The bat, the bucket and the brats!

The bat, the bucket and the brats!

T.K Thomas

The dynastic power children of politicians inherit manifests in exhibition of arrogance and violence. We have had two examples of such actions by two young politicians, one from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the other from the Indian National Congress who publicly took law into their hands and attacked hapless government officials who were discharging their duties. The violent events are too well known, yet need to be repeated to contextualise this piece.

In the first case, on 26th June, the Madhya Pradesh BJP MLA (of Indore III) Akash Vijayavargiya thrashed a municipal officer of Indore, Dhirendra Singh Bais, with a cricket bat. Bais had gone to demolish a dilapidated building and while doing his duty the first-time MLA in public view used a cricket bat to bash up Bais. Akash incidentally, is the son of powerful BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who effectively humbled Bengal’s all powerful Trinamool Congress and its supremo Mamata Banerjee.

In the second case, last Thursday (4th July) Nitesh Rane, the local Congress MLA and son of former Chief Minister Narayan Rane (who had joined the Congress from the Shiv Sena and presently a Rajya Sabha member affiliated to the BJP, allegedly assaulted a deputy engineer of the National Highways Authority of India, Praksh Shedekar, in the Kankavali town of Sindhudurga district in the Konkan region of Maharashtra.

The engineer was pushed, pulled and paraded on the muddy road before the villagers who had complained against him. The ultimate humiliation was when Rane and his henchmen poured buckets full of dirt and mud on him. Rane was accompanied by the Kankavali mayor, deputy mayor and members of his Swabhiman Sanghathana. The engineer filed a police complaint and Rane was arrested and later sent in custody.

Not to be outdone, a day after the Nitesh Rane episode, there were reports of a video emerging about a Mumbai Shiv Sena corporator and former Mayor Milind Vaidya slapping and abusing truck drivers in Mumbai allegedly claiming that he was taking law into his hands, again in public interest.  According to reports there were complaints from the local residents, about foul smelling poultry trucks being parked by drivers causing inconvenience to local residents. Vaidya claimed that despite complaints to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, ruled by his own party, the Shiv Sena, no action was taken and hence he took the law into his own hands and slapped the erring drivers in Mahim area. Well, it is time law enforcing was taken over by conscientious elected representatives!

Attacking toll booth employees by powerful politicians and their henchmen seems to be a regular occurrence. The Sunday Express (7th July) came out with a front page story as to how the sitting BJP MP of Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah Ram Shankar Katheria, (presently Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes according to the report) allegedly assaulted a toll plaza employee in the Etmadpur area of Agra last Saturday. There were five cars and a bus in the MP’s entourage and his security guards had opened fire in self defence, according to the MP who denied the charges. Of course an FIR has been filed against the MP under various sections of the IPC and further details are awaited.

One wonders how in the Agra incident the policemen protecting the law maker brandished their guns at the tool booth workers. A senior former senior police officer made certain interesting observations about the whole system of security provided to elected representatives in some of the states. There is a tendency among such police personnel deputed to protect the law makers turn more loyal to them than to the police administration.  These police men have no fixed short tenures but continue for long like personal security guards for the lawmakers and their families. They develop personal loyalties and are often treated like obedient domestic servants. In the process they may act like private militia and can even be trigger happy against their masters’ detractors. This, according to the former police officer is inappropriate and suggests that such police personnel should have short tenures lest they develop vested interests and personal loyalties.

The Indore MLA when released on bail was given a grand welcome by his supporters and admirers and there were even celebratory firing! His father and BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said his son was a “Kachhe Khiladi” suggesting that he was a novice.

According to media reports Akash had initially brazened it out by saying , “In the BJP, we have been taught, pehle aavedan, phir nivedan aur phir danadan [first informal request, then formal request , and then thrashing] “ But when Prime Minister Narendra Modi disapproved of the violent action by Akash, matters took a serious turn for him. The Prime Minister was angry and on July 2 reportedly said, ”Whoever it may be, whoever’s son he may be, such arrogance, misbehavior cannot be tolerated and action should be taken against him.” It is also reported that the Prime Minister also slammed Akash’s admirers who went to welcome him on his release from jail and those who fired guns. Reports further say that the PM wants all of them also to be thrown out of the party.

The other offender Nitesh Rane, MLA of the Congress, too initially boasted to repeat such violent acts in ‘public interest’ on officials who did not do their job properly! Rane was arrested by the police and was sent to jail. Of course he will also come out on bail.

The above instances, to use a phrase by the Prime Minister himself, of “arrogance and misbehavior” on the part of elected representatives point at an established tendency in India of political highhandedness. Dynastic tendencies of the second generation wielding power in the reflected glory of their paternal guardians seem evident in most of the states cutting across political parties. One cannot however, generalize such behaviours as there are plenty of politicians and their children who desist from such boorishness.

A senior political analyst, referring to the growing tendency of politicians taking law into their own hands “in public interest” blames political parties who give tickets to politicians with serious criminal records because of their winnability. The number of such elected members in the present Lok Sabha, cutting across party affiliations is as many as 233 or 43 per cent, according to Association of Democratic Rights [ADR]. There is a 26 per cent increase in the numbers from the previous Lok Sabha.

Entry of criminal elements into the electoral arena is a reality. It is said that Indian Elections need the “Three Ms”- Money power, Muzzle power and Media power for parties to win. The criminal elements have the first two Ms aplenty and can also garner media support. Such elements have tremendous power, admirers, supporters and a stable of henchmen ever ready to indulge in violence. Our political culture unfortunately seems to encourage rather than discourage this tendency.

Gramsci’s “Theory of Hegemony” seems to be applicable to our situation. Hegemony to Italian socialist turned Marxist Antonio Fransesco Gramsci [1891-1937] , "is the cultural, moral and ideological leadership of a group over allied and subaltern groups”. If Gramsci refers to dominant class, one is inclined to consider the criminal elements in politics to be that ‘class’ in our context. Aren’t they “ruling with the consent of subordinate masses protecting some interests of the subordinate classes in order to get their support?” Haven’t caste/ community members j‘subordinate classes’ to Gramsci) been successfully utilised by a number of leaders? Many such ‘powerful’ leaders with muzzle and money power have used such powers to carve out political space for them in their respective areas. They often got elected as independent law makers, established their own parties and have later been admitted into almost all major parties, national and regional. It may not be incorrect to surmise that such politicians with criminal past constitute a fair number of the elected law makers in the present Lok Sabha. It may, however, be pointed out that in many cases FIRs have been filed against politicians for offences like breaking prohibitory orders during political demonstrations , alleged defamation etc; in most cases politically motivated.

A large number of politicians with a shady past have also promoted their children and kin as electorally successful law makers. This does not mean that all successful politicians with their family members as ‘eligible candidates’ have criminal antecedents. There are plenty of exceptions of genuine and honest politicians.

Why do many children of powerful politicians become unruly and often take law into their own hands? There are many reasons for this. Firstly many of them emulate the strong arm methods of their guardians and adopt them as a means for political power. When they take law into their hands they are sure of being protected by the dynastic or hegemonic power behind them.

By severely condemning the use of a cricket bat against government officials and promising severe action, the Prime Minister in his second term, appears to be determined to curb such violent tendencies among the generation next political heirs.