The success of democracy lies in the judiciousness and discretion exercised by the voters. It is the duty of the electorates to give expression to their discretion so that the wrong perspective adopted by the political parties is set right
A high level delegation called on Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru when the public sentiments were being flamed on the question of reconstitution of states by raising various demands. A member of the delegation told Pt Nehru that the people were very happy on his decision to annul the Assembly in Delhi; therefore he should not change his decision. Nehruji, while smiling, replied, “Those who come to me demanding continuation of the Assembly too refer to the same public will. What is the will of the people?” The question that Panditji raised is very vital for democracy. Reason, the state has to act as per the public will in democracy. But the will of two persons cannot be the same. When we have crores of people, it is impossible to think that all have the same opinion. It can be possible only during the war when all people may have the same opinion to defeat the enemy, but then too there may be differences of opinion on the question of policy.
Thinking about common public opinion is just an imagination. Fact is that nobody’s will prevails in the democracy and everyone has to mould his will as per the general will. If this is not there, every person will remain adamant over his own will, notions and beliefs, and the democracy will not function. Anarchy, division and finally the rule of dictatorship will be the definite outcome of that situation.
While the immediate policies in a democracy may be governed by majority opinion, democracy is not always able to give expression to the views of the majority. This leads to infighting in the party and unrest in society. A democracy must, therefore, rule according to the popular opinion, not only majority or minority opinion. The public cannot express its opinion formally. When there is confusion regarding public opinion, democracy may degenerate into monocracy. Vocal leaders can misuse this. The public that was celebrating the murder of Julius Caesar with Brutus a moment ago was roused to go in Brutus murder after Antony’s speech. It is difficult to keep alive democracy between the two forms of government – mobocracy and autocracy.
It is therefore, necessary to generate mass awareness, which is nothing but honouring the public opinion. It is a cultural process. In the dictatorial communist regimes, it is called brainwashing or depriving the dissidents of their rights, which is inhuman. On the other hand, in the so-called democracies, it leads to chaos; the government media misuses it. In India, the problem has been solved by taking away the right of building democracy from the government. Educating public opinion is the work of selfless ascetics. Ruling according to public opinion is the task of the government. The ascetics always have the upliftment of the public and their spiritual interests in mind and, as such, they work according to these noble ideals; they make the people aware of the limitations of their faith and religion without any vested interests. That is why they can follow these ideals. Society’s values are built and strengthened through education and code of conduct. If a democracy confines itself to their limits, it will never go against public opinion.
In a democracy, a high degree of selflessness is required in governance. Like Sri Ram, the rulers must always be prepared to rule at the people’s behest and give it all up when required without any ill-feeling. They must always strive for victory like a sportsman. If a ruler cannot accept defeat and congratulate his competitor on the latter’s victory, he is not a democrat. It was this feeling that led Churchill to hand over power to Attlee who, in turn, transferred it to Eden. This selflessness is generated because of a person's inherent qualities. The mere trappings of democracy do not make a person accept the general public opinion. He requires good company, self-meditation and self-discipline in order to conquer the lust of power.
In order to generate respect for the law in the public, it is necessary that the political parties which aspire to uphold the rule of the law should themselves set an example in this regard. The feeling of self-rule and the capability is the essence of democracy. If the political parties cannot govern themselves how can they aspire to generate a feeling of self-rule in society? Devotion to the electorate as well as the party is the touchstone of a good candidate. But, unfortunately, there is not a single political party in India that is worried about this. The only thing that matters to them is that their candidate must somehow win… They only grant a ticket to the candidate who has the maximum chances of winning. We must remember that an ineligible candidate is not worthy of our vote even if he belongs to a good political party… It is possible that while granting the ticket to such a person, a political party may have been guided by immediate gains or it may even have made a grave mistake. It is, therefore, the duty of a responsible voter to rectify this mistake by his awareness.
The mainstream of democracy has been tolerance. In its absence, elections, legislature, etc., are lifeless… Tolerance is the basis of Indian culture. It gives us strength to find out what the public at large desires. Discipline is essential for tolerance. It involves working under the limits laid down. Starving oneself is not discipline, but it is eating according to the body’s requirements. Keeping mum or not protesting against tyranny or not rendering good advice to anyone is not discipline. A disciplined person stands between a vocal person and a dumb person; he speaks as and when necessary. Indiscipline and irresponsibility go together. A democracy can be successful only when a citizen understands his responsibilities and discharges them to the best of his abilities. The more a society understands that it is its responsibility to run the government, the more disciplined it would become. A political party that feels that sooner or later it may be called upon to shoulder the responsibility of governance, the more responsible it will become in making promises and in its general behaviour. Even then, it always lies with the public to run the administration.
The political parties, which wish to make a mark in the body politic, must safeguard their own ideals and objectives. Similarly, it is the duty of the electorate to be aware of the dangers and give expression to its discretion so that the wrong perspective adopted by the country’s parties is set right. Deendayal Upadhyaya