In a democracy, students are taught in their civics classes, the duty of citizens is not limited to voting alone. Elected representatives, lest they cease to adequately represent voters’ interests, must be constantly held to account. Now, Rajasthan Minister Raj Kumar Rinwa has gone a step further. A Brechtian in the BJP, he has expressed the frustration that many of his colleagues in government likely feel. Tired of the protests and complaints sparked by rising fuel prices, Rinwa has, more or less, called for electing a new people.
Unlike his BJP colleagues in the Union cabinet, Rinwa has not sought refuge in “external factors” for the price rise, nor has he held up the “strong fundamentals of the Indian economy” as a shield. No, the blame lies squarely with citizens who “lack national character”, do not sacrifice for “the needs of the nation” and, therefore, complain pettily rather than suffer austerely. With a stunningly simple invocation of the principle of demand and supply, Rinwa has laid the arrogance of the citizen to rest. “People,” he said on Monday, “don’t understand that if prices of crude, petrol and diesel have increased, then they can reduce their expenses”.
Some, of course, will be confused. Isn’t the logic of late capitalism driven by consumerism? Won’t buying pakodas and spending wantonly, if cashlessly, fuel growth? Who will Make in India if nobody is buying in India? It is likely such questions that bother Rinwa so, and are further evidence of the lack of national character. “The needs of the nation” change constantly, and clearly, the people, with their lack of understanding, can’t keep up. They stick to old principles, those half-remembered civics lessons. They need to be reminded about the pressing needs of the macroeconomy. The problem, for Rinwa, is the people, and the onus of solution is on them too.