UNDERBELLIES OF INDIAN POLITY

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Submitted Date 10/27/2019
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Winston Churchill felt that the Indian polity was not ripe enough for independence but Mahatma Gandhi pressed for swarajya nevertheless. Some fifty-five years after Atlee freed India off the British colonial yoke, what is the bottom line of the world's largest democracy? Barring the brief aberration that was the internal emergency imposed on it by Indira Gandhi, India, has been cruising on the path of democracy. That is about the physicality of going through electoral motions but what about the cerebral quality of the Indian democratic output? The cheerleaders of the Indian democracy cite the shining examples of its electoral maturity in avenging Indira for her emergency and dumping the Janata Party for its insipid rule. Oh, how the wonderful Indian voters routinely dump the haughty in the dustbins of anti-incumbency and where else on earth does democracy shine ever so bright, and such, tend to shape the grand narrative.

Was Winston wrong then? No for doubts arose soon as the electorate tended to vote on caste lines and communal contours only to be cemented as voters, in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination, swayed by emotion, swamped its 8th Lok Sabha with Congressmen. But the clinching evidence that Churchill was doubly right came a little later. The first real test Indian democracy faced was when
PV Narasimha Rao (in the picture) sought a mandate from his electorate for a second term in office. That is after he, in an amazing turnaround, ably assisted by Dr. Manmohan Singh, had not only retrieved the Nehruvian India from its License- Raj mess but also laid a new economic keel for India's prosperous sail. That apart, with the view to be seen as the crusader against India's entrenched corruption in the public life, he went all the way to prosecute the accursed politicos across the board political spectrum, albeit at the directive of the country's top judiciary. But how did the Indian electorate that cries hoarse against political corruption in the higher echelons respond to his willingness to tackle it? Simply put, it paid him a deaf ear. And that was about the rank ingratitude of the Indian voters to their leader who had unshackled them from the prolonged permit period to alter India's economic face forever for good.

By their mindless rejection of a known performer, what the Indians gave to themselves and their country was the ineffective rule of a Deve Gowda on the one hand and on the other the ugly phenomenon of Sitaram Kesari that inevitably led to the repossession of the congress party again by its dynasty-in-the-retreat, by then headed by the Italian Sonia Gandhi nee Antonia Maino. It was another matter though that Rao's failed gambit earned him a lot of bad blood in his own party that made him run around Delhi's courts, to clear himself of the charges of misdemeanors leveled against him; and it was a matter of satisfaction to his tormented soul that he got a clean chit before life ended it all for him in his forlorn state.

The results of the second test the Indian democracy faced are just out. Though the question was repeated, ironically, the answer remained the same, proving that the Indians did not become any wiser during the worrisome interregnum. Prime Minister Vajpayee not only stemmed the tide of the political instability at the center that the earlier electoral exercises occasioned but also broke the barriers in the hitherto neglected infrastructure development in the country. If in Narasimha Rao the country perchance found the right man for the right job at the tight time, Vajpayee worked his way to the top post by cultivating the political sagacity to handle the onerous task of coalition management in a fractured polity. Yet, the electorate thought it fit to cold-shoulder him.

What then is the truth, really? Wouldn't the past testify to the fact that the Indian voter is more of an emotional kind than the thinking type? Take away the anger against an emergency, the jingoism of a victory, the sympathy of an assassination or the apathy against incumbency, what one gets to see that which governs the Indian voters' ballot mind – nuclear thought. It can be said without any contradiction that the Indian voter has the ability to identify himself only with his caste, region, and religion without an iota of a notion about the notional interest. Blame it on Nehru for he only put paid to Indian nationalism perceiving it as a threat to Muslim minority's religious-identity. And he lived long and ruled enough to stall a pan-Indian electoral chemistry to the good of the Indian democracy. The Nehruvian perversion to nurse Islamist separateness in the bosom of the residual India forever ensured its Hindu-Muslim electoral divide. Besides, he had allowed the precipitation of the electoral division of the Hindu majority, on the basis of caste and creed, for his party's perpetual political gain. It is thus, the unsophisticated Indian voter forever fails to unhinge his franchise from the communal and casteist calculus. Also, Nehru's inculcation of radical secular ethos in the Indian intelligentsia, nursed by wooly liberal leanings, ensured that the Hindu majority's impulses were seen reprehensible to his idea of India.

