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In Praise of Mayawati

Posted by anandrr on September 4, 2008

We return ever so occasionally to American politics. We were once into it, now we merely dabble. All this talk of Barack Obama and McCain as somehow magically bipartisan and post-partisan makes us cringe. Apparently there is something wrong with being partisan. And there is a lot more wrong with people who change their mind to suit public opinion. So McCain is deemed better than Obama because McCain has principles that transcend time, or something. Leave aside for a moment that McCain has flip-flopped around quite a bit in his maverickness, what we want to know is: is pandering to public opinion really so bad? Eventually, aren’t all politicians engaged in some sort of pandering? Isn’t that the point of politics, don’t we all really want politicians who pander to us?

So it was with great joy that we read Nicholas Lemann in the latest New Yorker talk about The Process of Government, making the excellent point that all governments democratic and otherwise are essentially a set of interest groups fighting for primacy and that that is what makes Governments run. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this governing is a messy business already and democratic government is messier than most.

This is why we vastly prefer the Indian form to the American form. In the US we have two parties, each representing an awkward mix of interest groups and all this talk of bipartisanship comes about precisely because the pull of these various interest groups are subsumed by the big tents of each party. In India however, every interest group ends up being a political party. In almost every case (except perhaps the Congress party), we know exactly where the party stands and why it stands where it does. We mock the Communists quite a bit around here, but the nice thing is they represent a solid interest group, and they represent them through thick and thin. Usually most interest groups divide along caste lines and somehow that is supposed to be bad. But why so? If people believe that their best interests are aligned with others of their own caste, why not let them vote that way? At least everybody is being honest about their motives. And so it is that we like that Mayawati is single-minded about what she stands for and makes no bones about it. If the rest of us don’t like it, we really should form our own interest group to fight it and win that war of ideas, merely wringing our hands and bemoaning imperfections in our democracy will get us nowhere.

Image © Flickr user  counterclockwise used under Creative Commons License

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