Democracy or a benevolent dictator?

Democracy: (dɪˈmɒkrəsi) noun

 A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives e.g.”a system of parliamentary democracy”
  1. synonyms: representative government, elective government, constitutional government, popular government;

    self-government, government by the people, autonomy;

In the course of 65 years, the Indian democracy has proved to be an epitome of indecisiveness, corruption and inefficiency at various levels of governance. This setup has granted delayed reforms on economic front (by P.V. Narsimha Rao, often referred to as the Father of Indian Economic Reforms) and the change came at snail’s pace.This delayed progress card does reflect the doings and undoings of many  politicians who desired their own sphere of influence and hold on power over managing the country and uplifting the masses. They put the self, the party and then the nation in the order of preference.

Due to the oft dilly-dallying approach to policy making and its implementation by the political system various bills are stuck forever and for past 65 years, the`Raaga’ of “Humko gareebi mitana hai” has been going on unabated. You could imagine a time in 1947, when after getting independence from the British Raj, Jawahar Lal Nehru, stood on the pulpit of the Red fort and called for the eradication of poverty and encouraged young India to move forward and educate itself in western science and technology, perhaps, also in ways of living.

Years after him, and after a few prime ministers in between, his daughter Indira, had the same idea for the Indian youth. The socialist economic pattern along with burgeoning population had a soporific effect on the progress and the GDP growth rate of 3% was called the “Hindu growth rate” by the western media (strangely, nobody in the west says the same for Pakistan’ GDP growth i.e. “Muslim rate of growth”?!). They claimed that India will  shatter into pieces by the end of the 20th century. Then, after Indira’s assassination and the ensuing political turmoil, it was Rajiv’s reluctant premiership that tried to open up new vistas of social growth. However, the progress was still stymied by the lack of courage and fear of the backlash from the socialist and communist tie ups of the congress party.

Things began to change during the time of P.V. Narsimha Rao (1991 – 1996) when he demolished the Licence Raj system,which was a cumbersome  system of licensing, regulations and a tortuous red-tape environment started by Nehru on the lines of Soviet system put in place between 1947 – 1990. He initiated the liberalization policy  whose fruits we bear today with an estimated 7.9% growth rate, otherwise we would be living on bailouts and aids just like our western neighbor and maybe asked by the IMF and other international lending bodies to perform austerity. Then came the time of A.B. Vajpayee and things still looked good as they didn’t touch the forces put into action by their predecessor.

The time period of Manmohan Singh, should be seen as usual, i.e. UPA-I & II. Corruption was rampant during the UPA-II as can be gleaned from the news of that time. By the way, one could definitely say that India is a tolerant society, since after all those ignominious scams and frauds with public money, congress still managed to have 40 seats! The black money is also the Nehruvian legacy that we still haven’t managed to undo or absorb that money stashed abroad into the mainstream. Another thing that goes highly unnoticed in today’s media about that time is a complete lack of spine in China policy in particular and foreign policy in general. Manmohan Singh was trying not to displease China at any cost and was seen as a weak PM by our neighbors. Maybe, the hand of “Madam” was pulling tightly on his strings. India’s Afghan policy was totally clueless and hesitated to venture too much into that geographic area, lest Pakistan cries out loud. The port of Chahbahar was also something that they did not start and eventually the deal was clinched this year just in time before the Iranians we thinking of giving the project to the Chinese. The list is long and I do not want to rub on every detail but just to pick a few so that we can contrast it with our neighbor, China.

This is the age of nation states. Wiki says- “A  nation state is comprised of the political system conjoined with the cultural entity of a nation, from which it aims to derive its political legitimacy to rule and potentially its status as a sovereign state, if one accepts the declarative theory of statehood as opposed to the constitutive theory.

A state is a specifically apolitical and geopolitical entity.

nation is a cultural and ethnic entity.

The term “nation state” implies that the two coincide, in that a state has chosen to adopt and endorse a specific cultural group as associated with it.

