Democracy, in India, is still, after all, a journey more than a destination
At the Tata Literature Live! festival in Mumbai last weekend, on the occasion of Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary, I asked former Union minister P. Chidambaram what her 1980 electoral victory revealed about democracy in India. What, after all, did it say of us that less than three years after the catastrophe that was the Emergency, voters were more than happy to bring back a prime minister who had subverted the Constitution in the interests of naked political survival? Some of the answers are well known: that the Janata Party coalition, which ruled between 1977 and 1980, proved to be the very embodiment of shambolic government, carrying on an Emergency in all but name, thereby inviting public anger. Or that MrsGandhi, through her tireless energy (including that historic elephant ride to Belchi village in Bihar after a horrific massacre of Dalits) and by asking forgiveness for her regime’s excesses, reclaimed public respect.