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Irony of the Indian Polity
|by BS Murthy|
Though the Indian media was never known for its objectivity, now its Rahul mania, like its earlier Sonia mania, seems to have affected it as never before. If we were to go by its enthusiasm, the Congress has produced yet another Mahatma in the young Gandhi. What is worse, enamoured by its own theory, the media is not prepared even to entertain any contra opinion. However, in time, the media might come to realize the truism in the Shakespearean saying that reputation is ‘the most idle and false imposition, often got without merit and lost without deserving’! If the media was blind to see the crestfallen faces of the Gandhi clan in the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament while their head was letting out her inner voice of sacrifice then, now it is oblivious to the sullen mood in the haloed family after the heir apparent came a cropper in the U.P hustings!. Will not the media in times to come divine their mood on the video and in the stills for it to reappraise Sonia’s sacrifice and Rahul’s charisma to rewrite the failed dynastic story afresh? That is about the Indian media’s future wisdom but what about the recent state of its society to give us any hope about the country’s future?
Winston Churchill felt that the Indian polity was not ripe for independence but the original Gandhi pressed nevertheless. Some sixty-four years after Atlee granted, what is the bottom line of the world’s largest democracy? Barring the brief aberration that was the internal emergency of Indira Gandhi, India nonetheless cruised on the path of democracy to enter its fifteenth Lok Sabha, and that is about the physicality of the Indian democracy of going through the motions. What about the cerebral quality of the Indian electoral output? The cheerleaders of the Indian democracy cite the shining examples of its electoral maturity in avenging Indira for her emergency and dumping the Janata party for its ineptitude. Besides, did the electorate fail to respond to the emotive issues as ‘one vote’, be it Indira’s assassination or the victory of Kargil? Oh, how the Indian voter routinely dumps the haughty in the dustbins of anti incumbency! Where else on earth does democracy shine ever so bright, after all?
Was Winston wrong then? Well, the answer is he was doubly right! The first real test our democracy faced was when PV Narasimha Rao sought mandate from us for a second term in office. In an amazing turnaround, he retrieved the country from its political debris and laid a new economic keel to carry the country forward in the international waters. In addition, with the view to be seen as the crusader against corruption in the public life, he went all the way to prosecute the accursed politician across the board albeit at the directive of the judiciary. How did the Indian electorate that cries hoarse against the corruption in the high places respond to his willingness to tackle it? Simply put, it paid him a deaf ear. It was another matter that Rao’s failed gambit earned him a lot of bad blood in his own party for which he paid for with running around the courts. That was about the rank ingratitude of the Indian voter to their leader who held the reins of the country competently for five years under testing times. What by their mindless rejection of a known performer, the Indians gave themselves and their country in return? The ineffective rule of Deve Gowda on the one hand and on the other the ugly phenomenon of Sitaram Kesari that inevitably led to the takeover of the Congress again by its First Family.
The second test the Indian democracy was asked to take was whether to give Vajpayee’s NDA a second term or not. Vajpayee not only stemmed the tide of the political instability at the Center that the earlier electoral exercises occasioned but also broke the barriers in the hitherto neglected infrastructure in the country. If in Narasimha Rao the country perchance found the right man for the right job at the right time, Vajpayee, patiently cultivated the political sagacity required to handle the daunting job that is India’s PM. Yet, the electorate thought it fit to cold-shoulder the statesman who sought their vote to enable him to continue serve the country for five more years. As it appears, the electorate was not impressed though. Does that mean the Indians were so enamoured of the unknown ‘foreign angle’ to dump the known desi devil! That is what the secular minded Indians of varied political hues and media colours would have us believe.
What is the non-secular truth, really? Does not the past testify to the fact that the Indian voter is more of an emotional kind than the thinking type? Take away the anger of an emergency, the jingoism of a Bangladesh victory, the sympathy of an assassination or the apathy of incumbency and one gets to see what governs the average Indian voter’s ballot mind. In the final analysis, it can be said that (s)he has the ability to identify ‘the self’ only with the kitchen, caste and religion and thus has no idea of the nation as such. Nehru seems to have had the foresight to see what befalls the Indian democracy by such narrow voter mindset and thus tried to inculcate a sense of Indianness in our polity to ensure electoral responsibility. Though he lived long and ruled enough, yet he failed to catalyze the pan-national electoral chemistry to the good of the Indian democracy. The Nehruvian idealism to make the electorate mature had no vision to tackle the entrenched casteism in the majority community. In fact, in the arena of electoral politics, Nehruvian secular formula went off at a tangent to the circle of sectarian ethos of our society, exemplified by caste, creed and faith. It is thus that the unsophisticated Indian voter fails to unhinge his franchise from communal calculus.
