SHRINIVAS DHARMADHIKARI | 5 APRIL, 2017
Since the announcement of assembly election results, in every meeting that I have one question invariably pops up; “why did AAP lose”? The tone and tenor of the questioning varied from disappointment with mild reproach to scornful gibe with a smug look of “I told you so.”
It is intriguing that conversation at no time touches on the other bizarre things that we have witnessed in election results and its aftermath. No one seems to be wondering how a known hawala king who was alleged to have raped a six-year old girl just a few months back could be a respectable runner-up in an urban center like Panaji. Nor was anyone embarrassed that a known convict and seven-time party hopper gets elected as MLA. There was no Cri De Coeur when parties and individuals having secured the mandate by anti-BJP rhetoric made a historic overnight U-turn and lined up in Delhi to seek the forgiveness!
I hope you will forgive me for this indignant detour. It is time to turn to the original question; why did AAP lose? And here, I must confess I am no AAP insider. So what follows is purely my personal interpretation how and what went wrong in this yearlong whirlwind of passionate energy that stirred up the Goan society but failed to create a crisis of conscience even in the cultural and intellectual capital of the state with globally minded affluent residents.
In the end, the youthful fervor failed to challenge the deep-rooted belief that corruption is the cost of Governance or one’s convenience and not the theft of rights and taxes paid by citizens. It is as if there is no agreement on minimum moral values one of them being Gambling is wrong. No wonder the charge against Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's having made the statement; “Ajeeb hai yeh Goa ke log” struck a chord with me.
The renowned American political scientist Francis Fukuyama has done considerable work in the area of evolution of Political Order and state formation in various societies world over. Two of his themes namely clientelism and implications of democratizing a kinship-based society are quite relevant to the Indian context. Regarding kinship based societies Fukuyama writes:
One point I would like to make however is that it is a general truth about development. No earlier form of social organization ever gets abandoned or eliminated, and it always survives (its entirety or as the remnant) in succeeding higher organizations.
(words in brackets are mine)
Indian society has not experienced a steady evolution through movements like renaissance, reformation and enlightenment and the consequent rise of democratic values like individualism, a doctrine of social contract and a code rights and responsibilities. So essentially a kinship-based society that India is in many parts including Goa was force-fitted into the political institution of an organized hierarchical impersonal pluralistic democracy.
This resulted in a premature baby- a seriously compromised democracy. The institution of Vaddos in Goa represents the remnants of this kinship culture and the universality of collective decision making. The kinship culture extended to village and caste based organizations and individuals always thought the collective decisions by Vaddos, villages and caste formations were binding and political preferences out of line with community will be detrimental to their own as well as greater good. This medieval kinship extended into parishes and Mutts. Votes moved as the custodians of religious belief directed. In such a close kinship scenario a “Delhi Party” was barely on any one’s mind.
Clientelism, Fukuyama along with many other political scholars, define as the institution of securing power by systematic exchange votes against favours distributed through a hierarchy of social organization which is painstakingly built by the local bosses through years of “community work.”
These patronage-dispensing Big Men or their underlings are present in almost every village of Goa. Citizens depend on them for Government jobs, finance for daughter’s marriage or hospitalization, ambulance to ferry critical patients, school admissions, transfers and postings and even getting a living certificate. Clientelism as an institution is so well established in Goa that each member of this network has now acquired relative autonomy. In other words, depending on his resources and entrepreneurial capabilities, he offers a bargain of his catchment area of vote bank to every aspiring candidate and eventually settles for the best bid.
This is an ideology-free world of pure commerce with accounts tallied for every booth. Many AAP activists told me of several such approaches.
The innovation this time was to ensure that voters do not to play the Kejriwal prank of taking their money and voting as each one liked. So the candidates went to seal the deal with a copy of the Bible and coconut to swear by and put God’s fear in the minds of gullible voters. With this patrimonial state, no wonder, there were not many takers for AAP’s offer of the Dignity of Individuals.
Paul Kriwaczek, BBC Correspondent and Author of book Babylon: Mesopotamia & The Birth of Civilization has said in his book: The collective view of most societies is rather conservative: in the main people prefer to see the social arrangements of their youth perpetuated into their old age; they prefer that things be done in the time-honoured way; they are suspicious of novelty and resistant to change. Thus when radical action must be taken, for whatever reason, a great burden falls on the ruler, the father-figure, who has to overcome this social inertia and persuade his subjects to follow his lead. In order that his will shall prevail, he needs to generate huge respect, preferably adulation, and if at all possible sheer awe among his people.