Friday, July 23, 2010

To be or not to be

It’s been pretty late that I’ve become politically conscious. Not that this awareness is grounded on a firm foundation of theory and arduous research on the politics of this country, which the reader might construe as the reason for such a delay, but a steady accrual of interest has been  courtesy the ubiquitous 24x7 news channel hogging the television screen that helps keep my political quotient grow and my political naïveté at bay.
And what this consciousness has led to is a very engaging curiosity about the political phenomenon in India.
Take for example the two principal parties in India. Both the parties are remembered more for their darker deeds than for any glorious contributions that they have made in their years of reckoning. And not as if this were a specialty that only these two can find their names against - almost every political party in the world has a darker side which it tries to hide - but the effect they have had on the years that followed, and the years that are yet to come, is something that has defined the existence of the people of this country as no other party has ever done perhaps anywhere else in the world. This is not an exaggeration as it is the very nature of the Indian society with its innumerable oddities that makes the situation so unique.
The Babri episode in 1992 was a major turning point in the Indian politics. An attempt so blatant to mix religion with politics could never have taken place but for a desperateness to lay hands on power that yielded to such an act of utmost vileness. The fault lines that this incident begot have been expanding ever since and got widened further in the Gujrat pogrom stemming from an act of communal barbarianism inflicted upon the passengers of the Godhra Express. It is interesting to note here that the word ‘communal’, which in standard English refers to of or by community - having therein a sense of togetherness, has acquired an entirely sinister meaning in the Indian context. Communal riots, communal speeches, communal politics and all other such terms are so antithetical to the very concept of a community. Rewind a decade back from that of Babri’s and history is yet again bloody with the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. When a big tree falls, the earth shakes - that was the state’s explanation to the role it had chosen to play when innocent were getting butchered before its very eyes.
A lot of water has flown through the Ganges, or shall we say a lot of malice has flown through the Indian heartland since these unfortunate times. And yet, politics here has never stopped to acquire newer and more fantastic shades of color.
Recent times have seen some very erudite people join these parties. Some have joined one party because the rival is overtly communal, while remaining have opted for the other party because this one is covertly communal. Which ever way you look at, both the parties have in their kitty some of the best in class people for the business. And yet, one begs to ask, why hasn’t either of them in its respective regimes done well?
The pre-millennium decade saw as many as six governments getting formed. The seventh, which finally managed to pull off decent numbers in the parliament, was a massive coalition of several parties coming together on a ‘common minimum program’ – a recent phrase that owes its currency to such efforts of coalition. The cabinet presented a very handsome picture with some seasoned players at the helm of affairs. But as one recollects now of the years that passed under them, one is reminded of some high profile scams which kept tumbling out like skeletons from their cupboard. Acts of state complicity in violence against innocents, active promotion to adopt some ancient norms and practices in the name of culture, and state support to surreptitious acts communalism dominated the headlines. Whatever happened to the scholars that formed the backbone of the government? Whatever happened to the hope that they had sown in the minds of people? The veterans of the party, unfortunately, continued to believe that holding onto the party’s ‘roots’, which they surmised to be the reason for their coming to power, would still be their best bet and hence worked hard to keep these ‘roots’ alive . This notion led to a misplaced sense of euphoria and a belief that people too shared their sentiment of a ‘shining India’.
Then it was the turn of the grand old party. A remarkable resurgence, which has seen the party in the seat for more than a full term now, led by someone whom many had set aside as a ‘videshi gudia’, easily qualifies as one of the greatest comebacks Indian politics has ever seen. But here again nothing of note has really been seen from a very able portfolio of ministers, barring of course a few. The expectations are justifiably high since the man leading from front is the one responsible for bringing the economic turnaround in India. Strangely, though, factors beyond their control are holding back this bunch of technocrats from bringing about another revolution in the country. The coalition compulsions forced them to befriend with people who have done more harm than the ones in the opposition could have done. First, it was the archaic ideas from Left. Then, in the second innings, came a string of pain points in the form of incompetent ministers forming the alliance. And as if this is not enough, past conducts of the party keep looming back into present to cause much discomfort to the leaders.
In an effort to absolve it of the sins of 1984, the party leaders expressed quiet publicly of the shame and trauma they bore of the incident. But later they again found themselves in the dock with the Sajjan Kumar episode. Very recently it has been the ‘anniversary’ of the Bhopal incidents that has started taking a toll on the party.
It is a little unfortunate that when the incumbent dispensation has some excellent heads at work then episodes embedded in the past still rise up to have a bearing on the present and stall any good efforts from being made. Even more unfortunate is that people have to stand up in defense of such episodes just to protect the image of the party and unwittingly become a party to the crime that they never involved in.