Every possible care needs to be taken and great caution exercised by leaders, while creating the ideological and philosophical framework for a nation’s political systems. It must be ensured that these are not based upon utopian ideals alone. Political ideologies must be in sync with actual social conditions and hard ground realities.
The fundamental basis of a political system need to be in consonancewith the social reality. This is important so that affairs of the state may be conducted in a smooth, efficient and productive manner.
India adopted a political system based on Westminster Model of Parliamentary democracy, at the time of independence. Westminster model was inspired by political thought of post renaissance period, which originated in Western Europe.
Essence of Western political thought that led to the creation of modern democratic-nation state was aptly summarized in the phrase “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”. This was the guiding light of French Revolution, the ideal was institutionalized later as the motto of Third French Republic.
This enigmatic phrase has formed the bedrock of modern liberal democratic thought around the world. Constitution of the United States of America, United Nations Charter of Human Rights and constitutions of several other countries draw inspiration from it.
In the constitutions of many such modern liberal democratic societies, the onerous responsibility of assuring and guaranteeing unhindered enjoyment of these glorious virtues to all citizens has been cast upon the ‘State’, or the institutions of modern governance.
This is a kind of a ‘corner-stone’ for existence of democracy in a nation.
Preamble to the Constitution of India also proudly proclaims to secure to all its citizens, rights of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
However, it is increasingly being felt that social realities of India may be creating difficulties in a proper integration of the political system with society, thereby leading to inefficiencies in government delivery.
Though the Indian Constitution assures free and un-hindered enjoyment of these rights to all citizens of India, it needs to be examined whether this has actually happened in practice. The hard reality on ground seems to be that Indian social system still functions in a way which creates major hurdles in path of the poor and downtrodden, who may not be able to enjoy these rights in actual practice.
In order to study the situation of Indian society, one cannot ignore the state of Hindu society, as Hindus comprise almost 80% of Indian population. Therefore, any study of Indian society necessarily implies a study of Hindu society.
Ancient Hindu scriptures such as ‘Manusmriti’ and ‘Dharmasastra’ have described the essentials of organization of society as a four-fold division called ‘Varna’ which are created primarily on the basis of occupation, and the membership of which is possible only through birth.
Various scholars of Indology have described the Varna system as one of the most important defining features of Hindu society. Through the ages, Varna system underwent change as it evolved and sub-divided into various sub-groups called Castes.
Important thing to note here is that Varnas or their corresponding Castes were arranged in a strict hierarchy, on the basis of the concept of ‘purity & pollution’, with members of one Varna, (and therefore caste) being regarded as more pure, or virtuous than others.
Organization of modern day Hindu society on basis of caste system and consequent development of social, economic and political organizations around caste system seems to be a harsh reality of present day India.
Owing to a strict hierarchy of castes, Hindu society appear to be ‘created unequal’ and is therefore, inherently ‘unequal’, making the availability of the virtue of ‘equality’ to ordinary citizens rather doubtful.
The fact that Hindu society is created on the fundamental basis of purity & pollution and hierarchy indicates inequality, further implying hurdles in the creation of community feeling, as is understood in western context. Difficulties in creation of a community feeling, is likely to cause difficulty in creation of a feeling of ‘fraternity’ within the society.
Once there may be a difficulty in creation of feelings of both ‘equality’ and ‘fraternity’ in a given society, the virtue of ‘liberty’, in all probability is likely to be compromised to a great extent.
If the presence of all three aforementioned virtues mentioned in the preamble of constitution, whose presence is a kind of pre-requisite for creation of a modern democratic nation is compromised in the Indian society, in all likelihood, the political system of such a country is likely to be seriously dysfunctional.
When there are hindrances and obstacles in the path of individuals of a social system in enjoying ‘Liberty’, ‘Equality’ and ‘Fraternity’, those very hindrances and obstacles are likely to transpose on to the political system also.
Transposition of distortions of society is likely to generate a fair amount of friction in the system, which is likely to make it inefficient and cumbersome.
In an inefficient political landscape, the focus of the nation is not likely to remain on development, rather much energy is likely to be diffused in taking care of issues arising out of the consequent friction.
It may thus be surmised that while designing the political system, leaders must give utmost thought to the social realities of that nation. In case there is a major divergence between political ideologies and social realities, distortions present within society are likely to transpose on to the political system making it inefficient and cumbersome.
Experience shows that the Indian political system seems to be based upon too much utopian thought which has little connection with social ground realities. There seems to be an urgent need to bring about a fundamental change in the political system.