Monobina Gupta: The tyranny of the elected representatives

Monobina Gupta writes in

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?

5 Responses

  1. A quite brilliant & entertaining interview w Russell Brand on the “complicity of voting”


  2. And what’s Brand’s alternative? “socialist redistribution based on massive taxation” (levied by an all-powerful unelected “administration”). I didn’t catch a single original thought or constructive proposal, just the usual string of leftist sloganising. And why doesn’t he start by putting his own money where his (motor)mouth is? The truly alarming thing is that serious political theorists like Michael Saward give credence to the verbal flatulence of pop stars and other showbiz celebs by proposing the incorporation of their “representative claim” into our existing democratic arrangements, and it would appear that the editor of the New Statesman (who really ought to know better) is also complicit. Most of Brand’s slogans are straight from the mouth of the 1980s TV sitcom character Citizen Smith

    In fact if you gave Brand Robert Lindsay’s beret, he would look just like their chosen hero, Che Guevara.


  3. Hey, take it easy on the man. He did begin by saying, “there are people smarter than me working on alternatives…” He only offered his heavily tax, redistribute & regulate scheme after he was repeatedly pushed.


  4. Sure, but why doesn’t he set an example by contributing most of his own personal wealth to the coffers of the state? I also continue to question the wisdom of providing the oxygen of publicity to puerile claims that elected politicians are self-seeking criminals and poodles of the oppressive ruling class.


  5. Heh. I can see how this guy gets under your bonnet, Keith.

    I haven’t heard of Mr. Brand before, but he is quite clearly someone who is looking for the idea of sortition. Time to offer it to him.


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