If you have competent and well-trained bureaucrats or well-educated technical professionals who are dedicated to public interest, this kind of government is better than democratic government in the short term. But there are no institutional rules limiting the power of a bad emperor. The last bad emperor commonly acknowledged as such was Mao Zedong. Such an individual can do far more damage to the society than a constitutionally and democratically constrained democratic leader.
What gives this rising tide of intolerance in India an ominous ring is the failure of the executive, police and judicial establishments to bring the vandals to justice. The fear of earning their wrath indeed permeates all levels of governance. In the process, what is central to the very idea of India -- a celebration of its bewildering diversity -- runs the risk of rapid emasculation.
About 25 years ago when India kicked off the economic reforms that ignited the national reconsideration roiling the nation today, many dreamt of turning their nation into another United States. But somewhere in the haste to achieve that, India has fallen into growing social conservatism, unfettered (crony) capitalism, rising ultra-nationalism and an increasing comfort with political authoritarianism that could well end up making it more like Putin's Russia.
These are the slight young men in faded clothes who hide their faces with scarves when the police parade them before TV cameras as the crowds outside chant for their heads. It is easy to fear and hate them, not just for their acts, but because much of India sees them as sub-humans, fit only to be ignored when present and disposed off when inconvenient. 'An eye for an eye' is the mantra now gripping a country whose founding father warned that this only ends up making the whole world blind.