The recent events in Mumbai have completely exposed the total disconnect of our political class. Neta after neta has managed to infuriate an already enraged society. From Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s “lipstick” comment to R R Patil’s SRKesque punch line, politicians of every hue have been providing us with insight into how little they understand the pulse of the common man. Former Maharashtra CM Deshmukh’s tour of the Taj hotel with director Ram Gopal Verma can actually be explained away as silly and pales in comparison to Kerala CM Achuthananthan’s arrogance in dealing with Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s grieving family. Raj Thackeray strangely has not had any comments to make about the fact that it was “outsiders” who ended up sacrificing their lives protecting amchi Mumbai.
That our politicians are a corrupt self serving lot is not a new discovery. What is new this time though, is the blatant disregard these netas have shown to the common man’s distress and anger at the Mumbai terror attacks and its handling so far. So why are our netas so crass and arrogant? Why is it that they don’t really care how they are perceived by society? Why is it that they behave like they can get away with anything?
Because they can. Or almost anything. Case in point, our former Home Minister, Shivraj Patil. This is a man who lost the election to the Lok Sabha from Latur. That he somehow still became an MP and was further made cabinet minister with the all important Home portfolio is a slap in the face of democracy. Furthermore, his dumbfounding incompetence was repeatedly ignored, as were repeated calls for his removal from the Home ministry. All because he was considered a loyalist to the Gandhi family. And herein lies the answer to our question.
Our netas are so arrogant and conceited in their dealings with Joe public because they don’t owe their allegiance to us. They owe their position and power all to the Party. The Party decides who gets a ticket. The Party decides who gets to be Rajya Sabha MP. The Party decides who gets to be a minister. The Party decides who goes into what committee, who goes in this foreign fact finding mission, who gets the boot and who’s handed the keys to the safe. In our parliamentary system, we’ve ended up making the political party the masters of our politicians and as a result the masters of our nation’s future. Examples of how bad things have become are way too many to enlist and include every single political party in India. The Congress led riots in 1984, BJP in 1992 and 2002, the Communists giving outside support to the current UPA government, the SP or BSP whenever they came to power in UP, the JD(S) in Karnataka till their government fell; every single time these parties chose to interpret the public sentiment in a manner that suited their interests and gave two hoots to what people really wanted. And what we want is change. Dare we say it, CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN?
Barack Obama’s election to the White House has galvanized a whole generation worldwide. Young people everywhere are more willing to believe that YES WE CAN. But here in India, can we really believe? Even in the US, Obama’s election is nothing short of a miracle. Here with our entrenched party system and political dynasties any fresh faced kid seeking to change the system is more likely to bite the dust or even worse, get incorporated into the system. But there are things we as voters can try and do. We can make sure we get out and vote. Not doing so only empowers those who are already part of the system. When we do get out to vote, we should avoid voting for anyone who has a reputation as a party loyalist, because we can be sure they will be working not with our interests in mind, but to please their political masters. And we must vote for whoever we think is best for our country, not for whoever belongs to our caste or community. Ultimately we only have ourselves to blame for letting things become so bad. We have allowed ourselves to be easily swayed by narrow self serving rhetoric. To paraphrase Gandhiji, we must become the change we want to see in our political class. Maybe then we can start hoping for an Indian Obama.