The centrality of governance to statecraft in general and security in particular, is not new, at least not in the Indian context, although it is made to look like a ‘gift of the West’ meant for the upliftment of lesser mortals of the oriental world. It is interesting to note that ancient Indian political treatises like Shukracharya’s Nitisar, Panini’s Ashtadhyai, Attreya’s Brahmana and the oft-quoted Kautilya’s Arthshastra, all mention about the importance of good, representative and responsive governance as the fulcrum of a safe and stable State. The causal relationship between governance and security is unequivocally pressed upon the ruler whose primary responsibility is not only to govern skillfully in the larger interest of public welfare Yogakshema, but also sensitively so that the ‘men governed do not regard themselves as being governed but as following their own bent and their own free choice in the manner of life’. Infact governance became the functional instrument through which the State established its existential legitimacy. The inter-connectedness of governance and security at the functional level, became the foundation on which the grand edifice of the State rested with all its pomp and glory. The two logical inferences that can be drawn from this is i) if governance fails, then security cannot remain unaffected. and ii) when security is imperiled, one can invariably trace its roots to governance. On the international arena, the most stark example of misgovernance and insecurity was the fall of the Soviet Union. That a country with the largest weapons arsenal could crumble like a pack of cards dispelled all certitudes based on military supremacy. A closer scrutiny of the entire debacle showed that internal decay was the chief cause for the downfall of the superpower. Issues of governance came to the fore and its nexus with security were firmly established.
In the Indian context, the ancient wisdom and practice of good governance lost its way under foreign, colonial rule with obvious vested interest to put an end to the symbiotic relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Unfortunately post-independent India too failed to revive this well-spring due to the pernicious practice of vote-bank politics. However, post-globalisation and the exigencies of an integrated global economy, leveraged by mighty international agencies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, brought Governance to the centre-stage once again as a ‘prerequisite for financial assistance’. As a result, national & State Governments vying for loans from these agencies started chanting the G word with all gusto, though only a few were genuinely sincere of putting it into practice for its not easy ensuring the core tenets of good governance – transparency, accountability, and inclusivity – in an atmosphere of rampant corruption, criminalisation and marginalisation. Parties that were used to piggy-backing their way to power on divisive vote-bank politics, doling out last minute benefits to certain sections, powerful sloganeering and impressive media management did not feel the need to even look into this domain till recent verdicts disturbed the apple-cart. Parties with consistent track record of good governance started performing well in elections against all odds – anti-incumbancy, size and reach of the party, age and experience of the party and its candidates, funds available, etc – indicating the changing priorities of the public and the need to re-orient electoral policies based on these changed parameters.
For those who think, Governance is a one-time act or magic potion that can do away with century old problems, there is bad news; for it is something that is built deliberately, dedicatedly, continuously and consistently by strengthening what is worth retaining and revamping what is inadequate and obsolete, with the aim of Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (happiness of all). The General Elections of 2014 might prove to be the final verdict on this matter. Is India ready for Governance or does it still want to rest under the familiar family tree?