Tragedy of politics

Tragedy of politics
Power-brokers are capturing the system
by H.K. Dua

The Central government’s efficient statisticians gleefully announced a few days ago that India’s economy had crossed the 8-per cent growth barrier. At the same time, the word is being spread that the much-awaited Agni III — the intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit targets 5000 kilometres away — may be launched in a couple of months.

News of this kind is, however, no longer exciting the nation poised at a crucial moment. Ministerial pronouncements these days are being taken as a mundane stuff. The country is caught in a mood that reflects a sort of anxiety it often slips into and does not know how to come out of it.

There must be something wrong with the situation that is bothering the nation. Thinking people need to ponder why the general confidence level of the people is low despite the strides the country has made in many areas. Is it the political system that is failing the country within 60 years of Independence, or is it the kind of persons who have come to man it? Or, are there danger signs ahead which the people have begun to see but are finding themselves helpless in doing much about them?

Continuing to remain in this kind of mood can further sap the energy of a nation at the beginning of a century which, till the other day, was being projected as the Indian century which would see the country emerge as a major power. The country is possessed by a vague anxiety disorder that is leading to further loss of confidence in itself. Is it the present that is worrying it, or the uncertainty of the future?

One reason for the malaise is that the people have been banking too much on the politicians to solve their problems and are now finding that the netas they come across in most parts of the country are not concerned about their problems, or, are incapable of tackling them.

Pramod Mahajan — who knew how to capture headlines in life as well as in death — is a shining example of what ails Indian political parties. Here was a man who projected efficiency, achievement, political acumen, and skill to organise elections for his party.

A parivar believing in puritanism of sorts never for once thought about his personal lifestyle, his love for money and good life, and his tendency to use it for gaining control of the party for achieving his political ambition. His competence in collecting money from business houses was welcome to the party which allowed him to get away with much which, ordinarily, it would have regarded as a political sin.

Pramod Mahajan’s factotum Vivek Moitra has, perhaps, been poisoned or drugged to death. His son, Rahul Mahajan, has to face, if nothing more serious, drug-related charges that can keep him in prison for 10 long years.

Come to think of it, the BJP was visualising Pramod Mahajan as the generation next’s Prime Minister of India! Even after his death his bargaining power with the BJP remained intact so much so that it chose to induct his son into a leadership position. The party leaders’ decision could not have been for reasons just sentimental. Perhaps, they do not know how awkward they are looking in the eyes of the people after last week’s gory events at 7 Safdarjung Road and the prospect of Rahul Mahajan spending a chunk of his life in jail.

Public confidence in politicians’ honesty and sincerity has been low for some years, but L’affaire Pramod Mahajan leaves a stink of corruption, crime, drugs and depravity that characterise politics these days.

Pramod Mahajan, whose hubris has ended up in a sordid tragedy for him and his family was, however, not the only political leader who has come to symbolise amoral politics that has come to prevail in the country. Every party has its own share of enterprising and dynamic men who fix deals and collect money for their parties, and for themselves. Often such men are more equal than others in the parties’ power structure. The money power gives them political power and often they are able to influence decision-making for the convenience of their benefactors, some of whom join politics themselves and others choose to act by remote control. The phenomenon of money power dictating politics, policies and decisions has spread across to most political parties and to most states.

You can go round anywhere in the country, any state, any town, and you will come to hear tales of the so-called successful people who have found their way to positions of power, or those who can get things done by just a call on their mobile phone. Sadly, this is being considered a normal mode of political behaviour these days.

Many bureaucrats choose the safe path and collaborate with their political masters. Inconvenient officials are simply posted out because a minister’s friend or a benefactor wants it – a role Amrish Puri used to portray in Bollywood films with great flair and realism until the Don’s death recently.

Ask the people in Lucknow how they feel about the Mulayam Singh government and the quality of governance it provides to the nation’s largest State. Only the Supreme Court has come to the help of the Income-Tax authorities to order the Chief Minister to disclose the sources of the wealth he and his family have accumulated during his years of service to the people. Taxman’s queries are being described as part of a conspiracy by the Samajwadi neta.

Then there is Ms Mayawati straddling on the political platform unmindful of the stink left behind by the Taj Corridor scandal. The NDA government never took action to punish the guilty lest it might need her support while forming a government at the Centre. The UPA government now does not want to annoy Ms Mayawati because it also may need her help after the next Lok Sabha elections.

The Great Telgi scam, which ran into a staggering Rs 50,000 crore loss to the state exchequer, still remains unprobed because the tentacles of the scandal are spread over several states and involves influential elements in many political parties. The politicians would let Telgi die, reportedly of AIDS, than allow truth to come out.

These are major scandals which make an occasional headline in the media. The daily experience of the people with the administrations in all States is worse, and of indifference and callousness with which it treats them and their problems.

The people seem to be extras in the Shining India story. It is the politicians like Pramod Mahajan who have come to matter in public life. Unfortunately.