Rerun – Popular Will and Divine Will

As you ponder over the results of the electionsin the five states, it is time to rerun an old post from over a year back: Popular Will and Divine Will

Essentially, I believe that the first fundamental lacuna of India’s democratic system is that a government’s performance at governance has nothing to do with its performance in the elections. Everyone can explain an election after the results are declared, but no one can predict it in advance. I believe that in India, a statement like “If you do X, your probability of returning to power in the next elections is Y” cannot be made for any values of X or Y. This applies to all X, whether X stands for “good” policies or populist policies. Neither kind of X will have any kind of cause-and-effect relation on election results.

The problem is not just the electoral system. It is also because no value of X will translate into any result on the ground. A politician can hatch a scheme whereby he can promise free colour TV to all voters. He may think that voters will get TVs and vote for him, while he gets kickbacks from the manufacturer. But given the corruption in the administrative mechanism, it is pointless to try and put this scheme in action. There is no guarantee that the TVs will reach the voters, and therefore there is no way to ensure that his constituents vote for him.

Given this reality, if I were a politician, I would basically forget about trying to get reelected and concentrate on making money.

Very few politicians have tried to break out of this cycle, and I believe that the person with the greatest chance of succeeding is Modi.

A Familiar Story

Disparities between cities and villages are widening. Village land is under the chokehold of government officials, who behave like petty landlords. Agricultural land is being taken away for development projects with no compensation to farmers, because farmers do not have any real rights over their land. The excuse given for denying farmers rights over their land is that if they can freely own and sell their land, the current shortage of arable land will worsen. But in practice, farm land is being given away anyway, so the restriction only means that farmers don’t get anything from the development.

We are of course talking about China. While agents of China seek to bring about a Maoist revolution and collective farming in India, Chinese peasants are asking for their land to be privatized.