Tuesday, June 2, 2009

ELECTION 2009: DYNASTIES EMPOWERED, NOT YOUTH

This has to be the biggest hoax unleashed on the people of India in recent memory. For the last few years, a section of India's mainstream media has been carpet bombing the minds of Indians into believing that the time has come for senior politicians to hand over power to the youth. India is a young country, we have been told at every breath, with two thirds of its population being under 35; such a young nation must be led by the youth raring to take it forward with a new energy and a new set of ideas and ideals that are in tune with the dynamics of today; it is time for the oldies to step aside and let the young blood of India take the country over.

We all have gullibly swallowed this energising crap. Is it really youth that these propagandists have in mind? Or are they singing the youth theme only because that is the only USP that Rahul Gandhi has, in addition to his surname? Would they have been talking of the youth had Rajiv Gandhi still been alive and PM at 65 years of age today?

Don't believe me? Fast forward 30 years to 2039. Don't you think this is what will be the most likely picture then?:
  • Rahu Gandhi, 70, will still be the PM (or the PM-in-waiting, if the Congress party is not in power).
  • Jyotiraditya Scindia(68), Sachin Pilot(61), Dayanidhi Maran(72), GK Vasan(75), Kumari Selja(76), Ajay Maken(75), Bharatsinh Solanki(86), Jitin Prasada(65), RPN Singh(69), Prateek Patil(66), Agatha Sangma(58), A Raja(77), D Napolean(76), Prateek Patil(66), Tushar Chaudhary(74) etc, ministers representing the youth of the country in the present Union Council of Ministers, will still be ministers, most elevated to cabinet rank and holding plum/prime ministries.
  • The government and the Congress party will be firmly and securely in the grasp of various small dynasties, all paying obeisance to, and surviving at the mercy of, the only Royal Family of India. All these ministers, if you have noticed, belong to political dynasties of their own. Opposition to dynastic politics will be dead, thanks to the media. This "exclusive" raj will be accepted, however grudgingly, except by a few defeated right wingers and leftists, as the the only and best system for ensuring "inclusive" politics and good governance.
  • Rahul Gandhi's son/daughter (if he marries soon and has a child without delay thereafter) will be having a blast in the US, knowing fully well that the Crown is his for the asking whenever papa decides to handover the baton or after he passes away.
  • The sons/daughters of all the ministers mentioned above will be also all be somewhere in the West, marking time till Rahul Senior decides to let Rahul Junior start the next "youth wave" in the country.
  • Media veterans like Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Vir Sanghvi - the list is almost endless - justifiably proud of their contribution in perpetuating dynastic raj, will still be educating the nation about the merits and benefits of power remaining in the hands of seasoned and aristocratic politicians who have a wealth of family experience and real wealth to lead the nation forward, and warning us about letting power fall into the hands of ordinary men and women, many of whom cannot even speak English.
  • A similar scenario will prevail in most states, with local variations, of course.
  • No one will be talking about the youth.
But, the youth theme will return. Perhaps around 2050 when Octogenarian Rahul Senior will be gently pushed by Rahul Junior to step aside and make way for him. The media will then dive into archives and dig out mountains old columns and thousands of chat shows that were organised in the first decade of the 21st century to psyche Indians into believing that the only thing that India needed was youth power. Tarun Tejpal's son/daughter will be ready with the next lot of sting operations to ensure that there are no hiccups in the coronation of the Crown Prince. In short, the whole hoax will be played out all over again to excite young voters, till Rahul Junior is firmly ensconced in South Block to begin a reign of more than a quarter century.

The way things are, make no mistake that power will never come into the hands of the real youth of India. As of now, it is going straight into the hands of the Gen Next of India's political families. And it is going to stay there. India will be ruled in future by a thousand odd families only, a few relatively powerless exceptions notwithstanding.

The present system is ideally suited for propagation of dynastic rule and for shutting out the youth and the commoners. That is why, no matter what the age, no one sheds power till his last breath or lets it go out of the family. If a Farooq Abdullah makes his son CM thanks to post-poll manipulation, he does not watch him as a doting father; he just shifts to the Centre and becomes a minister there. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee first became a minister in 1973. 36 years later, he is still there. In fact he is now back in the chair that he occupied 25 years ago. Agatha Sangma, daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, has become India's youngest minister at 28. Youth power for now, yes, as the media is yelling. But be sure that she will still be a minister 50 years from now one way or another, Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha, Congress or any other party. In Lakshadweep, even the law has been amended to ensure dynastic succession, enabling Hamidullah Sayeed, son of late PM Sayeed, to contest the elections and become India's youngest MP at 26.

As you and almost everyone else can easily see, this youth talk is a chimera, a very well orchestrated deception with the sole aim of perpetuating the dynastic rule of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and supporting political dynasties lower down the pecking order . If it was real, sustainable youth power that these guys were actually interested in, they would have instead called for some fundamental changes in the system.

In my view, just two changes that do not alter the basics of the constitution, can substantially achieve this and put the system back on track:
  • Regular turnover of those occupying seats of power must be made mandatory. This is a sure way of ensuring that fresh blood is infused into the government continuously and power does not get concentrated in the hands of a few families. Towards this end, the tenures held by an individual as PM/CM must be limited to a maximum of two or 10 years, whichever is more. The same restriction must apply to those holding ministerial appointments in the Centre as well as the states. Of course, there might be a freak case of an individual being a minister for 10 years and then a CM/PM for anther 10. Fine, but at least this nonsense of people remaining ministers for many decades, and blocking others out as a result, will stop.
  • All political parties must be asked to declare their CM/PM candidates before the elections, so that the country is led by individuals people vote for and not by those who are chosen by a few after the elections, often making your and my vote almost redundant. More importantly, the candidates nominated by parties must also be chosen democratically like it is done in the US, and not by a coterie like it has become the norm here. This will make it possible for a youthful Indian Obama to rise at the state and centre levels. As of now, all doors are tightly shut for him.
I am sure there are many other tweaks that can ensure that India's democracy is not hijacked by a few families and individuals, as is happening now. The conspiratorial silence of the media and of India's intellectuals - at least those who get air time and print space - is designed to ensure that Indians do not even question this mockery of democracy. While their stance is understandable, given the power and reach of the Congress party, what is inexplicable is the inability of non-family political parties to awaken Indians to this slide and show them a practical path that will ensure that their vote does not become a joke and they do not become mere bystanders in this whole process of political empowerment, bar the cosmetics.

Real empowerment of the people, including the youth, through the vehicle of democracy is a very a powerful issue, even though it is not apparent at this time. That is because it has not been articulated and exploited as it should have been, and because of the static generated by the motivated call for promoting dynastic politics in the name of youth power. The moment it is, by a responsible section of the media or by a political outfit that can walk the talk of democracy, it will actually awaken people and fundamentally change the course of India's democracy. Let us hope it happens soon. India deserves a far better political scenario 30 years from now than the one it is likely to see if things continue the way they are.

Picture source: Mail Today: In dynasties we trust
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2. Rahul: from dud to genius in two hours!
2. Baba raga become a symphony
3. Tarun Tejpal: extra God and the devil
4. I love Rahul Gandhi - because nepotism rules :D
5. 'Change' is coming to the sub-continent too!