“Government of the people , by the people ” – this is a patent and ubiquitous definition of democracy. The other two alternative forms of equal universal validity are oligarchy and aristocracy. Of the three , democracy is by far the best and most popular , although it is not an unmixed blessing.

Yet , all said , democracy is the best form of government , as it guards the interests of men in general. It avoids the evils and demerits both of aristocracy which empowers a privileged section of the society to run the state and of oligarchy in which only a few men or groups of men arrogate to themselves the right to rule over others. It is elective , representative and broad-based.

In the earlier days of the European civilization , the Roman republic was founded on popular voice. It was a crude form of a democracy. The popular or mass opinion is fickle phenomenon, as it can be swayed in one’s favour by the legerdemain of arguments. In Julius Caesar , Shakespeare has revealed this truth in the speech of Mark Antony who banished all logic of Brutus by an artful play of sentiments. The same farce of mass support the dramatist presents in another play Coriolenus – there the popular will or voice is mocked at dramatically. It changes side like weathercock.

Modern Democracy is decidedly more solid and well thought out. In it the constitution is supreme; it may be a written constitution, as in India , or an unwritten one, as in Britain. Our Preamble to be the constitution grants even an ordinary man some fundamental rights ; the right to vote is given to all after an age of maturity and the affairs of the state are run , ultimately , by the people of the country. Its laws are framed towards the attainments of a welfare state. The neglected section of the society, its underdogs, so to say , are given certain privileges so that they are able to catch up with the rest.

One remembers the hoary days of Independence. Independence , the Five Year Plans , the illustrious cadres of service that was defined as the Steel-Frame of Administration; one remembers the devoted band of society workers , the Congress , the CPIM , the SSP that functioned in tandem; and one remembers the healthy bourgeois culture, pluralistic , tolerant soaked in brotherly feelings.

But today the country faces a crisis ridden with intolerance , doubt , lies to shield power, bribes where money changes hands to protect covert crimes. Entrenched power runs havoc with a massacre of values, honesty and integrity. The nation’s political fabric is a ragbag of opportunism, personal convenience , nepotism and what not. The parliament , that was once a cynosure for the ordinary men , is today a hothouse of disreputable personae mostly. In a republic like USA one ‘bugging scandal’ could cause the stepping down of its President and in Japan one core could bring down its Prime Minister. But here such scandals are worth only casual attention.

In view of the above scenario ‘democracy’ as it obtains in our country , lives only as a platitude with our leaders to befool us during elections. Our constitution is the greatest casualty in the hands of the power that be. Free thinking , freedom of information , meed of labour – to wish privileges that form the bedrock of a democratic government is but to live in a fool’s paradise ! The High Courts and the Supreme Court run the administration.

“Democracy as an ideology is by far the best , but Heaven forfend us from such a democracy”

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