Left vs. Right, Florida vs. India, Corruption and Political Symmetry across the globe

After having spent sometime in India this month I have some observations on the similarities between the politics of the nation and the state of Florida.

India and Florida share a somewhat similar climate but culturally are worlds apart. Yet the politics of both places are becoming eerily similar. First some background on India before we get into the comparison.

Since independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 (following a period from 1858 to 1947 when the “Indian Empire” a founding member of the League of Nations and United Nations was ruled by British monarchs…the Indian Empire ruled over what are now six different countries, modern India being the by far the largest) India has generally been governed by various degrees of leftists. In the 66 years of independence the country has been run by the left for 60 years. Only for a few weeks in 1996 and then in the 1998 to 2004 time period has a party with a clear conservative ideology come to power.

India was founded as a “secular socialist democracy,” which after partition was logical, and between 1947 and 1991 the Indian left’s ideology was largely based on secularism bordering on being anti-religion, anti-colonialism, hyper-nationalism (including language nationalism an effort to displace local languages as well as English with a largely contrived national one, Hindi), and socialism. After 1971 anti-Americanism, always prevalent in the ruling class became a hard policy position.  So hard –left was India that in elections throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the multiple parties to the left of the spectrum would routinely win over 90% of the seats in Parliament. The dominant party has long been the Indian National Congress (colloquially just referred to as Congress) which endured a painful split in the 1970s over the personality of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. When Congress lost elections prior to the mid-1990s they would lose to other leftists made up largely of former members of Congress.

Richard Nixon’s decision to placate China by taking sides in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war drove India, already sympathetic to the Soviet Union into the arms of Moscow.  Since 1991, the Indian left has tried to open up India’s market, accept English as a co-national language and keep a decent rapport with the west. But the distrust of the British and the Americans still pervades much of the left’s thinking in the country.

India’s right has been long a non-entity and has no guiding set of principles. The right has tended historically to be even more nationalistic that the left, pro-American, and in more recent years hard edged religious fundamentalists. But the fact remains that the Indian right have no real domestic policy.

The right’s general impotence and dependence on exploiting various terrorist acts by Islamic groups on Indian soil (a frequent occurrence in the 2000s as Mumbai and Delhi, India’s two largest cities have been hit five times each by major terrorist attacks since 2001…each attack was linked to Islamic fundamentalists, the most famous of which being the 2008 Mumbai attacks which is seen as India’s 9/11), and scandal have made the right-wing BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) resemble more of a hodgepodge of disaffected factions and people than a political party with a single voice or vision. This is a problem Florida Democrats suffer from- no coherent voice, vision and nowadays becoming a magnet for malcontents throughout the state of Florida. Much like the left in India, Florida Republicans have a lock on the levers of government. And much like Florida, arrogance, corruption and a sense of entitlement has run rampant among the ruling party.

During the six year reign of the BJP between 1998 and 2004, India became an open nuclear power, Hindu-Muslim relations got worse in the country and India became a prime target of Islamic terrorists trained in Saudi funded camps in Central Asia. This having been stated, the economic policies of the right-wing government grew India’s economy like never before. Maybe it was a bubble, but the evidence of growth from 1998 to 2004 and then decline after 2004 is unmistakable.

The left in India has sought to minimize its perceived weakness on terrorism by taking a hard-line on Pakistan and Islamic Terrorism while hunting the votes of Muslims in line with the tradition of the left. (The right in India is almost entirely Hindu) This mirrors the fear many Democrats have had in the post 9/11 world to oppose military adventures abroad and the desire of many of the left to look “tough” on terrorism and security.

Much of the Indian left has sadly become intellectually dishonest and morally corrupt. As a liberal myself I weep for the country of my parents’ birth and my ethnic origin. Having a permanent lock on power has created elections based on personality more than issues and the rapid growth of India’s economy and global standing has created unprecedented opportunity for corruption.  This sadly sounds like Florida Republicans who have a virtual lock on power similar to the Indian left, though I must concede as terrible as RPOF related corruption has been for Florida it pales in comparison to the Congress Party’s corruption and nepotism throughout India.

The lesson from both India and Florida is Democracy controlled by one party and with one set of ideas/worldviews is fundamentally bad for democracy. Without an exchange of ideas or competition in the marketplace for votes, established parties and politicians be they of the left or the right become arrogant and in many cases corrupt.

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