“He speaks when he needs to”, says the press aide of the prime minister. The words reflect the sheer arrogance of an insular, isolated and secure enclosure — the prime minister’s office at 7 Race Course Road. Surely the prime minister of one of the largest democracies is mandated by his chair, if nothing else, to connect regularly with his subjects.
The press advisors, who have served the prime minister over the last decade, have done him a huge disservice by protecting him from the media and barricading him from the people. Instead of creating a political hero, a leader who the citizens could emulate and admire, they manufactured a caricature that was ridiculed as a weak puppet in the hands of a sootradhar. They are responsible for the discredit that is being heaped upon Manmohan Singh as he demits office after two terms. They misused their position in the PMO by keeping the press misinformed and by isolating the prime minister from transparent media interactions.
Self-importance and egoism are anathema, particularly when one is working with the head of state in a democratic polity. The insecure officials who know that they are neither privy to sensitive information and decisions nor partners in critical operations must put their inflated egos into a bottle and cork their imagination.
Rajneeti is a complicated story. Classified information gleaned from historical journals, cabinet decisions and so on, have to be examined, interpreted and inferred upon when such information is de-classified. Half-baked knowledge is as dangerous as half-truths. Empirical data are essential if we are to understand the past and make corrections for the future. Commercially motivated superficial ‘quickies’, a marketing trick that some publishing houses indulge in to grab eyeballs and media attention, damage the truth and corrode good practice.
On the subject of good practice, all politicians have a problem about being normal and ordinary. The president of the Bharatiya Janata Party was recently seen being led through the Delhi airport like an incumbent prime minister. Cars were available at the bay where passengers normally board buses that ferry them to the aircraft. The vehicles were used to reach him to the aeroplane so as to minimize his movement. This is an unacceptable practice, particularly when the party he rules claims that it is different from the Congress. The BJP believes it operates in a democratic and dignified manner, but alas, it ended up being pompous and arrogant in full public view. One would have imagined that Rajnath Singh would enter the airport and greet the people standing in long, arduous queues to win some brownie points. The ‘VIP stride’, common to all politicians, is loathed by the people and it dilutes respect for public servants in the eyes of the citizens of the nation.
This sense of self-importance that afflicts the personalities of most leaders who have chosen to enter public life is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with governance in India. The privileges of a few stick out like a sore thumb, mocking the ideas of civility and decorum in public life and in civil society.
The subservient cringing by the babus as they kowtow to the whims of their political masters is equally abhorrent. This class has effectively isolated itself from the people and abused the oath of office. The mandate of babus is to serve the nation and not become an insular human machine, locked up in a fragile tower that is on the verge of being invaded by the belligerent members of civil society. This is an example of the kind of tragic truths that our leaders continue to cling to.