No, I haven’t gone crazy; I am seriously asking this question even though I am well aware of the fact that the world over, Indian parliamentary elections are seen as the greatest exercise in democracy. But, for heaven’s sake, India or Indian democracy is not just about periodic elections even though the Indian political parties and independents have raised their ambition of fighting and winning elections as an end in itself. It is precisely this shortcoming in our system that has landed us in this morass (Read: ‘How Proud Should We Be Of Indian Republic At 62?’ that I wrote on 26 Jan 2011).
This article is, therefore, focussed on three things:
- Our unrealistic expectations from elections.
- How we are manipulated by the political parties?
- Don’t we ourselves have to do demand from our polity than periodically vote?
Take the euphoria regarding the two Prime Ministerial candidates: Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. In social media, in addition to electronic and print media, we have divided ourselves into two camps: the NaMo camp and Rahul baba camp. In public debates, the supporters of one or the other endlessly tell us that they admit that their party has made mistakes and done evil things; but, it is still not as bad as when the other party was in ‘power‘.
Lets take Narendra Modi camp first. As soon as NaMo becomes the next PM, following will happen:
1. Our netas, babus and people at large will shun corruption. All of us are waiting for a strong PM to be there so that we can all mend our ways.
2. Good governance will return to our country. It was last seen in 6th century AD during the period of the Guptas.
3. People will start being more efficient and punctual in offices. Right now we have a ‘chalta hai’ attitude only because we don’t have a strong PM.
4. Our trains and flights will be on time. With a weak PM, they have no choice but to be perpetually running late.
5. Industrial output and hence GDP would show a sudden spurt. Our industrialists are totally nationalist people. The industrial output, therefore, suffers only because of the indecision of the government.
6. Education and employment for all would remarkably improve. Even with the excellent(!) commitment of our teachers and employers, these have suffered only because the government didn’t have clear sense of purpose.
7. Long pending police reforms would be straightway implemented as they have been in Gujarat.
8. Our foreign relations would straightway improve especially with our neighbouring countries. After years of lack of vision by successive governments, suddenly, we shall have a visionary with commendable and proven clarity of thought in these matters.
9. Pakistan wouldn’t dare to send terrorists to our country because of zero tolerance of NaMo towards such people. Indeed, even though an earlier immature PM had declared with bravado, “Ham unaki naani yaad dila denge“; NaMo wouldn’t give such childish threats but actually make them remember their ancestors.
10. Modernity would reach our villages in addition to some basics such as food, water, roads, electricity and schools.
11. We would have a foolproof security and defence umbrella. It couldn’t have been there with a weak PM.
12. People of all communities will start living in harmony as they do in Gujarat!
13. Scientists and technocrats would start doing original research rather than reverse engineering of western inventions.
14. In short, India will once again take its rightful position as the Golden Peacock.
Are elections fairy tales? This is why we believe in gods and goddesses; irrespective of the mess we are in, gods will be reborn in our midst and suddenly set right decades of neglect, corruption, inefficiency and immortality.
Lets take another god-in-the-making Rahul Gandhi. Recently, in order to have a squeaky-clean image – the kind his antennae told him the Indian public wanted – he, whilst holding post as the Vice President of Congress, denigrated his own Prime Minister and the party for having moved in the parliament an ordinance that would allow even convicted members to continue in office.
Surprisingly, the Congress supporters hailed the ‘bold step’ of the ‘future-hope-of-the-country’ Rahul Gandhi who had shown as much sagacity as the retired Army Chief General VK Singh in publicly finding faults with the army he was commanding. People’s hopes – mixed as they are – rest on the following pillars:
- If voted to ‘power‘ as the Prime Minister, Rahul would stand between the corrupt ministers and the nation’s interests.
- He may be party to corrupt and dubious decisions, but he still carries a conscience; the one commodity that is lacking in others.
- He has his fingers on the pulse of the people. Hence, if voted to ‘power‘, unlike others, he would listen to the people and do course corrections when required.
- Eight years of Congress misrule now and decades of it earlier would be wiped out simply by electing him to ‘power‘.
- The volte-face by Rahul Gandhi is a resounding victory for people’s power especially power of the social media.
Ain’t our fairy-tale expectations from our ‘angels’ far higher than what we are supposed to do ourselves in democracy? What is the difference between us and a certain minister Bhim Singh from Bihar who said, “Soldiers are meant to die”? Ain’t we expecting too much that any government or PM can set right the rot that has set in our society since they are being paid or voted to set them right?
I don’t like the way people on social media take sides with either Congress or the BJP for any issue of import concerning our country and its people. For example, on the issue of pogrom of thousands of Sikhs in the national capital, the pro Congress group blames the pro BJP group of being non-secular and vice-versa. On the issue of corruption, each group pretends to be holier-than-thou.
Every issue of significance, therefore, gets mired in vituperative politics and we never get to pragmatic solutions. What is true of Facebook is also true of debate, both public and in the media.
