Gone are the days when politicians, thinkers and ideologues used to compete, or have healthy debate, with their competitors and rivals on policies and ideologies. Thanks to continuous erosion of moral and ethical values and norms, rising consumerism and personal ambitions, a purported public statement or even a tweet spreads over country so fast, and even internationally, thanks to information technology and media boom, attracting attention of all concerned including public at large.
Now people have less focus debating on rivals’ policies and ideological philosophies which certainly require greater knowledge, wisdom, awareness, foresight, articulation and even preparedness. Instead, they find it so easy and convenient to indulge in personal attacks leading to maligning image or character assassination by finding faults with a person’s conduct, morality and ethics. Of course, this instantly generates reaction and counter reaction too. It appears as if everyone is out to act on the premise of ‘holier than thou’ and/or look ‘my shirt is more white and clean than yours’.
Media too seems to be playing its role deliberately and cleverly in the name of their duty to disseminate correct information to masses without any prejudice or favor. Accordingly, they would continuously be on a look out for spicy news items which instantly attract mass attention. So far them, it is not a major issue for more attention and larger debate if an entire region or a state is under blackout due to sudden closure of a power plant or failure of a grid or if a state despite its assured six or eight hour power supply, falters on commitment. But then this is a big news item worth round the clock coverage through time and again repeat telecast if a celebrity or politician sits on a dharna for whatever justified or unjustified cause or if he (or she) tweets on personal life of conduct of another colleague. This is obvious for them that commercial interest are paramount and they will go by public pulse rather than the call of ethics and morality.
Whether an individual or group or institution, they usually resort to such tactics under the bubbling ambition and enthusiasm. There is nothing wrong in nurturing ambitions. In fact, it is good to be ambitious for the progress and development of an individual as also the nation at large. What is debatable or questionable is the ways and means adopted to step ladders to achieve success commensurate with nurtured ambitions.
Clearly, there are two ways to achieve success and reach a certain height. One obvious way is to be patient and climb the ladder step by step in a diligent and transparent manner to reach desired height. The other, rather a covert and dubious method is to pull down others in fray to remain at a height. Needless to say the latter method is often found to be more easy and convenient by many ambitious people, more so in politics.
Notwithstanding apprehensions and criticism, this is beyond doubt that India is a fast growing economy, irrespective of governance. But the country is also besieged with chronic problems of corruption, inflation, unemployment and poverty despite remarkable and noticeable growth in past decades. So while taking a dig at opponents, it depends on the wisdom and discretion of the person whether he or she acknowledges these facts with due consideration of contribution made by respective regimes or individuals or simply ignore it for motivated reasons, vested interests and ambitions.
I am amazed when I hear or see how a person publicizes his honesty and integrity pretending himself to be messiah of common man, and branding all opponents as dishonest and corrupt people. As I understand honesty and integrity are personal traits and don’t need any public display or publicity. If you are sincere and honest, you don’t have to announce it from a roof top. People around would perceive it and believe so through your demeanor, acts and performances. If a person is too zealous to publicly discuss or announce, this clearly shows his (or her) ambition and keen desire to derive mileage for some overt or covert gains.
There is no doubt that a lot of focus and debate takes place on issues in and around the national capital. But the truth is that the real India lives outside the national capital. There is no parallel between the all round development and growth in the national capital and rather a lopsided development and growth in the rest of the large geographical territory outside the capital. Notwithstanding above, critics use enough gun powder and fissile material day in and day out on issues focused in and around the capital for the already pampered middle and lower class. Hence it is not surprising that when someone resorts to a dharna with whatever right or wrong cause or utter a crude joke about the color of south Indians or carries midnight adventure raiding people of foreign origin branding them sex racketeers and drug peddlers, one gets enough support to keep flag flying adamantly despite widespread criticism.
An interesting paradox today confuses minds of those who think or conduct more rationally. While a section of educated lot, and of course media, believe that the recent rhetoric and uprisings against corruption and inflation is a phenomenon of a large section of lower middle class who are more and more socially as well as politically aware, active, and ready to stand up against rising prices and corrupt practices so wide spread. The ground reality on the other hand is that a large section with overwhelming majority is still those of people at lower echelon comprising of daily workers, auto drivers, street vendors, residents of resettlement colonies, and other people at the low income group.