Nonetheless, Nehru did succeed in inculcating a semblance of a secular feeling in the educated upper crusts of our society, nursed by the leftist leanings in vogue then. However, the intellectual growth of the society as a whole would only be possible when its intelligentsia works on the biases of the masses and not by any ideological imposition on the prejudiced social ground. On the other hand, our country’s intelligentsia tends to plough its lonely furrow not on the ground zero but in the thin urban air. This at once is the cause of the continuing backwardness in our society in spite of the remarkable economic strides it made of late. It was Nehru’s failure to appreciate this reality that led him to impose Hindi on the country instead of letting it evolve as a language of the nation in due course. This was a godsend to the Dravidian politician to take the Tamilian out of the national electoral mainstream and it remains that way, even today and perhaps forever. It is another matter that Hindi is insensibly becoming the spoken word of the people across the country! It was thus Nehru’s ideology, lofty though in conception, that proved counterproductive in implementation.
On the other hand, Hegdewar’s vision of India, though pragmatic, was faulty in its advocacy. Though he saw Hindutva as the cement that could hold the Hindu social wall of deviant caste bricks, unfortunately, this laudable concept of majority social reengineering was postulated as a means to counter the perceived minority communal threat. This flaw was exploited by the India’s shortsighted intellectuals who went to town branding Hindutva a communal agenda of the Hindu right inimical to the country’s minorities. Well one would expect the matured intelligentsia to advocate suitable corrections to the aberration but the wooly Indian intellectuals not known for their homework badmouthed a good idea and sought to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It would have given them an idea how to go about Hindutva if they had only contemplated on what Swami Vivekananda advocated – the Hindu soul in an Islamic body! What else but Hindutva could be the common denominator for the vast majority of the population otherwise hopelessly divided on the fracturing lines of caste, region, ethnicity, language etc? However, neither Hegdewar nor those that subscribe to his vision, either by design or default, failed to dispel this notion from the minds of the minorities and the misled majority alike. On the political plane too, blinded by his own utopian vision, Nehru failed to foresee the true merit in Hindutva to bring about political cohesiveness in the majority population to further the national good.
Needless to say, the national good would involve the minority welfare too as demonstrated by the much maligned Modi in Gujarat. A well-meaning Hindutva at the dawn of the independence itself would have benefited the country as a whole. Unfortunately, the opportunistic political class that sees electoral benefits in feeding upon the caste and communal susceptibilities of the polity pooh-poohs Hindutva in spite of the Supreme Court’s validating it in its historic ruling. Why not, when the likes of Laloos, Mulayams and Mayawati’s could together own one tenth of the Lok Sabha by getting caste equations right in their areas of influence! What if such characters sprout up to dominate sub-regions of our vast land by caste combinations! Would ever a national policy be possible with each satrap compelled to cater to the interests of the caste groups of his own narrow constituency? As if the politicians are not doing enough damage, the so-called spiritual leaders like Chinna Jeeyar are spreading sectarian sentiment amongst the Hindu polity with impunity! The British did divide India much less!
The very fact that Sonia was able to reach the penultimate rung on the Indian political ladder as the leader of opposition itself speaks for our country’s democratic curry lacking electoral savvy. If it was the BJPs weird political calculus that they could exploit her foreign origin coupled with the ‘reader of the opposition’ image at the 2004 hustings that put paid to any concrete move to bar an immigrant from becoming the country’s PM., later it was the ideological pursuit of the left and the survival instinct of the rest that catapulted Sonia to the summit as the Chairperson of the UPA. After all, for the Indian left that swears by Lenin and Mao, Sonia in the gaddi is no anomaly, besides it had seen an opportunity for itself for an ideological overkill on the Indian economic scene. Well, self above the kingdom had always been the credo of the Indian rulers and India did not change in a thousand years that is politically speaking. If the rajas of yore did not mind collaborating with the foreign rulers for their self-survival the netas of the day, follow the Indian political rule.
‘What do you say now?’ Churchill might be taunting Gandhi in the heavens, wishing that Sonia were British after all for there was no patriot like the man of the last century. What of Sonia! Was she unaware that a vast majority of Indians, especially the sensitive ones, would feel humiliated should their country’s premier be an immigrant? Had she had her way, we would have had a PM, who could have started her stint insensitive to the feelings of those she would have ruled. Why blame her when our electorate knows not the difference between a local grievance and national governance? After all, we get what we deserve, individually as well as collectively. Moreover, what an electorate that cannot rise above the kitchen, feel beside the caste and imagine beyond the faith can hope to give itself any better, after all! Luckily, the country had a Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam to stir Sonia’s ‘conscience’ then but how can one be sure that at the next round of political chicanery, it will not have someone like Giani Zail Singh to push Rahul onto the gaddi ?
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