Absurd Trends in Politics
There was a time in this country when people with good family background and clean image used to join politics not so much for personal ambitions or greed but with a genuine intention and desire to serve the nation. Needless to mention but there are many instances when people left their material comfort or resigned from coveted government jobs to join cause or movements of national importance. But the politics today is clearly a profession open for people from all walks of life who want to earn quick buck, name and fame. Unlike other professions and jobs, here age, gender, caste, creed and religion are no obstacle and there is no age for retirement.
This reminds me of a particular instance more than three decades back from my student life. I was a science post-graduate student staying in a hostel at Lucknow University. There were about two hundred inmates with a tradition that every year they will elect an executive body from amongst themselves comprising of a president, general secretary, treasurer and a set of secretaries handling sports, cultural and social matters for smooth conduct of things during the academic year. Since I had a keen interest in several games, so I decided to contest an election for the post of the games secretary. I generally had a good reputation among inmates and was popular being active in various indoor and outdoor games. Incidentally, my opponent was a senior student from the much talked about the minority community in this country.
We had a few days for canvassing and I still remember that even my closest supporters and well-wishers had serious apprehensions about my chances of winning the election fray. This was perhaps because of my unconventional method of canvassing during which I never indulged in criticizing my rival and never tried to play on sentiments of inmates on the basis of the caste, creed, place of origin and religion, a departure from the method adopted by all other candidates even at that early stage of life. Needless to mention, I won my election by a thumping majority over my rival while all other winning candidates succeeded through only marginal votes over their adversaries.
But this small time election was not without drawing certain lessons. Of course, the main lesson I learnt was that if you are fair, transparent and well meaning, you will find many to rise above the sectorial considerations while supporting you for a cause. At the same time, it was during this small time election I learnt that certain individuals and groups might support or oppose you even without knowing or irrespective your merits simply on the basis of caste, belief, origin, region and religion. For illustration, my next room neighbor and class fellow, who was apparently a good friend too, voted against me simply because he and my rival belonged to the same community. Same way, some students from the majority community claiming allegiance with a stated patriotic organization supported me without knowing me well.
It is painful because when the nature or God created life and made humans the master of the planet, there was nothing like the caste, creed, region or religion around. These elements are manmade who has gone to the extent of dividing even God in a variety of names and forms during the course of the evolutionary history.
The other day when I analyzed the prospects and future of many known contemporary students, this too revealed an interesting pattern. Students who were bright and good at studies, are now senior scientists, professors, doctors, engineers etc. and are generally living an accomplished yet mediocre life. Those who were sincere but not so well at studies became accountants, clerks and likes. Then there were those not so serious about studies often indulging in activities which university administration would ordinarily consider as acts of indiscipline, handful of them joined politics and some of them are even accomplished leaders among regional or national parties. I wonder if it is only a coincidence or a general pattern how young college students evolve as college goers, and in the latter case, it indeed presents a very dismal scenario of the future of the humanity and civilization.
Politics indeed has strange ways. You don’t have to be a student of the political science to grow and groom as a politician. Perhaps this is the only profession where irrespective of the good work done or achievements made, the rival political parties and leaders would seldom acknowledge it and most of the time only criticize or indulge in maligning your image.
Evidently, the parliamentary general elections for the sixteenth Lok Sabha are breaking all previous records of personal vendetta and image thrashing by all and sundry. Hence it is not surprising that phrases and terms like mass murderer, poison farming, biggest gunda, dog, puppy etc. are being used to describe rival candidates. The defence services are being dragged in to raise controversies, origin of leader being questioned and slogans are raised to flare up religious and caste sentiments. Then there is this self-styled leader in the fray who has exclusively patented honesty for self and followers declaring all other rival leaders and parties as dishonest and corrupt.
I hope the contemporary leaders of the political parties understand this finesse. When you fight on the basis of ideology, programmes and policies, there will hardly be any bitterness and malice in relationship and you could always see eye to eye with the adversary any time. On the other hand, when somebody resorts to personal attacks on adversary involving him or family, it generates a lot of malice and bitterness taking expected healthy rivalry to the level of ugly enmity.
Since independence, for a long time the rival political parties and leaders used to debate and criticize each other over the programmes, principles and policies, though there were occasional comments and remarks over their personal lives too. Things have changed during the recent years and the personal ambition and greed of politicians have taken such debates to new lows where character assassination and attempts to peek into the personal lives have become order of the day. The empowerment and rise of the fourth column i.e. print and electronic media has further fueled this trend because of the tendency of some to go beyond ethical limits in the name of investigative journalism. Here are a few illustrations from the recent happenings which raise several ethical and even legal issues.
Out of the two major coalition fronts, the national democratic front (NDA) have already declared their prime ministerial nominee in the event of their attaining a majority during the general election. The person is well known for his clean image and good governance for over a decade now. A few weeks back, two proclaimed investigating websites published a report that a particular woman architect was put under illegal surveillance under the directions of a close confidant of the chief minister of a state, now designated PM nominee for the front. Subsequently, an officer in the state who himself is under investigation for several criminal charges also levied similar charge.
