[It's on August 11th, the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament had
ended. The most significant development, arguably, being the return of
Rahul Gandhi -- by far the most visible face and audible voice of the
anti-regime forces -- getting his lost (or cheated?) membership restored
with the help of the Supreme Court -- his last hope.
The other claimant for the the top slot is the eventual discussion on the
continuing mayhem in Manipur which sort of forced the Prime Minister to
finally open his mouth -- just open -- on the issue, but not before a
last-minute walkout by the Opposition during his concluding reply to the
debate on the floor of the Lok Sabha.

Just twenty days thereafter, on August 31st, the Union Parliamentary
Affairs Minister, all of a sudden, made the surprise (unilateral)
announcement of a five-day "special session"of the parliament from
September 18 to 22nd (ref.: <
https://twitter.com/JoshiPralhad/status/1697184544489910439>). But for a
(briefest) reference to "Amrit Kaal", no word -- just no word -- on the
agenda, very much in the style of an unfolding crime thriller, so to speak.
The nail-biting silence would, however, be finally broken only on September
13th (ref.: <
-- almost a fortnight after the original announcement. The listed items
include, *inter alia*, a discussion on "parliamentary journey of 75 years
starting from Samvidhan Sabha – achievements, experiences, memories and
learnings" and the The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election
Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill,
2023 -- meant to nullify a Supreme Court directive on this issue and,
*additionally*, to demote the post of the CEC, on the way to turning the
institution into a *de jure* government department.

*It'd*, however, *be too naive not to expect some further suprise during
the session, more likely near the very end*.
In anticipation, the Congress Working Committee has passed a resolution
(during its September 16-17 session in Hyderabad) demanding the passing of
the (still live) Women’s Reservation Bill -- already passed by the upper
house on March 9 2010 (ref.: <
Before that, on September 6, Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress
Parliamentary Party -- the most major constituent of the opposition INDIA
alliance, wrote to the Prime Minister listing out the issues that her party
wants to be discussed (ref.: <

In passing, it may be mentioned, just *as an aside*, that the new
parliament building was inaugurated back on May 28 -- marking the birthday
of MafiVeer Savarkar -- by the Prime Minister, as the most visible symbol
of the "New India", now rechristened(?) as "Bharat", with so much religious
pomp and grandeur and installed the Sengol -- a reinvented symbol of royal
power and authority sanctified by divine sanction for the founding Emperor
-- in the Garbhagriha of parliamentary democracy!
The monsoon session that followed later would still be held in the good old
Even this time, though the national flag was hoisted yesterday by the Vice
President (of "Bharat"!), it's only tomorrow the building would be put to
use for holding a parliament session -- not today.

*The article reproduced below is a detailed comment on the three competing
narratives on the "75-year journey of parliamentary democracy in India",
likely to be peddled during the very opening(?) discussion.*
While it's no doubt quite Insightful and the trajectory of Indian
"democracy" is indeed unique, the almost mandatory deferential and
high-sounding reference to the Indian Constitution as "a distilled wisdom
of our civilisational heritage" is to be taken with more than a grain of
salt. Not to forget that despite radical reworking, the Indian Constitution
is a descendant of the  Government of India Act 1935 and its prime
architect -- though far from being the only -- Dr. B R Ambedkar had, for
very understandable reasons, only (exhaustively reasoned) contempt for much
of our civilisational heritage.]


*Parliament will tell you 3 stories at special session. All of them are

SRK’s Jawan teaches us to read the truth of fantasies. Use that knowledge
to understand why the current crisis may be described as 'democracy

*Yogendra Yadav*

Let us believe the official fiction. Let us pretend that the five-day
special Parliament session has indeed been called to discuss “Parliamentary
Journey of 75 Years starting from Samvidhan Sabha – Achievements,
Experiences, Memories and Learning”.  And now that we are on a fantasy
trip, let us also imagine that our worthy parliamentarians are all wise men
and women engaged in a collective pursuit of truth.

So, what indeed is the story of the 75-year journey of parliamentary
democracy in India? I reckon we might hear three different stories in this
session. All of them would be false and seriously misleading. We need to
tell ourselves a more truthful and enabling story. After all, human beings
are story-telling animals. Our stories make us who we are. Stories can
saddle us with an unbearable burden of the past or gift us a better future.

*Three untrue stories*

Let us hear the first story of the much-delayed but inevitable recent
fruition of democracy. This bizarre and brazen version could well be the
dominant story that you get to hear in this session. Bharat, the mother of
democracy, was deluded by a polluted Western version practised by its
Anglicised elite for a few decades. This alien and limited opening was used
by the people to assert their voice, their culture. With the dawn of true
democracy in 2014, the democratic majority finally prevailed. Bharat
finally had its madhur milan with destiny – a new name, a new vision, and a
new sansad building.

