Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who needs IPL when we can have this?

As the recent fiasco with the nuclear deal and Indian politics unfolds, I feel nothing could more appropriately describe the current state of affairs with our parliament, government and democracy than Lenin's famous phrase ... where he compared the “parliament” to a “pigsty”. Majority of communists take this phrase literally and completely refrain from active participation in any kind of parliamentary democracy. However, ingrained in human consciousness is the intent and ability to interpret every instruction or words of wisdom to suit their needs. Thus, a large faction of communists argue that Lenin’s analogy shouldn’t be converted into a grand universal communist philosophy and that, in fact, he recommended parliamentary participation of revolutionaries in selected occasions, when it was not predominantly run on the principles and practices of the bourgeoisie. Luckily, Indians were a direct witness to such conflicting views back in 1996 during the formation of the United Front government. While the CPI(M) refused to participate in the government (similar to what they did again during the formation of the current UPA government), its close ally and friend, the CPI became an integral part of it, with their senior leader Mr. Indrajit Gupta accepting the post of Home Minister. Irrespective of their interpretation, my take on Lenin’s phrase is blatantly literal … the parliament is a filthy, smelly, ugly and unhygienic place … it IS a pigsty! Ideally, the Indian parliament is supposed to be a temple of our freedom and democracy, where the unity and common ethos of the Indian people are supposed to be represented in its full diversity by the most sincere and able administrators who are, in their, conscience above the ordinary person because they have chosen to sacrifice a part of their personal and professional life for the greater good of the country, its society and its people. In reality, humanity hasn’t yet assigned a name to the number that is large enough to describe how far our parliament is from the above description (gazillion isn’t a valid number and billion is way too small). As far as our politicians are concerned ... honesty is unheard of, qualifications are rare, loyalties are fragile, ideologies are convenient and constantly changing, and lastly, conscience is a joke.

One of the most visible aspect of this characteristic is shifting loyalty and changing alliances. One must understand that although we seem to have a multi-party democracy, it is essentially bipartisan, with Congress and BJP occupying the ends of the political spectrum. Apart from these two parties (who have been engaged in a blood feud from the times of the Big Bang), there is hardly any political party that hasn’t aligned themselves with both of them under different circumstances and at different times. Worse is that in both cases of opposing alliances, they successfully defended their stand and that we, the people, somehow accepted their argument. Indian politics has suffered so much from this incurable plague of politicians changing parties that laws had to be written to prevent it from happening (one of which is called the ‘whip’ that is misused these days by parties to force their members of parliament to vote along with party lines even if it is against the conscience of the individual). There could be a million examples of such shifting loyalties in the past but the few notable ones that come to my mind right away are those of Shankar Singh Vaghela (from BJP to Congress), Renuka Chowdhury (from Telegu Desam to Congress), Jaipal Reddy (from Janata Dal to Congress), Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam (from Shiv Sena to Congress), Arif Mohammad Khan (from Congress to BJP) and as recent last Friday, Shahid Siddiqui, the longtime spokesperson for the Samajwadi Party (SP) who announced his move to the camp of their bitter rival, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). I am a regular viewer of the popular NDTV segment called ‘The Big Fight’ where he is a familiar face. He is often the third non-polar option and debates vociferously in the program. Even though he hails from UP, one of the most corrupt states of India and SP, one of its most ill reputed political parties … his amiable looks, confident posture, and often a neutral stand (different from that of both Congress and the BJP) lend him some credibility. Just last week on the program, he stridently defended his and his party’s position on the nuclear deal as well as supporting the current UPA government, a surprising political development that literally took our capital by storm, given that the relation between the two political parties have been sour for quite some time now. He also pleaded to all the politicians (especially the left and the BJP) to rise above their political affiliations and act according to their conscience in order be a part of a larger effort for the country as a whole. I was shocked to see this same person come on live TV and announce his “giant leap sideways”. He now (almost overnight) feels that ''For the last one month, I have been feeling uneasy over the nuclear deal. I am of the opinion that it is not in national interest. I have been opposing it for the last three years” (Really? In your dreams may be!). A person, who would refer to Mayawati with a disdained tone … who built his political capital through hating Mayawati and her politics, now claims that “I will fight for Dalits and Muslims under Mayawati's leadership.” I am sure personal gains had nothing to do with it … it was a decision based on pure “conscience”. Frankly, this makes me want to throw up. Political crimes like these have become so commonplace that the Indian parliamentarians themselves have started referring to it as the ‘Great Indian Parliamentary Bazaar’. Politicians (Chaudhary Munawwar Hasan and Akhay Pratap Singh, both from UP) are now openly admitting to being offered bribes (of the modest amount of 25-30 crores) which, of course, they have gracefully rejected … because they are, after all, here to serve the people … not themselves! Political parties are openly accusing one another of horse-trading and some like the illustrious Amar Singh of the SP have candidly admitted to promoting such through talking to their rival BSP MPs hoping to “influence” and “persuade” them to come over to the SP’s side.

