Edition : Sep 2015

Indian Politics in Free Fall

The last two years can be described as important landmarks in Indian politics. First, the country witnessed a forceful country-wide outcry against corruption in high places and then ushering in of leaders who had swept the polls by assuring the dawn of an era of probity and responsive politics free of malfeasance. At popular level, there was expectation that politics in India will henceforth be rid of its ills and restore some morality and ethics in it. Movements and political parties that talked of ‘change’ had generated genuine hope for a ‘clean’ politics.

Before the year 2015 crossed the half-way mark it began to look that nothing much has changed and nothing will change in Indian politics. If anything, it looked as though it was in a free fall. Nobody, the ruling party or the opposition, seemed interested in making any attempt to arrest the fast downward slide.
India had elected a new and ‘dynamic’ government that treated corruption as its biggest enemy and exuded confident that it would work for the development of the country with a single-minded devotion. That is in danger of being a mirage after the government has been in office for more than a year. People have been hearing comments from ‘fringe elements’ that are frivolous and provocative rather than actually seeing the execution of the development agenda.
Opposition leaders have not hesitated to hit below the belt by making personal remarks of denigrating the government merely to score brownie points. But the counter from the government has been no less deplorable. Many ministers are prone to display of the ‘foot in mouth’ disease. One senior minister speaks dialogues from tear-jerking soap operas for defence.
The ruling party refuses to accept that it has to maintain at least a sort of working relationship with the opposition parties. Loose talks by some functionaries of both the ruling party and the opposition have been unnecessary but frequent diversions. Some actions of the government have invited criticism because they do not fit into the development agenda. Where was the need to tinker with the autonomy of institutes of high learning and research? The eagerness to ‘ban’ anything or everything disliked by self-appointed moral brigades does not show the government in good light and will eventually harm the country.

Good governance cannot be equated with bravado and chest thumping. No lesson can be taught to a troublesome neighbour merely by talking about it. It does not indicate improvement over the previous policy. It only leads to erosion of the country’s credibility and its prowess. The conduct of foreign policy has become synonymous with a spectacle where the visiting Indian star ‘rocks’ to wide applause from expatriates. It probably helps in drawing attention to the leader and the country but does not guarantee the desired results in bilateral relations.
Blame any party that you may, but the logjam in parliament witnessed during the monsoon session would discourage optimism that politics in India is set to change for the better. Everybody recognized that corruption and criminalization has long been the bane of Indian politics. The problems remains while there is an unwelcome penchant for prolonged confrontation and bitterness between political rivals. It is an ugly sight when invectives and vitriol are used to run down opponents.
It seems that ‘untouchability’ in Indian politics is back with a vengeance. How else to explain the refusal of the ruling party and the main opposition to sit down for a chat to ensure that parliament functioned ‘normally’, which might allow for occasional disruptions but not to the extent that entire sessions are lost.
For long, the Bharatiya Janata Party (earlier known as Jana Sangh) was treated as ‘untouchable’ by the Congress, the Left and most other ‘secular’ parties. Came a stage when then on-Congress segment declared the Congress to be the bigger ‘enemy’ than the ‘communal’ forces and agreed to join hands with the BJP. The idea was to keep the Congress out of power. If the non-Congress parties had any reservations or inhibitions about befriending the BJP they shed them when Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived on the scene as the undisputed top leader of the party.

Now it will appear time has come for the BJP to turn the tables on the Congress and treat it as ‘untouchable’ by refusing to talk to it to resolve political logjams over important legislative business. Of course, parties opposed to the BJP include a number of non-Congress parties some of whom rather ambivalent about their attitude towards both the Congress and the BJP. But the current political logjam is about the failure of the BJP and the Congress to talk to each other.
The resurfacing of political untouchability is not the only disappointment. The high moral and ethical principles which were so vociferously propounded till the summer of 2014 have all but been forgotten. The definition of immoral and unethical acts by politicians in power has been turned around to suit the ruling party.
As before, the verbal attacks, often of personal nature, are aimed at the very top leadership. It is believed that the best way to trounce the opponent is to paint the leader at the helm of affairs of the rival party in black colours. The faith in the politics of confrontation has gone up, unmindful of its unproductive nature. Is there no virtue in rapprochement?
A lot was expected when a ‘non-political’ figure, riding on the coattails of a popular but vigorous anti-graft movement, appeared on the political horizon of the national capital. He talked differently and his ‘non-political’ credentials were enough to assure the people that if elected to power he could bring a ‘real change’ in Indian politics—for the better, of course.
Those expectations have been belied, dashed to the ground, really. This view will be contested by this leader’s supporters. But they might do well to consider if the publicity blitz unleashed to highlight the ‘achievements’ have produced the desired results? The people in Delhi may find it hard to recount all the ‘achievements’ of the government run by this ‘non-political’ leader but will find it easy to point to the spat that the Delhi leader has almost on a daily basis with the centre and its representative in the capital.

-BAZH Special Correspondent

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