As we saw today there is a compelling beauty to the idea of a referendum. One question, one vote, one man, collective action. Think about it.
In Britain today, undistilled people power moulded the narrative toward a unitary outcome without the polluting influence of political midwives. No one can doubt the outcome. And no one can dare fault the people. Perhaps that’s why India’s leading self-styled people’s politician, Arvind Kejriwal felt so inspired to moot the idea of a referendum on the vexed issue of Delhi statehood.
He wants a Dexit. Wants the capital to exit from the clutches of the centre. The idea is seductive.
For so long Delhi has strained at the leash seeking independence to frame its own laws, shape its own land and seek accountability from its own police. But once again much to Kejriwal’s chagrin there are many who are denying the people a vote, a say. The arguments are familiar, some even bordering on scaremongering.
Doesn’t agreeing to a referendum suggest that the street is always right? Won’t we end up surrendering to the brute opinion of the street? If Kejriwal conducts a referendum on Delhi’s statehood, can similar demands in Kashmir, Gorkhaland be denied? Can a referendum ever be a substitute for a parliament-negotiated consensus-driven solution? Will bowing to the referendum method leave minority interests vulnerable to Majoritarian assertion?
The questions by themselves are not of course without merit. But then they preclude one fundamental truth that people ultimately know what’s best for them. All this sets up a fascinating question.
Rule by referendum — Is India ready?