This is true of national capital as also outside. This class actually bears the brunt and is instantly driven by the rhetoric of anti-corrupt slogans, concessions and freebies whether on electricity, water, cooking gas or any other consumer goods for that matter, irrespective of who gives such slogans. Hence it is not surprising that a leader or politician gets instant popular support if he (or she) prefers to bitterly criticize police force as corrupt or offers concessions or freebies, however trivial, whether with genuine or motivated intent.
Another interesting point is that this practice of granting concessions and freebies is an old and tested tactics of those who have been in power for long. So it is not surprising when one offers computers or television for free to a target electorate, the other slashes tariff of electricity through heavy subsidy, and yet another offers a gift of more subsidized LPG cylinders immediately before or after elections.
Many economists and planners may feel unhappy and uncomfortable but those in power use them as an effective tool for political dividends. Even without looking at statistics, the fact remains that while a large percentage of population in cities have privilege and access to electricity, municipal water and cooking gas, only a small section of population in villages have access and benefit of these facilities and comfort. Analysts would always be divided as some would feel such gimmicks may not yield any favorable outcome in the election year while others may interpret it as a game changer for those in power.
The moot question that agitates my mind is that if every party or politician resorts to similar tactics, what is the difference between them from the point of view of intellectual honesty and integrity? The only difference, as I can make out, is that those who came in late are a little more imaginative and impactful being new in their area of influence because people are yet to see and experience many facets of their personality.
The clear distinction can be made about the true intentions of a politician by judging him (or her) on two counts. That is whether he is a role model with true intention of providing neat, transparent and orderly governance without making compromises for any short term personal gain or he is one like any other in public service who would resort to making only tall promises and usual tactics and gimmicks of offering concessions and freebies with eyes set on large vote bank and greed for power.
Not long back, people have seen a chief minister sleeping on street side out in a cold and foggy night. This instantly clicks among masses because many of them feel as if he is like one of them but such strategies can not be long lasting unless concrete results also come simultaneously with true intent. One can get some publicity but can’t deliver by frequently appearing on television and public declarations that everyone else is corrupt and inefficient. Reducing the cost of electricity to consumers by burdening the exchequer through heavy subsidy at the cost of other welfare measures could hardly be any solution. The solution in fact lies in bringing efficiency in distribution and supply of electricity, optimizing use at consumer level and encouraging energy efficient appliances as a long term strategy. Even when we talk of free water to a certain level, the first and foremost requirement is to take steps to ensure that every household has water connections, metering and billing arrangements.
Way back, I had seen a bollywood movie ‘Guide’. The protagonist Raju was convicted of forgery and given a two-year sentence. His lady love was unable to understand as to why he committed crime when he could have asked her for any money and obtained it without a fuss. She couldn’t understand it was actually his loving fascination for her and apprehension and resolve not to lose her at any cost that led to this crime. Upon his release, the protagonist wandered alone in despair, poverty, hunger and loneliness until one day he found a wandering group of sadhus (holy men) with whom he spent a night at a temple in a small town. A chance assistance to a villager impressed him to believe that Raju was a swami (holy man). As the villager spread the news through the village, others too were convinced and Raju was taken as a holy man by all villagers. In subsequent turn of events, due to drought Raju was forced to fast for twelve days so that it rains. In the end, though it rained but Raju died, truly a changed man.
A case of con turning holy man under pressure from folks. Honesty and integrity are universal values to be professed by individuals and hardly need any publicity. People branding themselves as truly honest and dumping accusations of corruption and inefficiency to their social or political opponents publicly do raise another question. Are they genuine leaders driven with the cause of public welfare or it is their personal ambition to be rich and famous that is inducing them to exploit mass public sentiments? Are they holy men in the politics or is it the politics of con men portraying as holy man? People who are intellectually corrupt are no less damaging than the materially or physically corrupt. Whatever it is, only the time unravels true colors of every man.