This discussion cannot be complete without touching upon some of the precious leaders and their parties in a little more detail. One of the key players in this numerical manipulation is Shibu Soren … the leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha or JMM (whose existence I frankly find meaningless after Jharkhand has so successfully achieved its "Mukti" after being carved out from Bihar). Shibu Soren is so public in his controversial activities that apart from the skeletons in his closet, he has to constantly juggle with a host of criminal investigations and civil lawsuits against him. Most important among these is the murder of his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha in 1994, who, according to the CBI, had knowledge and critical information about the amount of money he had taken to vote for the Narasimha Rao government back in 1993, in a similar test to prove its majority in the parliament. He commented today on NDTV that in spite of being stripped of his precious coal ministry, long fallout and bitter relations with the Congress, he has decided to fully support the UPA government. I am fully confident that, unlike what he did in 1993, he has categorically refused to take any money this time.

Another notable figure is Ajit Singh, the leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), who in spite of being a part of the UPA all along has suddenly jumped ship to be with Mayawati. So fluid is Mr. Singh's sense of affiliation and hollow his ideology, that he has broken and created political parties and alliances more than the number of time I have clipped my fingernails. He has the rare feat of holding ministerial berths in both Congress and BJP led governments … a new level of political disgrace. He has been demanding a separate state of Harit Pradesh, to be carved out of western UP, of which obviously he has ‘no ambitions whatsoever’ of becoming the chief minister unless the people of Harit Pradesh ‘force him to be so’. I am sure none of that has been discussed in his latest break-up of yet another alliance.

A mind-boggling player of this game is our ex-prime minister Mr. HDD Gowda, leader of the Janta Dal (Secular), who has stopped believing in the concept of political accountability. In Karnataka, the JD(S) formed a coalition with the Congress party government led by Dharam Singh, which seemed natural owing to the magic word secular in the name of his party. However, in January 2006, his son H.D. Kumaraswamy took support of around 40 of their MLAs and the BJP to bring down the Dharam Singh led coalition government (so much for secular eh?). This prompted Devegowda to curse his son, branding him a traitor and resign from his post as party president owing moral responsibilities for failing to save the coalition government. However, the very next month, he withdrew his resignation and suspended his entire group of rebel MLAs, including his son and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, from the primary membership of the party. This entire game seemed to have been orchestrated by Deve Gowda himself to bring his son to political prominence. A little later, he changed his stance and started openly supported his son's move to align with the BJP and has also suggested that he would be willing to coordinate the BJP-led alliance on a national level. However, their honeymoon was short-lived when they failed to honor a power sharing agreement with the BJP, which led to another collapse of the government and Karnataka was forced to go to the polls once again.

