India’s 64th Republic Day – It’s Time To Reflect On Decades Gone By

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It is often said that 60 to 70 odd years, in a nation’s history, is too short a period to make any appraisal of its all-round development. Yet, the world community including India, during this period itself, has since achieved astounding landmarks in varied spheres of science and technology, health and education etc. I find the temptation of attempting such an exercise somewhat difficult to resist.

India in 1940s, in a period characterized by the  war mongering Western countries, breaking the shackles’ of the British rule through Mahatma Gandhi’s ingenious non-violent method , was in itself a truly landmark development. It not only impacted India but also had far reaching implications the world over. It had a cascading effect and signaled the gradual end of the colonial era in various parts of the globe and by closure of the 20th century, the democratic institutions had come to occupy bulk of the canvas of the world map.

Talking specifically of India in the decades gone by, several thoughts keep crossing my mind. The principles of Justice, Liberty and Equality for all Indians formed the backbone of our Constitution. India as a democratic republic assigned in its Constitution for legislatures, judiciary and executive to function as the three pillars to govern and run the administration of this vast country. Subsequently, media happened to be identified as the 4th pillar.

These pillars, in earlier decades, held together the delicate fabrics of democratic structures reasonably well when riding on the wave and euphoria of having led India’s struggle for independence; the Indian National Congress (INC) held the centre stage as also the seat of power both at the centre and in a large number of Indian states. Bureaucracy during this period remained and continued as subservient to its political masters. Judiciary, however, in contrast, had a better run and in the name of independence of judiciary, never ever were overshadowed or undermined by the Legislatures. The legislatures, working in tandem with the bureaucracy, developed a symbiotic relationship whereby both prospered.

For nearly three decades, the INC at the centre and in most states had an uninterrupted run of unquestioned authority till the JP’s movement in 1970s helped in unseating them from the pedestal of power. The democratic polity in India thereafter was never the same again. One party rule gradually was out of the way, paving way for the emergence of the Regional parties riding on the promise of carrying the hopes and aspirations of the masses in their respective geographical boundaries.

An era of coalition democratic polity set in thereafter and with it the social framework underwent a fundamental shift. Time and again, the role and importance of vote bank politics witnessed an acceptance in the political and social system.

In the midst of all politico- economic developments taking place, however, the one section that continued to toil and struggle, was the Aam Aadmi , the voting middle class, that largely remained on the periphery. While political class, bureaucrats and functionaries in judiciary emerged as the new ruling class, the rest of the population largely remained at the receiving end – a situation of those having a mandate to administer and govern and those to be governed – a scenario somewhat akin to earlier arrangement of the King and ‘the Praja of the bygone era.

Interesting aspect, this time round; however, was that such mandate to political outfits to administer was given by the ones who were to be governed. Post – election, there was the gradual distancing between the political class and the voting class and such disconnect continued to widen over a period of time extending into the dawn of the  21st century.

A decade or so into the 21st century has witnessed the emergence, among others, of a whole lot of new generations born in post- independent India and liberalized India (post opening up of the economy in 1991). Now a huge chunk of well-educated, intellectually prepared and enjoying a moderately decent life style to earn a tag of the enlightened middle class for them reside in India.

The recent events of the past couple of years (Anna movement and other street protests), including the most recent ones, of protests against the apathy of the ruling establishments towards the plight of the common man, that were led by this Group in various urban centres of the country, have exposed the huge disconnect that now stands between the political class and the Aam Aadmi.

Recent Protest On Delhi's Rajpath
Recent Protest On Delhi’s Rajpath

The principles of Justice – social, economic and political; Liberty of thought and expression; Equality of opportunity – enshrined in our Constitution, have all been a threadbare dream for most. We, the people of India have simply failed to fulfil promises we made to ourselves some six decades ago.

The political class, at this point in time, somewhat shaken from the deep slumber in the wake of uprisings and street – protests led by the middle class youth, were finally made to sit up and take notice. The present generation is impatient for everything and is demanding – Justice, Liberty and Equality in true sense of the words and spirit.

It’s time, therefore, for the political class to bridge the huge disconnect with the voting class and the sooner they achieve it, the better it will be for Indian democratic republic.

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Narendra Bhagat

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A retired I.A.S. officer, Mr. Narendra Bhagat spends part of his time to blog and write for our magazine. He has authored two books.


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