We can also anticipate two counter-narratives opposing this official
history during this session. The first could be an exact mirror image: A
story of the rise and rise of Indian democracy until it met a fatal
accident in 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden rise to power was
an authoritarian coup in the name of democracy. Though they do not put it
so bluntly, it is amazing to see how easily our elite buys into this story
of “Kya se kya ho gaya”.

The second counter-narrative, more popular among the radical circles, is
the story of the inevitable decline and fall of democracy. In this reading,
democracy was always a fragile achievement, if not a pretence. Those who
tell this story offer different reasons for the inevitable collapse. It
could be the persistence of an undemocratic culture. Or the hierarchical
caste system. Or the Indian model of capitalism. But they all agree that
the bubble was bound to burst.

The problem with all these stories is not just that they are untrue. It is
that all of these are very poor guides for action. At this critical
juncture in our history, these stories invite us to just sit back — either
rub our hands in glee or wring them in despair.

*Indian democracy survived worse*

All these three stories fail to understand both the successes and the
failures of Indian democracy. Indian democracy has defied the theory that
we inherited from the West. The received understanding of the preconditions
of democracy suggested that it required some degree of affluence and
widespread literacy. If so, India should never have been a democracy in the
first place. The received model insisted that democracy requires an
oscillation of power within a multiparty competitive framework. If so, the
founding decades of Indian democracy that were dominated by what was called
the “Congress system” could not be characterised as democratic. If we
believe the received European notion that the cultural boundaries of a
nation and political boundaries of a State must coincide, then India, with
its deep diversities, should never have survived beyond its first decade.
If we believe that robust institutions are necessary for a democracy, then
India should not have survived the onslaught of Emergency. And once
democracy became “the only game in town” and was buttressed by an
unprecedented rate of economic growth, Indian democracy should not have
faced the crisis it faces today.

Simple stories of democracy do not tell us why Indian democracy did not
collapse in the face of serious challenges. It could have collapsed in the
mid-1960s, in the aftermath of the India-China war, or at the death of
Jawaharlal Nehru and the subsequent crises that included serial famines.
Democratic enterprise had collapsed during the Emergency but for Indira
Gandhi’s overweening self-confidence and misjudgement that led to the
election in 1977. The intersection of Mandal and Mandir, with the sudden
collapse of the Congress and the economic crisis, all around 1990, was
another possible challenge. Compared to all these moments, 2014 was the
most improbable juncture for democratic collapse.

*Call it ‘democracy capture’*

So, let us imagine that our Parliament arrives at a different, more layered
but truer story of what has happened to our democracy. The current crisis
may be described as “democracy capture”. To call it “democracy capture”,
rather than, say, “authoritarian capture of democracy” or merely “crisis of
democracy”, is to remember that democracy is both the object and the
subject of this capture. The apparatus being seized is democracy, a
constitutionally sanctified and ideologically legitimised form of
governance. The means being deployed are also democratic, at least
seemingly so — by way of an electoral majority attained in “free and fair”
elections. It is to remind us that the formal procedures of democracy have
been used to subvert the substance of democracy.

This subversion is not just an accident in an otherwise well-planned
journey. Nor is it the endpoint in the inevitable decline and fall of
Indian democracy. The conditions for this capture were shaped by our
post-Independence history, yet it was not inevitable. It was indeed
contingent but was not a fluke or merely an accident. Modi did what
political leaders often do: Seize upon a very difficult chance and convert
it into a personal triumph. At the same time, this democracy capture could
not have happened without some structural weaknesses within the Indian
democratic enterprise.

Let us imagine that a new wisdom dawns upon our parliamentarians in the new
building, thanks to a perfect vastu. Parliament might say: Our journey of
the last 75 years is our own. We are not reliving Europe’s biography or its
autobiography. Nor have we resumed the unfinished journey of the ancient
Indian republics. Our democratic enterprise was an open-ended journey with
no predetermined starting point, route, or destination. We were to be
guided by the values laid out in the Constitution, which itself was a
distilled wisdom of our civilisational heritage. In this journey, we
cleared the path as we moved along. We manoeuvred many dangerous turns and
allowed complacency to set in. And we skid on a much less slippery slope.
We let ourselves down. We also let our country down. We accept the
responsibility of allowing our democracy to be captured. We, the people of
India, resolve to recover the sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic
republic of India.

Sounds incredulous? Not to me. I have just seen Jawan and am learning to
read the truth of fantasies.

(Some of the ideas here are drawn from the introduction to my book Making
Sense of Indian Democracy)

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