The ugly truth: India loves its dictators!

Last Updated: Sat, Apr 04, 2015 10:28 hrs

Before 1947, India had been ruled by kings and monarchs, emperors and their empires for thousands of years. A nation can’t kick off such a habit overnight. In fact our (unofficial) Father of the Nation was a bit of a dictator himself.

Mahatma Gandhi was the originator of the “My way or highway” policy in modern India. He may have dressed simply and led a simple life, but there was nothing simple about his politics. No matter what happened he had to get his way.

He would beg and plead and get everyone on his side. If Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose shared a divergent philosophy he had to leave the Congress: That despite there being the little matter of Bose being elected Congress President twice.



If all else failed, there was the simple matter of fasting unto death! Now who could fight that? So Gandhi got his way. Every time! (Note: Only a dictator gets his or her way every time)

The only person who totally subscribed to him became the first among equals. Jawaharlal Nehru was our first Prime Minister and he was a virtual communist dictator. He ruled till death and would not tolerate any other party ruling any other State in India.

He didn’t tolerate criticism and masterminded the First Amendment which ensured that freedom of expression would be curbed even well into 2015. His daughter Indira Gandhi was an extremely popular but dictatorial Prime Minister.

She even officially imposed Emergency and India was officially a dictatorship from 1975-77.


She may have lost at the end of that, but she stormed back to power in 1980. Her son carried forward the dictatorial streak expelling the now India President Pranab Mukherjee.

VP Singh was forced to quit and Rajiv also tried legislation muzzling the press without much success. The first Congress democrat Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died unfortunately early and the second was PV Narasimha Rao.

Rao liberalized India and made great foreign policy reforms but then since he was a benevolent democrat he got the royal boot in 1996. AB Vajpayee was seen as a hardliner when he took over but was seen as a consensus softie by 2004 and hence was booted out.

UPA1 was mediocre at best and Manmohan Singh a spineless Prime Minister. But behind the scenes Sonia Gandhi ruled with an iron fist. She ran the Congress party dictatorially and the mainstream media was petrified of criticizing her.

The electorate rewarded Sonia with a second term in 2009. Rahul Gandhi is seen as a weak softie and that is one of the reasons India has rejected him so far. He tried to look tough sporting a stubble, tearing up a piece of paper and getting angry on stage, but it was ineffective.

While a lot of people are impressed with his Gujarat development, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen as a bit of a dictator and that only helped him at the hustings.“India needs a dictator!” How many times have you heard someone saying that at a party, chai chat or hostel discussion?

That is one of the things going for Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal. He is also the virtual dictator of AAP and that goes down well with people. They gave him 67/70 seats in the last Delhi elections and so far Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan have hardly made a dent in his hold over the party.

If you have any doubts take a look at all other leaders in India.DMK supremo M Karunanidhi. ADMK head honcho J Jayalalithaa. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. BSP ruler Mayawati. They all run their parties with an iron fist.

You don’t hear much about Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik but he is also supreme in his party. Nitish Kumar was seen as a consensus candidate but he broke ties with the BJP and kicked out Jitan Ram Manjhi.

After that purge he is a virtual dictator of JD(U).

Let’s face it. India loves its dictators. And as long as that is so it will continue electing them.Democratic dictators anyone?

That’s India for you!


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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here