One doesn’t have to belong to the Opposition camp in the Lok Sabha to feel concerned at some of the disturbing trends in the India polity. Just look at the pandemonium in the Lok Sabha on March 2-3 which looked like a “battlefield” with MPs pushing, shoving and shouting over the question of resignation of Union Minister Amit Shah over the riots in north-east Delhi that have left 47 people dead after one of the worst riots in the national capital in recent decades.
“When Delhi was burning, our Home Minister was playing the host in Ahmedabad. Playing a host is fine, but when Indians were being killed, that should not have been our priority.” This is what Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chaudhury said in the Lok Sabha. I am not getting into the question of right or wrong of the issue. I look at the heartbreaking happenings of the communal violence from the prism of quality of governance by our leaders at the helm.
This raises a critical question: Where are the elements of fearlessness and fair play? Today even the questions of secularism and liberal democratic values have got twisted and tattered by opportunist politicians and their collaborators. Does this mean we should give in? My simple answer is: Certainly not. What is required is a mental reorientation on the part of our leaders to set the pace for right governance.
Principles and ideologies once guided Indian politics. Even differences among party leaders would invariably be justified on grounds of principles or ideology. Such was the hold of ideology! Today, we are faced with the typical case of five blind men and the elephant. Most leaders and their parties might swear by one ideology or the other. But, for all practical purposes, they seem to be groping in the dark. They not only lack vision but also the ability to think beyond immediate and self-centred goals.
Apparently political culture has changed. So have functional norms. The motivating force of leaders has come to be highly personalized. It is either caste, class based or religion based. Principles hardly count in their calculations. Of course, the in-thing is marketing. Even “dreams” are marketed. What is regrettable is that they arouse false hopes among the poor and the have-nots. Such false packaging of “dreams ” cannot eradicate poverty and illiteracy. Television images in this context do glitter. But all that glitters is not gold.
And democracy and the question of liberty have been redefined. Democracy today is of politicians, by politicians and for politicians and their collaborators. In this context, party labels are just incidental. In fact, in the great manthan of Indian political ocean, liberal values and outlook have hardly relevance. All that dominates today is free-wheeling saffron politics of the BJP and other like-minded parties. Most leaders today play populist politics. No wonder, high principles of politics hardly fit in in these circumstances.
Divisive politics has thus become confrontationist politics as we see both inside and outside of Parliament. Thus, we hardly see meaningful debates on matters concerning people. This is very much evident to thinking persons. Political leaders, however turn a blind eye to the people’s key issues simple because they are not ready to forego the power and pelf that the present system confers on them.
There is a saying if the cattle break into the field, one can drive them away. But, if the fence itself begins to eat the crop, what can be done? The President is the “custodian” of the Constitution. But, for all practical purposes, he has no power to prevent the perversion of the Constitution. Even the quality of those occupying high offices is poor. Today, the reality is nothing prevents a party from even working against national interests, howsoever unconscientiously, if its own survival is at stake.
We, know how our system works. Even the law enforcement agencies often go berserk. The system apart, the human failure explains most of our failures. We have hardly cared to follow the message of the stalwarts of value-based politics. Mahatma Gandhi used to call for the transformation of the people. But no solid steps were initiated in that direction.
Should we say: it is never too late? I am not sure. One thing, however, can be said without hesitation: An honest and objective approach to the people’s problems can make a difference to the quality of governance. All that we need is a work culture and certain values and principles which can help us to block today’s wayward traits in the polity.
However, the moot point is: how can we reorient the mindset of the persons at the helm ? Take the simple matter of CAA and related matters. Why they should be allowed to become prestige issues when all that was required to reach out to Muslim women of Shaheen Bagh for a dialogue. It should not get stuck at the rulers ego.
In a democracy like ours, facts do trickle down, howsoever slowly and selectively. But the authorities are expected to keep their minds open and not get lost in the culture of hypocrisy. Things tend to get complicated if the ruling and opposition parties talk in different tones, instead of seeing things differently and with an open mind. It needs to be appreciated that cheap competitive politics hardly adds to the credibility of persons in and out of the government.
We talk of transparency. Still, political persons act in a manner which is nowhere near a reasonable transparent conduct. We have not tackled properly the CAA issue has got globally. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHRC) has taken a biased position by linking it with human rights of migrants, including refugees.
Had PM Modi and Amit Shah given serious thoughts to our domestics matter, things would not have got complicated. National interests must not be run on the basis of the colour of the flag or one community’s preference. The country’s interests have to be kept above every consideration.