This news item instantly picked up attention of rival national and regional parties in their enthusiasm (!) to protect the woman. After raising controversy for days, the ruling government in the central even declared its intent for setting a commission for inquiry for investigating the said ‘snoopgate’. Any independent and unbiased onlooker may find it interesting to note that the concerned woman or her family have never made any representation or complaint in the matter. The commission has not been set up so for and the current buzz is that the retired judges contacted in the matter are reluctant to join inquiry which prima facie appears to be politically motivated.
Another case relates to two cousins from a famous political family but due to their political compulsions or ideological differences they belong to different rival parties. Recently, on one occasion, the younger cousin made some complimentary remarks about the developmental work done by the elder cousin in his constituency. This remark instantly generated reaction and criticism within his party and the younger cousin had to retract and dilute his earlier remarks by the end of the day. As if this was not enough, the mother of the younger cousin, who is a senior politician within the same party, goes to the extent of stating that her son is immature and the stated constituency has not developed the way it should have grown.
While I earnestly find nothing wrong if one acknowledges or appreciates the good work done by his (or her) rival or adversary. In fact, this indicates to his positive attitude and qualities that he is intellectually honest, transparent, tolerant and well-meaning. On the other hand if someone only negates and criticizes the work done by his opponent, it reflects his negative attributes casting doubts on his honesty, integrity and intention. In fact, in the given situation the right question or criticism should be, if at all necessary, if it is justified for the leader of the national stature to disproportionately focus on the development and progress of one constituency. Instead, a good leader will be one who focuses on a uniform and all-round development of the people and country.
In yet another case, the leader of the newly formed party is publicly slapped by one of his erstwhile supporters. The person, an auto driver, is apprehended, beaten and handed over to the police by the party supporters. The following day, the leader visits his house, shows goodwill gestures and tries to find out if the person had slapped him under some instigation or conspiracy. The person apologized and gave a public statement in camera that he was unhappy and agitated because in the earlier state assembly elections for Delhi, he frantically supported and worked day and night for almost three months for his leader but instead of solving autodrivers’ problems as earlier assured, the latter chose to demit office running away from the responsibility.
In spite of the apparent simple case of disillusionment with a leadership and consequent backlash, the leader publicly cries foul and deep rooted conspiracy against him by political heavyweight rival(s). In my opinion the intellectual honesty is even more important compared to the honesty based on financial propriety. It is not so difficult to fathom whether the self-proclaimed honest politician is so innocent or ignorant as to be befooling self or he is trying to bully common public to maximize his sympathy and support base in public by posing as an aggrieved.
It has been over sixty-six years since independence from the British when the country opted for the democracy and parliamentary form of the governance. The Indian National Congress is the oldest single party with country wide presence having undergone several transformations during these years. The congress party is one which has ruled the nation for the maximum period and Bhartiya Janta Party (erstwhile Janasangh) and other parties in coalition too have been in power in different spells. There should be no denying of the fact that the country has made an all-round progress since independence. Notwithstanding this, the country still faces challenges on many fronts; inflation, unemployment and corruption remaining the major problems on date. It is also true that the development and growth might have been far more significant and pronounced, had these problems been also effectively addressed by the successive governments.
I wonder why the politicians are so apprehensive and reluctant to appreciate or acknowledge any good work done by their rivals. This is perhaps due to the fear that the public may not support them if they find others too have done or are doing any thing good for the public's comfort and well being. On the contrary, in my opinion if any person has guts and courage to acknowledge and appreciate good deeds of his adversary, this will go in his favour as a good attribute enhancing own image and reliability. You can't simply bully people to see things the way you perceive it. In any case, as I have referred to it earlier that there are many people in the system who will judge you from your own merits and demerits independently applying there wisdom and knowledge of things besides people whom you cannot influence anyway because of their preconceived notions of caste, creed, origin, religion, and likes.
If the political system is to be blamed for these evils, perhaps every political party and leaders must share the blame, may be in proportion to their respective governance. There is a dire need to stop forthwith personal vendetta and attempt to wash their dirty linen in public. Instead focus should revert back to the principles based perspective planning, programmes and policies. I think the Indian democracy and people are now mature enough to understand and give mandate based on the measurable facts, deliverables and honest intent for the development and progress rather than being simply swayed by abusive and absurd tactics without any clear agenda and vision for the future.
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Dr. Jaipal Singh
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||Thank You, Padmajaji. I am glad you find this topical timely written.||
||Thank you, Mr Ashby. and I absolutely agree. You have got crux of the matter.||
||A well written and very exhaustive and incisive article on the state of politics and political 'leaders' in our country...In the current scenario, anyone who wishes to join politics, has to perfect the art of being an arch critic and a nitpicker...! Politics has become such a circus and a slanging match! Very topical and timely write, Jaipalji. Thanks for sharing.||
||You make a very good point about academically mediocre students finding their role in politics. Perhaps, it's because they use the people's language bereft of academic jargon. Politicians (like your dahlias) are rooted in the soil they bloom in - in this case, the populace. The politician's penchant for smearing his opponent is very much a people's tendency, as many a case will attest. In the recent claims for expenses scandal in the UK, a minister was let off by her own party leader, but hounded by the opposition - backed by public opinion polls that compelled her to resign. ||