Sunday, July 13, 2008

INDIAN POLITICS: IT'S KETTLES AND POTS AGAIN!

Political alliances in India have long ceased to surprise anyone. Cut through all the lofty talk of principles and values, and the sick pattern remains the same. Enemies become bosom pals overnight, ‘secularists’ become ‘communal’ and vice versa without batting an eyelid, the dishonest start talking like paragons of virtue with a straight, shameless face, and petty vendetta marks all divorces and discords.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, the newest friend of the Congress, has suddenly become the most vociferous supporter of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, ostensibly after a short meeting with former President APJ Abdul Kalam. There is no one in this country who does not know that this volte face is a result of a multi-dimensional ‘deal’ struck after some real hard bargaining with the Congress party. Just the other day, Mulayam was possibly the most hated name in the Congress camp. Last year, the party exulted in Mulayam’s defeat in the UP elections last even though its own performance was disastrous. That did not prevent Congressmen from claiming ‘victory’ for defeating Mulayam and bringing to an end his ‘goonda raj’.

Then the Congress, stunned by Mayawati’s emphatic victory on her own rushed to embrace her. Mayawati extracted her pound of flesh from the hapless party which desperately needed her help to see its candidate become the President. She successfully prevailed upon the Congress to get a pliant Governor refuse her prosecution in the Taj Corridor scam where Mayawati and government officials were alleged to have made hundreds of crores of rupees. That refusal by the Governor enabled Mayawati to proclaim her innocence and allege that the whole case was initiated due to political vendetta.

A year later, Mayawati and Mulayam, the most implacable political foes in India’s political landscape, have gone into opposite camps. With Mulayam now virtually the ruling party’s most ‘dependable’ ally, it is the turn of Mayawati to feel the heat of the wrath of the Congress. The CBI, India’s ‘premier’ investigative agency has suddenly discovered that Mayawati’s wealth has grown exponentially during the last few years, a growth that cannot be explained by her known sources of income.

Predictably, the BJP and the Left, the latter out in the cold almost alone, unsung and unwanted, have lashed out at the Congress for using the CBI as a weapon of vengeance and reducing it to an adjunct of the ruling coalition. Mayawati, on her part, has accused the Congress for “hatching a political conspiracy to falsely implicate her in a corruption case in return for the Samajwadi Party’s support to rescue the nuclear deal”.

It’s the game of kettles and pots again. Time to highlight the ‘black’ colour of your political opponents while pretending to be lily white yourself! Who is being fooled by this sick charade that India’s politicians have been inflicting on the citizens of this country for decades? Is there anyone who does not know the real intentions behind these ‘witch hunts’ to browbeat and harass political opponents? Is there anyone who does not know that it is always a case of the kettle calling the pot black?

Where can you find real paragons of virtue and honesty in India’s political landscape? The really few who are the barely visible white spots on an abysmally blackened canvas are themselves guilty of going along with the dirty tricks that their parties and colleagues continue to play time after time.

The withdrawal of support by the Left to the UPA government has once again led to the all too familiar ‘horse trading’, the buying and selling of MPs to secure their support, the shameless spectacle of tiny parties making most unreasonable demands, and the springing up of completely immoral and opportunistic alliances to obtain best personal/petty political gain in a time of political crises. For the media, it is almost like a heaven sent opportunity as they get to track and report fast moving developments in almost real time and endlessly debate and analyse political developments with the same half a dozen faces.

In the midst of all this drama, the larger question of an almost total lack of integrity, morality and honesty in political intercourse and behaviour, is once again being overlooked. Even as great political and social analysts and media luminaries comment on the sordid developments following the divorce between the UPA and the Left, none of them are able to see that this is a sad spectacle which needs to be ruthlessly weeded out, if the nation has to have a realistic shot at becoming one of the great nations of the world in the real sense of the word, and earn the respect of not only the international community but its own citizens.

Our analysts and commentators, unfortunately, seem to have lost their sense of smell. Being almost always completely immersed themselves in the stinking ‘hamam’ that our politicians thrive in naked to each other, they too have got inured to the foul smell. Besides, they know most of the players personally. That makes it very difficult for them to sometimes see and almost always say what they should. As a result, most media luminaries are no longer distinguishable from the politicians about whom they should be writing honestly and objectively.

No voice has so far been heard in the media about the dire need for effecting drastic changes in the political system so that this mockery of democracy, this blatant blackmail by a few, this shameless misuse of power and authority at great cost to the nation is not repeated time and again. Our founding fathers probably never visualised that a day would come when the Congress party would lose its dominant position and tiny regional and even personal political outfits would render good governance virtually impossible.

India was never going to slide into the comfortable two party set up that is practiced in that tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean. Given the size of the country and the great diversities that exist here, a parliamentary form of democracy where the leader of the nation or of a state need not enjoy real, direct mandate of the people and is dependent on the support of fringe political elements for survival was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

Ever since the Congress lost its dominant position in the 70s, things have moved in just one direction: downhill. Politics has become the preferred profession of the dishonest, the criminal and the greedy, all looking to become rich and powerful in quick time. Politics has become an end in itself and for good governance there is little time, even for the microscopic few like Dr Manmohan Singh who understand that politics should be no more than a tool which should throw up the best and most capable leaders who are focussed on leading the nation rather than just ruling it.

The present political crises has once again brought to fore the unacceptable state of affairs in India’s political landscape. Everyone believes that Mayawati’s riches could not have come through honest means. The same goes for Mulayam Yadav, Laloo Yadav, Pramod Mahajan, Jayalalitha and Badal, to name only a few. In fact India’s political ‘shop’ is filled to the brim with pots and kettles that have no shame in accusing each other whenever the political situation demands or permits.

The ordinary citizen knows only too well that they all are covered with soot and that any name calling by anyone of them is to be cynically ignored. Yet, our politicians will not stop at corrupting the CBI repeatedly to score the pettiest of political points. What lessons in character building and honesty such widely telecast and reported actions of the leaders of the nation give to a billion Indians does not seem to be of any concern to them.

Watching the ongoing Presidential debates in the US can be a very illuminatingly depressing experience. Look at the level of debate, observe carefully the premium on personal integrity, dignity and understanding of all aspects of governance. And then watch our so called leaders shame the nation as they descend to the lowest possible depths on all these counts.

Recently, there was a TV debate on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. The celebrated anchor, over eager to present a ‘Muslim’ voice of dissonance, asked a Maulvi for his views. That gentlemen was one of the very few people who had the integrity to say openly that none of the politicians were serious about the deal; they were all playing politics, he said, since elections were not far off. That indictment of our politicians can be heard from almost all real Indians out there where very few TV cameras go. Of course, most will not speak the full truth on camera for reasons known to all except some in the media. That is why, after sending a couple of reporters to Old Delhi, a rigidly opinionated and power fixated editor of an English magazine arrogantly concludes that Indian Muslims are against the deal!

Some months back, the Prime Minister had himself bemoaned the failure of multi-party democracy in India. You would not expect a normal politician intent on maximising the fruits that he can pluck in the present system to speak this truth that has been crying to be spoken for decades. The really disturbing part is that virtually no one else has spoken up for finding a way to put an end to this mockery that Indian democracy has become. Everyone appears to be happy hobnobbing with the kettles and pots found in almost all political parties and and benefitting from their soot. No one is appalled by this tragic mockery and no one who is anyone wants it to end.