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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Mera joota jadugar

As E-Day approaches,Indian politics appears to be having a nervous breakdown.

Written by Meghnad Desai | April 12, 2009 1:15:40 am

As E-Day approaches,Indian politics appears to be having a nervous breakdown. As it is there is a highly charged atmosphere once an election is announced. Parties have no ideology and no discipline. Each is a collection of individual holders of large vote banks. So candidates denied tickets by one party migrate elsewhere or are poached by a rival party. The Samajwadi Party adopts Kalyan Singh as if Babri Masjid never happened.

Speeches have overstepped the normal limits. First Varun Gandhi and then Lalu Prasad Yadav in retaliation deserve reining in. Now Vaiko has obviously adopted the slogan: My terrorist is a hero,yours is a jihadi.

But the shoe-throwing has cheered things up. When Bush received the first shoe,I thought it was the sort of futile gesture a weak and powerless people resort to. It may have thrilled Arabs but it did not change the reality on ground. But Jarnail Singh has now proved me wrong. If you have a vibrant democracy and 24×7 media,then you can leverage a shoe into a political whirlwind. It is a mark of how overstretched the Congress leadership has become that no one saw the dangers of parading Jagdish Tytler’s innocence so close to election day. The CBI has lost whatever reputation it had for impartiality once it flip-flopped on the Mulayam Singh case. No one for a moment is convinced by its ‘clean chits’. Indeed the restoration of the CBI’s reputation will be the first challenge to any incoming government.

Indian politics dwells too much on communalism/secularism. The issue is of the rule of law. Can India treat all its citizens on an equal footing or does one only have to flash one’s identity or family to escape punishment with impunity? Three times in the last 25 years—Delhi 1984,Mumbai 1993 and Gujarat 2002—the executive has connived in systematic pogroms of minorities. The usual excuse is made of overburdened courts,interminable inquiry commissions,inordinate delay in acting on their recommendations. Anyone in politics has immunity from punishment and can act with impunity. Even a case like Satyam is not allowed to come to court until Andhra Pradesh is safely in election mode. How convenient for all concerned.

People are not fooled by these tergiversations any more. This time around the electorate is younger,better educated,more tech-savvy,and media focussed. So the anger is now palpable. The shoe throwers are articulate and middle-class. They bring to the surface the seething outrage that those in power,even as they pretend to be humble and prattle on about serving the public,have insulated themselves from the law. They move in a cocoon of high security and expect undeserved deference from their voters.

Thus the elections are carried on at two separate levels. Among the leaders,there is a panic that for those of a certain age,this is the last chance of ever becoming Prime Minister. In this group are Sharad Pawar,Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Yadav. They have seen how time passed Arjun Singh by. They are praying for the Congress to be humbled enough to come begging for their support. If the Congress wins big this time,then the dynasty is back in business and Rahul at 38 is good for another 25 years at least.

It is this fear that has made the BJP fall apart. They may attack Manmohan Singh as weak but they know what will follow if he wins. So they are keeping an eye on the Third and the Fourth Fronts. There are several ambitious party leaders who see Advani’s age and fancy their chances if only they can get a seat at the top table.

This is where the best chance for BSP chief Mayawati comes. The Congress may need her but cannot offer her a possible Prime Ministerial slot. The BJP has co-habited with the BSP before. The BJP has Narendra Modi but he has enough problems getting a visa for foreign travel. Hence Behenji. It will be an uneasy marriage but the irony of the Parivar bringing a Dalit to the top job is delicious. Who said tilak,taraju aur talwar,inko maro joote char?

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