Monday, December 21, 2009

AFTER THE NADIR, A RAY OF LIGHT

How many of us have noticed the stark difference in the reaction of the media and intelligentsia to two recent developments of great import, one of which we should be proud and the other that should shame us? It will not a surprise if the answer to this question is another question: which ones? Even after the answer is known don't be surprised if many believe that the good development is actually bad and the really bad one, good.

What has happened in Andhra Pradesh is something that should shame us all, no? The sordid drama that turned one people into foes overnight because of the manner in which the separation of Telangana was announced at midnight, should have had the media out screaming. Who does not know that the whole charade was the direct result of the manner in which YSR Reddy, according to reports, enriched himself and his family beyond all proportions in just five years, turned much of the rest of the political class into plunderers and royally ignored Telangana leader and ally CS Rao?

Not only were most media mega stars were afraid to even whisper this bitter and damning truth, the usual suspects also overnight started selling to India the idea that there is great merit is having smaller states on all kinds of specious and often blatantly dishonest grounds. All that just to make the unprecedented plunder of Andhra look good and keep the Congress High Command unsullied. No conscience, no honesty, no nation.

Had it not been for the unbelievably foolish Shekhar Gupta, the real ugly underbelly of India's rulers, plunderers as he proudly called them only to make the division of Andhra lucrative for those who will suffer huge financial losses, would not have been so starkly revealed. In the process, he also unwittingly destroyed the credibility of sections of the media and exposed its complicity in keeping a lid on something that should have rudely woken Indians up and made them realise that their nation was in very wrong hands indeed. Remember how Bangaru Laxman was hounded by Tehelka and the rest of the media for taking Rs 1 lakh? YSR Reddy reportedly plundered close to a mind-boggling Rs 1 lakh crore, but there is praise for his dynamism! Do you think that would have happened had YSR not been protected, promoted and 'blessed'?

Coming to the second development; what do you think would have been the response if it had been thought up by someone but announced in the name of Rahul Gandhi? Tearing headlines, fawning TV studio discussions and relentless, saturated coverage to project how this original thinking signified the real change of guard, the arrival of the youth and the new direction that India's stagnating and failing democracy sorely needed.

Unfortunately for those who breathe not for India but their own little nests and empires, the man who has thought of one step that has the potential to set right some unacceptably enervating ills of India's democracy, is someone who is hated to death by them. Why is he so utterly unacceptable? Gujarat 2002, they will say in chorus, forgetting conveniently what one foolish decision, with no deaths involved, has done to one people with no history of animosity, much less sub-terranean tensions born out of many past riots and killings. That is only a - and the only - convenient chink through which they want to make a fatal penetration and fell him. Why? He poses the gravest threat to the comfort of status quo and the rot of corruption and nepotism that has enabled them to amass riches, power and titles and rise to levels that Laurence Peter never could have imagined people like them would when he propounded his famous principle.

Narendra Modi has stunned everyone by making voting compulsory in municipal corporations, municipalities and panchayats in Gujarat. Along with it, he has also given the voter the much-needed power to cast a negative vote and reject all candidates. This move, believes Modi, with great justification, will bring "the voter rather than the political party centrestage"

One more crime has been committed by Modi. In India, no one else other than the 'Congress', it seems, has the right or ability to do something good for the people. Other politicians and parties, if they are opposed to the Congress that is, can do only evil either because they are communal or because they are with those who are communal. The media and the accompanying paraphernalia have a clear cut role: create a non-existent genius in Rahul Gandhi and a villain in anyone who can rock his boat.

After the elections in Maharashtra, all these guys were lamenting the apathy shown by voters, particularly of Mumbai, and bemoaning the fact that some of those who shout the loudest in TV studios had mentally seceded from India. In hindsight, does it not appear absolutely elementary that someone should have thought of doing something about increasing voter participation, to get people fully involved in the electoral process? Should not people have been worried about this failed model of democracy, even when the PM himself had sounded the warning bell?

But, no one had the time, much less the inclination. They were, as always, having a good time and doing little more than waiting for their solitary fountain of wisdom to say or do something that they could applaud, add to most imaginatively and propagate in terrific prose. Keeping Indians believing in tomorrow even as institution after institution crumbles around them is no easy task!

Now that Modi has stunned them, once again, the reactions are predictable: Modi wants to exploit the superior organisational structure of the BJP to mobilise more voters; voting is a right not a duty; voting by dictat is dangerous; it is impractical to implement it across the country that has over 800 million voters; it takes away a fundamental right; it is an infringement of individual rights etc. No one, repeat no one, can honestly fault it as a partisan move that will benefit the BJP, or any other political party, at the expense of another. No one wants to mention the fact that 32 countries, including Italy, have already made voting compulsory. No one can question the intrinsic merit of the proposal but hardly any one with a reach is willing to risk his/her future and applaud it.

Why did only Modi think of it and give it shape too in such a short time? How did he, a Hindi/Gujarati-speaking guy from a humble background, once again manage to keep many feet ahead of the many Ivy League stars who adorn the Congress, and make them look like less than ordinary mortals, even midgets? As I have already written earlier, it is primarily because he is has no family to promote and is selflessly committed to Gujarat and India. He has a clear vision and is possessed by the belief that India can do much, much better than its leaders have allowed it to till now. And he has already demonstrated that it can be done even within the existing system that others have only exploited and then conveniently blamed, by tuning it to deliver. He is also scrupulously honest and leads a spartan life. But as Chief Minister, he is working with single-minded devotion to ensure that Gujaratis become rich and Gujarat becomes better than the best in the world.

Such men can do what has so far remained undo-able. Such men can awaken opiated masses who have not been allowed to shed their raja-praja mindsets that makes them accept plundering by 'royals' as their divine right and their own miserable fate as divine retribution. Such men are poison for those who have become plunderers, big and small, of their own land.

That is why, no matter how much India may need such men, the feudalistic elite who have taken over this country and the dynasties who have grotesquely twisted democracy to further their family businesses, will gang up against them to protect and further their own interests. That is why what should have shamed India is being covered up, justified and even obliquely praised. That is why what should have been welcomed as a positive, even if small, step to rid India's democracy and politics of the filth that has come to dominate it, is either being ignored or criticised.

But, there is hope yet. If Shekhar Gupta created a new Nadir by celebrating the plunder of India by its Indian rulers, Narendra Modi has re-kindled hope, fearless of the treacherous minefield in which he has been put. He has shown that there still are Indians out there whose hearts genuinely beat for the ordinary Indian waiting still for freedom to reach his doorstep; there still are Indians who have the strength, fire and moral courage to stand apart and away from those who have lost sight of their sacred duty to the suffering millions who have given them power with trust and hope. The spirit with which our forefathers fought to free us of yoke has not been snuffed out completely.

A ray of light is visible in the dark cave.
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Related reading:
1. Will Modi accomplish his 'Mission Impossible'?
2. Politics and media: a new Nadir
3. The Telangana domino: time to transcend parties, talk India
4. Covering up the mother of all corruption scandals
5. Wake Up...
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