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Friday, July 20, 2018

Poliwood,like Bollywood

Electronic media has made Indian politics more and more entertaining

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Published: May 13, 2012 3:17:48 am

Electronic media has made Indian politics more and more entertaining. It’s beating Bollywood’s clichéd storylines of love,hate,fight,prison,poor man becomes rich man. Indian politics has more or less the same storylines except the love affair bit,making it Poliwood. Wonder why our political journalists are avoiding love affair diagnostics?

We’ve got enough titillating stories where politicians invoke celestial powers to get jobs done. De-throned Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa and current Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa had expressed gratitude by donating elephants to temples after their political wishes were fulfilled. When UPA government won a trust vote in 2008,a Madhya Pradesh MLA sacrificed 265 goats and buffaloes,equivalent to 265 winning votes,in Guwahati’s Kamakhya temple. Even Indira Gandhi had visited Ma Anandamayi with daughter-in-law Maneka,and Rajiv Gandhi,according to IPS news agency,had called on holy men when campaigning for reelection in 1989. A sadhu who lived in a tree,placed his feet on Gandhi’s head,assuring him of success,but it didn’t work. A few months ago,instead of inviting investors,a yagna was held in Bengal for getting business into the state. Did it work? A believer pointed out,“Didn’t Hillary Clinton come to Kolkata last week to promise American economic partnership?”

Divine interpreters dominate much beyond politics into their believers’ daily lives. Several TV channels are dedicated to religious pravachans. Some swamijis give 10 to 30 second predictions to individual disciples on live TV. Devotees kow-tow,leaning forward with folded hands,and openly discuss even intimate conjugal problems. They seem oblivious to the millions viewing them on the idiot-box.

Politicians get elected from this kind of society of diverse cultures. There’s no one belief system that people subscribe to. In contrast,cultures with one God have a principal belief system where it’s easier to get collective focus for a goal. I’d written about how difficult Indian businesses find to extract quality work from employees from multiple God cultures( As there’s no single point of adherence in a religion of multiple gods,the system can become irrational with no established point of convergence. When everyone interprets quality practices,it disrupts the laid-down business process. Just as individuals can fragment quality,can the situation in politics be any different? Members of Parliament get elected from their own states,and not all have a national political background. When an MP becomes a national minister,partiality to the state of origin is human. So are the expectations from people of that state from the minister. There’s continuous compromise in the minister’s mind. The dilemma increases when he’s a minister in a Government formed by an alliance. This makes the entire Central Government system quite vulnerable,and no national leader can emerge. Like a spring that stores accumulated force at a certain gravity to throw and retract its power,perhaps the monarchical political brand of the Nehru-Gandhi family has been so stretched that it’s worn everybody thin. On issues of governance,we seem to witness Bollywood-style histrionics or banana skin slips,where the banana skin can be clandestinely put in front of a politician by anyone with a vested interest. In a one-party majority Presidential system of government where the whole nation elects the leader,there’s less of a chance for Poliwood drama. A strong personality can make the government stable. An interesting episode on Armistice Day,May 8,in France illustrates the strength of the Presidential electoral system. France has just voted Socialist Francois Hollande as President. Outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy,for the first time in history,invited his successor to accompany him to Arc de Triomphe to commemorate the end of World War II. Sarkozy,who’d long lost people’s aspirational emotion,has suddenly warmed everyone’s hearts when in his May 6 defeat speech,he admitted his personal defects made his party lose. He offered total co-operation to the new government. That’s democracy and reconciliation,forgetting the past to collaborate for national interest. It’s unlikely to happen,but I won’t be surprised if Hollande,who takes over on May 15,names Sarkozy as his prime minister!

In India,from being colonised by a gun-toting monarchical British political system,we chose our current Parliamentary politics. This democratic government process seems to match the diversity of our Hindu-dominated,multiple God culture where all politicians are perforce wary of banana skins,from voters and opposition alike. In trying to escape banana skins,how much attention are elected politicians paying to keeping their electoral promises? Only when the quality of politics is at a higher ground can there be better governance. Instead of giving us Poliwood stories of corruption,divisive politics,managing caste equations and allies,can we have our elected representatives resolve our many economic problems,and provide employment,education and health for the masses?

Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at

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