In this light, one could see one major difference in China and India, as given below.

  • Dark yellow: 85% or more are from majority ethnicity
  • Yellow: 65%-84% are from majority ethnicity
  • Light yellow: 64% or fewer are from majority ethnicity
  • Dark blue: 85% or more are from majority race
  • Blue: 65%-84% are from majority race
  • Light blue: 64% or fewer are from majority race

Source: The World Factbook, with data as of 2000–2008.


The Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party under Mao ZeDong taking control of most of mainland China. On 1 October 1949,he, as the Communist Party Chairman  proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army succeeded in assimilating the Hainan province and incorporating Tibet fully under its territory by 1965.

In the year 1976, Mao died and by the year 1978, a man by the name of Deng Xiaoping took the reins of power and instituted significant economic reforms, which basically, in a very crass way turned the Mao’s system upside-down or bottoms up. The Communist Party loosened governmental control over citizens’ personal lives and privatization along with land reforms were initiated. This marked China’s transition from a “panch varshiya yojana” type economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment. Under the premiership of Jiang Zemin, Li Peng & Zhu Rongji in the 90’s the Chinese nation progressed exceptionally well and its  economic surge pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of > 10% and maintained its high rate of economic growth under the leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao throughout the 2000s. However, this sustained rapid growth for over three decades also had its repercussions in different areas. 

So, which is the best solution for a developing country? A one party system like China, which in my view is a loose benevolent dictatorship or a democratic setup like India, where, a large illiterate (politically or otherwise) and poor population decides the fate of the nation after every 5 years. I believe that a system based on meritocracy, under a strong willed but benevolent nationalist ruler (like the Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew or Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey or the Chinese reformist Deng Xiaoping), who desires the welfare of his nation more than his personal hold on power and party politics, could be a welcome change.There is a gray area though, a dictatorship could at any point lead to a tyrannical rule. Perhaps, a system of governance, where after every 10 years the form of government changes from Industrialization oriented to that of social welfare and well being of people or in other words, from capitalist economy to socialist economy.

A good leader or a benevolent dictator would have all the decision making powers centralized and is open to suggestions from subordinates. The policy of quick decision making after through discussions on all aspects is implemented by such a leader. He should have high emotional intelligence along with strong will to go against all odds to benefit the nation. The unique combination of a manager and a leader who thinks ideas and executes them as well. Who welcomes risks and has a long term planning for the society while being cognizant of the current aspirations of the people. Fear and love are two strong emotions of developed life forms, and the choice makes a difference between a despot and a benevolent dictator.

History tells us that such a man existed in ancient Greece and his name was Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519–430 BC). He was a Roman aristocrat and statesman whose service as a dictatorship in 458 BC and 439 BC made him a model of civic virtue. When his son, was convicted and condemned to death, Cincinnatus left the post of the Roman consul and started working on his own small farm, until an invasion caused him to be called to serve Rome as dictator, an office which he resigned two weeks later, after completing his task of defeating the rival tribes of the Aequians, Sabines, and Volscians. This act of his has often been cited as an example of outstanding leadership, service to the greater good, civic virtue, lack of personal ambition, and modesty. He was the epitome of honor and personified the Roman ideal of duty to your country and your people above all else.  He put aside his own personal needs and aspirations to serve his homeland, and when absolute military and political authority was given to him, he performed his duties with utmost sincerity and conviction. It was said of him

“What was wanted was not only a strong man, but one who was free to act, unshackled by the laws.  He should therefore nominate Lucius Quinctius as Dictator, for he had the courage and resolution which such great powers demanded.”

– Livy 4.13

Who do you think fits the bill, among the current choices in Indian politics of Modi, Kejriwal or Rahul/Priyanka Gandhi, as the person with the power to move the nation out of third world category to a first world nation in coming decades and remains incorruptible by power and doesn’t go the route of becoming a power hungry tyrant?




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