The announcement of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls, 2014, is being made by all the political parties in bits and bobs, even though the elections are nearly two and a half weeks away. The structure of our democracy is under severe assault as individuals are being plonked to fight and deliver in areas where they have neither lived nor worked, or where they have had any real commitment to the constituents. It is a bit of a joke. This charade is making a mockery of the profession of politics, and the politician is fast becoming a caricature rather than someone who is determined to do good for his or her constituency. The rather absurd chess game that we are witnessing on the game-board that is India is scary for a liberal, democratic, federal polity as designed by the founding fathers of this republic.
An ageing film actress, a diva to boot; a retired cricketer physically ‘moved’ from one state to another, at the last moment, for no apparent reason; bravado being expressed by fading national leaders to fight from Benaras, not for Benaras, just to grab eyeballs on television when contesting against the new ‘star’ on the political stage; sulking geriatrics, terrified of having to return to their private homes from the swanky free accommodation in Lutyens’s Delhi; many other such vignettes of absurdity aggravate the despair Indians feel about the political class. Equally, the media anchors go on and on about that which comes easy to them, sitting in their offices in metropolitan India. It is all very disturbing for those of us who believe that there is a great future for this nation state and its ingenious and energetic citizens.
Leaders who ruled their states, who lived in situ, whose priorities were clear, have come back time and again, elected with clear majorities by the people they served. As examples, we have Naveen Patnaik, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh, Narendra Modi and, Sheila Dikshit for three terms till she lost this last election, possibly because she was Congress and there was a huge anti-Congress hawa thanks to a failed Central government, which was unable to quell the unraveling sagas of inappropriate action of its ministries. That gross mis-management destroyed faith in the ruling party and overran the many good works that were delivered in the midst of the unholy mess. There were endless contradictions and zero reformation. That was the failure of the Manmohan Singh decade.
In this Act I of a bizarre political drama, where selfish superficiality dominates and where the commitment to democracy and to the people of India has dwindled to dangerous levels, the storyline of Act II looks bleak and forbidding. Small wonder that there is a surge in favour of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party since the political alternative in the battle of the ballot is fast becoming a mirage. Every time a Congress leader tells me that ‘things are looking up, looking better’, I shudder with unease because it is all symptomatic of being in deep denial about the changing realities and their inability to take the bull by its horns and fight to equalize, if not to win. I recall one such person telling me that Ashok Gehlot was finally gaining ground with his free medical assistance and that the fight with Vasundhara Raje would be neck to neck. I had a vociferous argument with him saying he that was disconnected from the angry mood and that she would cross 135 seats. She crossed 160.
This arrogance of incumbent leaders, of all ideological hues, believing that they know it all, is what triggers their dramatic downfall. It is the lazy intellect of men and women who have got to the top of the ladder that enforces their downfall. Will the incumbents fall like a bunch of skittles being hit by the big ball in a bowling alley?