Sunday, Feb 05, 2023

Politics in command

Last Friday was Shakespeare’s birthday and events in India made me think of his history plays where intrigue,power play and even murder are rife....

Last Friday was Shakespeare’s birthday and events in India made me think of his history plays where intrigue,power play and even murder are rife. Power has to be maintained at all costs. There are no friendships except of convenience and,of course,no morality. Richard III,Coriolanus,Julius Caesar come to mind. Or perhaps The Merchant of Venice,where debts have to be settled in blood and grasping rich merchants are tricked by bright young women lawyers.

The IPL saga is turning quite ugly. It is also taking up more parliamentary and TV time than food price rises or Naxals. After all,what many in the Cabinet are passionate about is cricket; the difficulties of ordinary people be hanged. Cricket is popular with the middle classes and cricket means money. Lalit Modi has also added Bollywood glamour and American football-style cheerleaders. So every political party wants a share of the glamour. The big ones—the Congress,the BJP,the NCP—are already there. The laggards are keen to get on the bandwagon and resent that they do not have an easy entry.

But politics brooks no rivalry,certainly not from a prosperous private sector. People who make money by serving customers or competing are obviously naïve. So much easier to be just born in a dynasty,get into Parliament and have no questions asked. If only Shashi Tharoor had a father or a father-in-law already in Parliament,he would have been protected. The innocence of thinking that he could behave like the gilded youth he saw around him in Lok Sabha has cost him dear. He has to learn that India being a socialist republic,power is a tight monopoly. If you are not born into the club,forget it.

India is different. Innovations may be good for any other economy but in India innovators are not rewarded. They have to be cut down to size. No one can be taller than the political leaders. Family holdings and dynasties are all right in politics but not in IPL franchises. Private companies have to comply with rules of disclosure,which no political party has ever tried to emulate. Transparency is for the money-grubbing private sector. India’s politicians,being saints,do not need such trappings.

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Yet,the IPL may prove to be the Ariadne’s thread,which will unravel a lot before anyone realises. The mix of cricket,Bollywood and politics coated in millions of dollars is toxic. Its tentacles reach in all parts of India’s politics. It will take some ruthless act to defeat the kaaliya naag.

The executive in India is immensely powerful. The Parliament should be able to hold it to account. But as long as there are MPs who would rather shout and rush to the well rather than ask serious questions of the ministers,the executive will get away with its many murders. There is,of course,collusion between the parties. When the opposition is in power,it will want to behave in the same highhanded way. So why should it stir up trouble?

We do,however,have a judiciary. Whatever Indians may say about the depredations of British rule,the legal system is one gift the nation has taken to its heart. Indians are litigious like no other people that I have seen. So Lalit Modi will resort to the court rather than go a meeting whose decision has already been announced days before it has taken place. If nothing else,he will spill the beans,which the carefully designed income tax raids are meant to conceal. He will be able to spike the holier than thou postures being adopted by the political classes. At least in the Satyam case,quick action shut up Ramalinga Raju and no politician was ever caught in the act. This time it may be more tricky. Let us see how the system muzzles Lalit Modi.


Some day India may have a political class with some semblance of morality. In a world like that,politicians will not be heading sports bodies but doing the job they have opted to do in the government or in the opposition. They may even live within the income they receive as parliamentarians. Think of that!

First published on: 25-04-2010 at 01:58 IST
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