Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party can be an answer to the tyranny of the elected representatives
Who would have thought that the bespectacled, mild-mannered, boyish looking Arvind Kejriwal is going to give the two domineering national parties such a scare in the imminent contest for Delhi? Not so long ago, such a reckless suggestion would surely have been met with laconic condescension even acidic contempt from Congress and BJP heavyweights. At the height of the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption upsurge two years ago, these politicians, ensconced in their risk-free comfort zones, had one crisp message for the street protestors: Fight us, if you will but only in the electoral battlefield. ‘The tyranny of the unelected’, they fumed. As if elections were the only means of acquiring political legitimacy. All other protests, by this reckoning, deserved derision unless they acquired a momentum threatening to upset the electoral applecart of the ‘elected.’
In fact, we might do well to realise that historically, ‘elections’ and ‘democracy’ have meant very different things. According to scholar and activist David Graeber: “In all previous European history, elections had been considered as Aristotle had originally insisted the quintessentially aristocratic mode of selecting public officials.” In the electoral system voters had to select from among a number of “professional politicians” who claimed to know more than the public that elected them. By contrast, as Graeber writes, “The democratic approach employed widely in the ancient world, but also in Renaissance cities like Florence was lottery, or, as it is sometimes called, ‘sortition.’ Essentially, the procedure was to take the names of anyone in the community willing to hold public office, and then, after screening for basic competence, choose their names at random. This ensured all competent and interested parties had an equal chance of holding public office.” Is it possible that the entry of players like Arvind Kejriwal reintroduces the possibility of lottery and chance to our stale electoral routines?
Posted on October 27, 2013 by Yoram Gat