Monday, December 23, 2013

The Great Indian Tamasha

Welcome to the great Indian tamasha! Political shenanigans galore, we have a prince, a lion and a common man who go about their theatrics. And yes, they come with their own separate circus.
It is up to you to look beyond the entertainment and the uncivilized daily debates, and find the circus that stands for liberty, justice, equality and fraternity. And of course: nationalism. 
Come on, choose now, who should represent you and your aspirations?

The Prince:
On one side of the arena, you have the grand old political party of India, the Indian National Congress. They stand by most of Nehru’s principles such as secularism and socialism. Its members dress in simple hand-spun khadhi and are loyal to the first family. Now the first family, that goes by the surname of Gandhi (has no familial connection to Mahatma Gandhi) is a dynasty of reluctant politicians who apparently take on positions of power because they owe it to their lineage. Their newest candidate for the post of Prime Minister is Rahul Gandhi, the son of Rajiv and Sonia, the grandson of Indira, the great-grandson of Nehru. You’d think it’s unfair to dismiss someone based on his ancestry – judge one based on his personal credentials you’d say, that’s what democracies are meant to do. The truth is, you have nothing to say against Rahul or his motives. He always makes you think he’s going to do something radically different, but leaves you disappointed. Can’t blame him, his party is obsolete. You quickly make a mental comparison of him with the likes of Rajiv and Nehru, and decide he is inept to be a politician. He lacks something, charisma perchance? Then you think of Priyanka Gandhi (Rahul’s sister), and compare her to Indira. Now, she has charm. Why did the Congress party choose to catapult Rahul when they have Priyanka? You scold yourself for even thinking this. After all, the Congress party is large and there are so many other young politicians in its fold: Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, why not them?
Then it hits you, like a slap in the face. The Congress is a nepotistic party. It has one center of power, been so since independence. Not that you are against the Nehru-Gandhi family, but in order to live in the illusion of democracy, you need to elect brand new leaders, hopefully unrelated to the preceding one.
Many say the Congress government is corrupt, inefficient and weak. They want change. Price-rise and inflation has been blamed on the Congress government’s policies. And their socialist shell-outs to the poor don’t necessarily impress the aspiring middle-classes who want India to beat China in the super-power race.
Some would say that the Congress liberalized trade in India, that Manmohan Singh (the present Prime Minister) played a crucial part in it, and that the Congress does have an economically viable plan for this country. But you see no teeth in this argument, one can’t harp on what one achieved in the past. One needs to do something today, everyday.

The Lion:
Enter Narendra Modi. The man is larger than life. With all the paraphernalia of a real-life hero, he walks the talk, talks the walk. He knows what to say to please the masses, christens Rahul ‘shehzada,’ he impresses the corporates with his fine speeches on proposed policies for better business, and, he is tech-savvy. He knows what PR means in today’s world. His team e-interacts with the common people of the country (read middle class youth) and answers questions on governance, policy and India’s future.
Modi is flaunted as the cure to all that ails India. What power! What authority! And, he apparently has an amazing track record. Look at Gujarat, where Modi served as Chief Minister, look at the development, the infrastructure, the thriving businesses. Vibrant Gujarat! You are swayed, you believe in the hype for a moment or two. Then you look at statistics. A parallel economy exists in Gujarat, and the government basically facilitates this. Not everything is by the books. And most importantly, the state has abysmal human rights records. The riots of 2002 loom large in the background.
Then you remember that Modi is a BJP candidate. You know, the rightwing, conservative, Babri Masjid demolishing, moral policing party that has curious ties to the RSS, an extremist Hindu organization that hates Muslims.
But Modi does not subscribe to any of the old BJP policies, you tell yourself. He has used the BJP to get power, that’s all. It’s the man that counts. Moreover, he has an iron fist, and he would keep the extremist rightwing BJP cadre under control.
Them. Really?

The Common Man:
And finally: the Aam Aadmi Party (literally translates to Mango/Common Man Party). They have a man at the helm, too. Arvind Kejriwal, an ex income tax official who (among others) tailored the India Against Corruption movement, and hijacked popular support to form a political party – much the same way the Congress used the Indian independence struggle – did phenomenally well in the Delhi elections. Although they did not get an absolute majority, they are all set to form the government.
In what can only be seen as a conspiracy by the Congress and the BJP to bring the fledgling AAP to power hoping they’d miserably fail in governance, the AAP has stood strong in its ideals.
‘Let the Tatas and Ambanis leave,’ says Kejriwal. This country is for the common man.
You don’t completely understand the common man or his motives. Corrupt-free India sounds good, unhindered government services would be great, but to throw all businesses out? You’re sure he’s talking about unclean businesses. What sort of India does he aspire towards?  Not communist, or socialist, or populist, or elitist, or? You have to wait and see.

All this leaves you awry in the head.
On second thought, you realize you are entertained. In no other democracy would you find such varied options. Radically different ideologies. Wonderful, this is the true spirit of democracy. Non-violent social experimentation.

Now go on, choose a candidate, a party.
NB: You do have another option: None of the Above (NOTA). A silent revolution: you don’t have to choose any of them.

Remember, your vote counts.

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