What comes almost as a shock is that in case the UPA government fails to seek a majority on the floor of the parliament coming Tuesday, instead of fresh general elections, a third alternative with Mayawati as our prospective prime minister, is being considered as an option (who by the way has 17 MPs, only 255 short of the minimum 272 MPs required to form the government). This is similar to the earlier Chandrasekhar and Deve Gowda governments, where each choices had their own compulsions. For those of us who remember the disappointment of seeing the weak Chandrasekhar and the oppostunistic “son of a farmer" Mr. Gowda ... But Maywati? Seriously? … being referred to as “Sushri Mayawati” by her admirers not to hide her rustic unimpressive looks but truly the ugliness of her politics. She, who rose to power by calling Mahatma Gandhi a “son of the Devil”, has based her politics myopically on winning the heart of the majority ‘dalit’ population of our country. We have witnessed Mayawati lie on camera in front of millions of television audiences on her position and choice of vote that brought down the 13 day long Vajpayee government in 1996. We have seen her public yet shameless attempts to make the ongoing CBI investigation against her disappear forever (accused of embezzling crores of rupees from the Taj Corridor project). We have seen her political opponents from all corners criticize and accuse her of all possible crimes that could possibly be done at this level and new ones being invented on an almost regular basis. We have seen her vanity and pompous lifestyle, when her ‘dalit’ subjects go without “Roti, Kaapda aur Makaan”. This person who is an embodiment of political disrespect and crime will represent the people of India? Wow!

In all this, the left parties who started this whole thing seem to have been marginalized. Although, they wanted us to believe that their opposition to the deal was based on principles, what followed their decision to withdraw their support and bring down the government, would make Marx and Lenin roll over in their graves. The left parties, in tune with their core philosophy, have always chosen capitalism to communalism as the lesser evil and at times, learnt to be in bed with the former, even though it may have been a one-night stand. This meant that they were fierce critics of Mayawati, who is probably the most dangerous communal leader in the country today. This is the reason why the left parties have been a fierce critic of her despicable communal politics. How does one explain Prakash Karat being on the same political platform as her? Why do we see CPI General Secretary Mr. A. B. Bardhan, one of the most respected leaders and a senior member of parliament, have frequent meetings with her? Perhaps Mr. Bardhan has forgotten the words of his own leader, Indrajit Gupta, on the evils of caste-based politics in this country. Mr. Gupta says

A caste-ridden society and a bitter caste war is a very big inhibiting factor that has held the Left back. From the beginning, we never bothered about the caste factor. In the old days the Communists never bothered about this. We were all class-wallahs. Exploitation of one class by another class is okay. But exploitation of one caste by another caste was never a big factor in our minds. But in a Hindu society, I find this (the caste system) is the dominant thing - much more than class. We have a working class in the big industrial centres where we (the Communists) were the dominant force among the workers, particularly at the trade union level. Big strikes were taking place. We were leading those strikes. But when it came to elections, the same worker who was carrying a red flag on his shoulders in order to get a higher salary or a bonus, would look towards his own caste”. He goes on to say … “I don't think the Communists in this country paid sufficient attention or made a proper study of this phenomenon. It is not a phenomenon which started one day. It has been there for one thousand years. And every educated fellow, the elite of our society, goes around saying that we are above caste. This is telling lies. Read the matrimonial columns in the papers. Yes, they don't indulge in crude forms of casteism - not allowing someone to drink out of the same glass - but will they allow a Dalit to come and sit at their table and eat with them? I doubt it very much. Of course, marriage is out of the question. This thing is so deeply rooted in our psyche, to get out of it will take a thousand years”. Such deep and profound words that aptly describe the core weakness of our social fabric and to think about the one person who exploits this social evil for her own political gains be the next Prime Minister of our country is frankly abominable.

I don’t know whether the nuclear deal is good for India or not (that is only for time to tell), but definitely this entire charade has once again struck an almost fatal blow to the final remnants of the Indian democracy that our forefathers had so vociferously fought for against the British Empire and so carefully put together.

1 comment:

bhindesi tara said...

ekta lekha ajkei ny times-e beriyeche and i agree with that and a major conclusion of your piece so much.
“The polite veils that are thrown over the workings of democracy have been lifted...” (Pratap Bhanu Mehta, political analyst and president of the nonpartisan Center for Policy Research).