Alternately, Hegdewar's vision of India with Hindutva as the binding material to hold the Hindu social edifice, built with deviant caste bricks, from sundering, though impeccable, was faulty in its positioning for his concept of the Hindu social reengineering was postulated as a means to counter the perceived Muslim communal threat. Though one would have expected the Indian intelligentsia to fine-tune Hegdewar's laudable unity of the caste-ridden Hindu society per se, the wooly intellectuals, not known for doing their homework properly, badmouthed a good idea and sought to throw out the baby with the bathwater. It would have given them an idea as how to go about it if only they had contemplated on what Swami Vivekananda had advocated - the Hindu soul in an Islamic body - to bring about an Indianness in the hopelessly divided polity on the fracturing lines of caste, region, ethnicity, language etc. But yet, India's shortsighted intelligentsia exploits this postural flaw (since rectified by the sangh parivar) to brand Hindutva as the communal agenda of the Hindu far right, inimical to the country's minorities, has only steeled the Islamic fundamentalism of the Muslim Indians. It's thus the vacuum created by the un-nationalism occasioned by Nehruvian idea of India has come to be filled by communalism, regionalism, casteism, favouritism, nepotism, corruption etc. to hurt Bharat but to benefit of mediocre.

While Nehru, blinded by his own sophism, failed to foresee the true merit in Indianness to bring about a political cohesiveness in the majority population to further the national good, neither Hegdewar nor those that subscribe to his ideology failed to dispel the misgivings of the minorities, and the majority alike, about the true intent and character of Hindutva. Be that as it may, though a well-meaning Hindutva would be beneficial to India as a whole, unfortunately, the opportunistic political class that sees electoral benefits in feeding upon the caste and communal susceptibilities of the polity pooh-poohs it, that is even after it acquired a secular tag from India's Supreme Court. But then that suits a Lalu in Bihar and a Muluyam in U.P to ride on the Hindutva bogie in the Muslim mohallas all the while stitching their caste votes together to own 1/10th or so of the Lok Sabha. What if more such characters emerge all over India to dominate the sub-regions of its vast terrain by caste combinations? Would ever a national policy be possible with each regional satrap catering to the interests of the caste groups of his own narrow constituency? As if the politicians are not doing enough damage, the so-called spiritual leaders like Chinna Jeeyar are spreading sectarian sentiment amongst the Hindu majority with impunity! Indeed, the British did divide India much less!

What then does Indian Verdict - 2004 mean? The claim of the Congress that it was a mandate for Sonia is understandable though the media's seconding the same is perplexing. In fact, the media's dubbing the party's hold on 145 Lok Sabha seats, out of 543 elected ones, as a people's mandate for her makes it amusing. The Indian media that never gets tired of heaping praises upon the literate Kerala voters, for once, has muted itself as the Congress came a cropper with a cipher. What did the Kerala voters convey after all? Was it not a nay to Sonia? Then, what about the much-touted Karnataka voters that supposedly differentiate an assembly ballot from the parliamentary franchise? They too would not fit in the mandate for Sonia frame for they did not echo to the Congress tune this time. If the Tamil voters were asked to raise their hands for Sonia's 'Hand', how many hands would have risen but yet, all their MPs were all set to help her rule the Indian roost. The Andhra voters, rightly or wrongly, voted out the incumbent CM's MLA-hopefuls but by turning the applecart of TDP MP's, were they clamoring to see Sonia anointed as India's PM? Doubt for while pressing the EVM's Congress button in the Parliamentary booth, their ire would have been still on their CM. It's by such hands as these that the great Indian mobocracy, sought to be glorified as the world's largest democracy, has come to be nursed! Yet, the lengths to which Indian media goes to build the myth of India's electoral maturity is exemplified by The Hindu's editorial that tried to reconcile the victory of the left in Kerala and the drubbing of Sonia's party there in the same vein as the verdict for a Secular arrangement at the centre!

Above all, as the backdoor to 7, Race Course Road was seemingly nudged open to Sonia by a quirk of fate, wonder at the gall of her backers in making bold to proclaim her 'non-existing mandate' to rule. It's another matter that in the electoral arena, they all were shy to project her as the candidate for the top post. In the final analysis, the very fact that Sonia was able to dream of even grabbing India's premier political post proves that its democratic curry lacks electoral savvy. Coupled to the caste-obsessed and faith-driven electorate, it is the Left's ideological Hindu-hatred and the regional satraps' survival instincts that tried to catapult her to the summit. After all, for the Indian Left that swears by Lenin and Mao, an Antonia Maino on the Indian gaddi is no abnormality. Besides, the regional overlords have to guard their own backyards in the nebulous political environment. If Mayawati ties up with Sonia, won't Mulayam's political citadel come crashing down in UP, and how to avert that happening but by himself joining the bandwagon, never mind his principled opposition all the while for her foreign origin. Analyse and see as the compulsions of the eager become crystal clear.

Thankfully, in the end, as it was not in independent India's fate to suffer the ignominy of being reigned by a foreigner, President Abdul Kalam came up with a constitutional hitch to spike Sonia's ambition to become its Prime Minister. It's another matter though that India had to endure her decade-long anti-Hindu reign through the proxy regime of a nerve-less man and unscrupulous collaborators.

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This is the revised edition of my "Irony of Indian Polity" published in Triveni, July – Sep 2004.

 

 

 

Novelist, playwright, short story, non-fiction and articles writer, translator in verses, a little thinker and a budding philosopher of Addendum of Evolution - Origins of the World

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