Hazare didn’t subvert democracy – he strengthened it!

Hazare’s brilliant¬†maneuvering¬†against the govt. has earned him plenty of criticism. One of the most persistent is that he weakened Indian democracy by bypassing existing channels and “blackmailing” or “forcing” the views of a small section of society on to the country. I believe this to be an utterly false reading of what Hazare did. If anything, he strengthened Indian democracy.

Hazare's fast did wonders to strengthen democracy

Hazare's fast did wonders to strengthen democracy

People going on hunger strikes is nothing new. The Indian govt. is used to being threatened with it. In the vast majority of cases, the hunger strikers are simply ignored. Their causes don’t have widespread appeal and when they see that no one cares, they simply end their fast voluntarily. Clearly, the govt. doesn’t care too much if a particular hunger striker dies per se.

In Hazare’s case however, the government listened and caved into pressure. This wasn’t because Hazare “forced” the govt. into anything. When you force someone, the entity being forced cannot possibly do anything else. The government could have ignored Hazare. If they had ignored him, the earth wouldn’t have shattered, Kapil Sibal would have still lived, and parliament would have still met. The truth however is that the UPA would have almost certainly lost the elections – both state wide and nationally.

Let me repeat that. The govt. caved to Hazare so that it wouldn’t lose the next elections. If that isn’t a democratic way of functioning, what is?

Hazare didn’t force his protest on the people or the government. He didn’t order a bandh or force people to close their shops. He didn’t sit on the railroad tracks and make a nuisance of himself. He didn’t threaten to stop the flow of food into Delhi and make everyone suffer (like the Jat leaders did). Instead, he chose to inconvenience only himself – and that is the democratic way of protesting.

Hazare was successful because he was able to rally the country around himself. Not because of the hunger strike as such. Without the support of the country, Hazare would have been ignored like so many others. With the entire nation backing him, he was able to pressurize the government into accepting his demands. He didn’t stage a coup to do it – that would have been undemocratic. The end result is that Hazare has acted in the most democratic way possible – by essentially telling the govt. it would lose the next elections if he died.

Hazare didn’t bypass democracy. He strengthened it by reminding the govt. that they are the servants of the¬†people. And it would be the people who would have thrown the UPA out of power if it has not caved into pressure. Long live democracy!

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