India – A Case Study for Democracy Promotion
A recent article in the Economist cites the case of India. This article does not require subscription – so read the whole thing. I would like to draw readers’ attention to 1998 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lead coalition came into power. The BJP is a Hindu Extremist Party that advocates “Hindutva” – a xenophobic ideology. It publicly wants to establish “a Hindu state and Hindu glory.” It is important to remember that the Party was responsible for instigating anti-Muslim riot and destroying Islamic mosques. The BJP ascendancy worried many – including this blogger. I was quite shaken by the event at the time and became unsure of my commitment to Democracy. But in 2004, the BJP lost the election to Congress Party and is in steady decline.
The Economist analyzes the Party demise.
…Yet an Indian news magazine last month splashed across its cover the question: “Is the party over?”
It is not alone in asking. The BJP is going through more than a bad patch. Its continuing quarrel with its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Association of Volunteers, calls into question the party's purpose. Is its main aim to win elections or to promote the RSS's ideology of Hindutva, (Hindu-ness)? Adherents of the organisation portray Hindutva as a demand for equality, in that it would end the special arrangements, such as their own family-law system, enjoyed by India's 150m Muslims. The Muslims fear that Hindutva's aim is to promote Hinduism over Islam.
…Many in the BJP believe that “with a narrow Hindu-only approach, [the BJP] will never occupy the dominant position in Indian politics that the Congress once enjoyed.” Those words come from a paper written in March by Sudheendra Kulkarni, then an aide to Mr Advani. Most observers outside the Hindu “family” agree with his analysis. They blame the BJP's poor electoral performance last year in part on the bloody anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in Gujarat, a BJP-ruled state, and its failure to take action against Narendra Modi, Gujarat's chief minister, whose government was accused of complicity in the violence. The BJP's identification with hardline Hindutva, it is argued, cost votes.
However, other party members and RSS leaders argue the exact opposite: that the problem was that, in office, the BJP was not Hindu enough. To forge a governing coalition, it had agreed not to pursue the three big Hindutva demands: the building of the Ayodhya temple, a matter it left to the courts; the adoption of a uniform civil law to supplant Muslim family law; and the revocation of the special constitutional status of Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.
The Hindu right argues that it was the failure to deliver results on these demands that alienated the BJP's core voters and demoralised its activists. Prafull Goradia, a former member of Parliament for the Jan Sangh, the BJP's forerunner, calls the notion that moderation is the only way of coming to power “absolute hogwash”. He argues that the RSS should end its reliance on the BJP alone and “license” more Hindu parties. This, he insists, would increase the total Hindu vote.
The RSS's row with the BJP centres on Lal Krishna Advani, president of the party and leader of the opposition. Mr Advani upset “family” members on a visit to Pakistan in June. He praised Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Islamic country's founder, and said he was sad about the destruction, in 1992, of a mosque built on the alleged site of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya.
One should have faith in Democracy. Fear not that Hamas will win the next Palestinian Authority election. Once winning office, they either have to moderate their position or risk loosing power. Critics of Democracy often deride its proponents for being idealistic. Their cynicism prevent them from seeing Democracy for what it is. Democracy is not an ideal, it is the most pragmatic concept. It has worked consistently in modern time and with Democracy came other things equally pragmatic - good standard of living, strong economy, and wealth.