picture of the future. Corruption will be eliminated. Minorities will be appeased. Economically backward classes will be uplifted.Inflation will be controlled. Power, water and food grains will be given free. Some also promise freebies after the elections.
Some political workers give envelopes to the voter when EC is not looking. Some are caught on video carrying or distributing money. The poor voter blinks and casts his vote hoping that milk and honey will flow very soon. If not, he retains what he already has. Xi, pray, take a good look at our functioning multiparty democracy.