If we collectively or individually not lock our senses behind the façade of my-party-greater, we’d know that despite each fan club assuming posture of superiority and morality, there is nothing to choose between the two major parties; both have been there and done that!
Let me share some facts:
1.BJP had a major issue of Bofors when they were in opposition but didn’t do anything about it when they came to power.
2. BJP didn’t push for a white paper on irrigation scam in Maharashtra after Congress leaked it out to the media that some part of the loot went to BJP too.
3. Congress’s own record of secularism is even more pathetic than that of BJP. However, BJP never pushes debate on this issue since it is sure Ram Mandir will get it assured votes.
4. Both see advantage in postponing Lok Dal Bill and Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament.
5. Both didn’t want to do anything about Wikileaks revelations about Swiss Bank accounts of Indian politicians and industrialists.
I can go on and on but isn’t it time sane and aware people in the country stop taking sides on the assumption of a false sense of loyalty? Lets start discussing what the country and its people need without getting into the internecine blame-game. There is nothing like a half-virgin or more or less virgin! Integrity has to be measured in absolute and ethical terms and not in the terms we are discussing now; eg, “Congress is bad but it is better than BJP or vice-versa.”
We are really playing into the muddy hands of these ruffians by adopting this attitude.
Let India win and not Congress or BJP.
Some of my good friends also debate and believe that we the common voters would be directly electing the Prime Minister. The fact is that none of us will be electing a PM; we have to only vote for the right candidate for our constituency. Everything else is just plain wishful thinking. Yes, our votes are important but we can’t directly elect a PM or even government. Whereas, from the public debates, and debates on social media it appears as if they would all be voting directly for NaMo or Rahul G and hence, whilst voting for the right candidate in our constituencies, we should constantly worry about the above fairy-tale wish list for these two worthies
And I am ashamed of the so-called intellectuals who take sides on every issue of significance concerning us. We believe in miracles and miracles sell like hot-cakes in our country. Why, it was only the other day when Lord Krishna produced endless rice from a bowl!
Here is the actual reality of majority of the people that we elect:
Neta1: So wrestling is back in Olympics.
Neta2: Yes, we now stand a chance to win medals.
Neta1: You don’t say that, do you? Medals for what we have been doing in the well of the house?
Neta1: Do you think we can also win medals for thumping the tables every time Soniaji speaks?
How quickly we wash our hands off our responsibility and complicity in the ills of society; be these corruption or rapes or immoral acts by god men? The fact is that We the People are corrupt, and immoral. From where do Ponty Chaddhas and Asarams amass their stupendous wealth and power? We are so steeped in commercialisation of religion that we have lost the ability to listen to sane voices that such jamborees as those we witness in the name of religion periodically are actually trivialising the religion. We create Ponty Chaddhas and Asarams. We participate in mere rituals and tamasha in the name of religion. We fan the fires of an increasingly divided society in terms of religion, caste, creed and region. Some of us are trying to make every issue of morality into victimisation of the religion that we belong to.
Lets stop all this before we ask of the government, politicians, religious leaders and babus to set right the Indian society.
As Guru Nanak and Swami Vivekanand said, “Conquer yourself to conquer the world”.
How Naive Can We Get?
Whilst we prepare for forthcoming elections, we have conveniently convinced ourselves that Corruption and Immorality lies at some high level and that people at large seek to be rid of these evils. This is as naïve as ostrich burying its head in sand.
We, as people, fight for our ‘right’ to be corrupt and immoral. These are at all levels of society. You don’t become a Ponty Chaddha and Asaram overnight. People collude to make them so.
- Tell the thekedaars of religion, for example, to stop extracting money in the name of religion.
- Tell the railway conductors to stop charging underhand money.
- Tell the office babu to stop asking for bribes to do the work he is supposed to do.
- Tell the traffic cops to deposit all money that they receive for traffic violations.
- Tell the patwaris, tehsildaars and kanungos to stop accepting underhand money for revenue records.
- Tell the PWD people to stop charging 300 per cent more than the actual value of contracts.
- Tell the doctors to declare every income that they receive.
- Tell the oil and petrol lobby to sell pure oil and petrol in the market and not adulterated by about 30 to 40 per cent.
- Tell the real estate people and constructors that all deals will be above-board.
- Tell the industrialists that projects will be run only on declared costs.
- Tell the teachers to stop taking private tuitions.
- Have F.I.R.’s being lodged in police stations without charging underhand money.
- Have a clean judiciary.
- Have media who debate issues of concern to us and not the commercial interests of the owners.
I can go on and on. The fact is that whilst thinking of quick-fix solutions to our endemic problems, we tend to forget that we are involved. We have to put our own house in order. Elections are periodic phenomenon but the shortcuts that we take are everyday phenomena.
India cannot change with elections. We need to change first.
Suddenly, elections are not fairy-tale contests between parties and candidates anymore. Suddenly, these are about us.
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