Mahathir Mohammed the Ex Prime Minister of Malaysia while addressing certain Nation heads (2011) diagnosed the virus effecting India and Hindering it’s growth and observed that it was “Too Much of Democracy” that hindered India’s growth potential. His prescription was that India needed a strong “Central” leadership to restore Order.
In India when we speak of “Strong” leaders in Indian context the first name that ignites public imagination is of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The 1971 war was the Cause Celebre that granted her the halo of being a strong leader. Dismemberment of Pakistan transformed her from a Goongi Gudia or a “Dumb Doll” to Durga the deity of Strength.
When we examine her credentials on the anvil of democracy, she falls short grossly. She assassinated democracy by imposing Emergency. Running Parliament after imprisoning all the opposition leaders was a sad mockery of democracy. She destroyed the Indian National Congress a Grand Old Party by planting YES men as state chiefs and thence a new genre of careerist politicians replaced the rank of Cadre. Making S S Ray as CM of West Bengal was an out of turn favor to a family friend and a close acquaintance who had zero footprint in WB.
Much before Emergency too India did come too close to losing it’s democratic set up. The Strong leader Indira Gandhi did try to take away the fundamental rights of citizens of India vide the three amendments to the constitution namely 24th, 25th and 29th (1971-72) and several other. People of India need to thank their Stars that democracy was saved by a Whisker when in the Keshavanand Bharati case the verdict was Seven is to Six in the favor of individual against the State. Had one more Judge wilted, maybe Indira would had slowly chiseled away all the pillars of democracy and India would have had to bid goodbye to Democracy for all times.
History is replete with strong leaders, who did more harm than good.
The most significant example is that of Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was a charismatic and unconventional politician who knew what the masses wanted to hear. He fought his way to the highest ranks of political power. The old guard politicians of Rome were horrified at his rise and did everything they could to stop him, but nothing worked. The more the establishment spoke against him, the more the common people loved him. Ultimately he did declare himself as The Dictator for Life.
In a democracy the Right of an Individual to make a difference is only in the case of a TIE. Probability of the same is so small that masses do not make any efforts in understanding the politics or having an adequately informed opinion. Thence in nations such as India people vote their castes, biases or prejudices.
The oft repeated dictum that Power corrupts and absolute Power corrupts absolutely holds true in case of Strong Leaders and democracy.