Death of politics

The ruling party seems to be suffering from a Modi fixation. Leaders of the sycophant brigade are trying to outdo each other in vitriolic attacks against him and demonstrating their loyalty to the ruling family.

Politicians focus on next elections, while statesmen on the next generation. Our political leaders — under Mahatma Gandhi and for over a decade thereafter — were statesmen who dedicated themselves to the service of the nation.

The era of those great leaders ended with the demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Today our political leaders are only concerned about retaining or grabbing power.
There’s no doubt that Indira Gandhi was a great Prime Minister, but she also had serious shortcomings. She got full advantage of being the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and the surname of the Father of the Nation, but owed her prime ministership to “The Syndicate”. Her transformation from a “goongi gudiya” to the Iron Lady was her own achievement. She proved to be a great war-leader in 1971 when India achieved a unique victory in over one million years of its history. But she is also responsible for many ills of our present polity. New-brand Congress, new-brand Gandhis and new-brand netajis are so unlike their original brands.
India under the United Progressive Alliance-2 government is groaning — there’s dynastic rule, rampant corruption, policy paralysis, bad governance, economic mismanagement and galloping inflation. Some of these ills have spread to several political parties. Both external and internal national security are often held hostage to votebank politics. Illegal migration in the Northeast, appeasement in Kashmir, soft policy towards Pakistan and terrorism are the outcome of seeing all these issues from the prism of votebank. So also the preemptory and indefensible action against Indian Administration Service officers like Durga Shakti Nagpal in Uttar Pradesh and Ashok Khemka in Haryana.
Dynastic bug eats into the fabric of democracy like termites. Heredity becomes more important than ability. All power gets concentrated in the ruler and his/her progeny. Feudal culture of fawning courtiers becomes dominant. Feudalism destroys people’s self-respect and dignity.
I belong to a generation which grew up under colonial rule and spent first few years of my service under British superiors. We served with more self-respect and dignity in our early days than the present generation under our political masters can. Power-drunk and corrupt politicians at the drop of a hat order “off with his head” and officials have to lump it. The steel frame of the administration has been reduced to a pulp.
The middle-class constituted three per cent of the population in 1947. It is now 37 per cent. Unlike in the past, it has now started queuing at polling booths. Thanks to television, Internet and mobile phones, there is widespread awareness of UPA’s misrule even in rural areas.
The shattered image of the Congress cannot be revived through financial extravaganzas like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) before 2009 general elections or the Food Security Bill before the 2014 general elections. Rajiv Gandhi said that only 15 per cent of fund for development reached the beneficiaries, the remainder gets siphoned off. Today the instrument of governance is so corroded that it can barely deliver even that much.
The Bharatiya Janata Party with its squabbling political leaders does not appear as a credible alternative. Repeated poll surveys indicate a sharp decline in the number of seats that the Congress may get in the next parliamentary elections, but this will not get transferred as gain for the BJP. The latter’s position may improve only marginally and will be nowhere near the required number to form the government. It will desperately need alliance partners to come to power.
With the Congress in great decline, the BJP has many things going in its favour. It has two top-class prime ministerial candidates, L.K. Advani and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The former is known for his impeccable integrity, unmatched experience, vision and greater acceptability across party divide; the latter is the most popular political leader in the country, with an inspiring record for development and good governance. He has created a wave in the country, though mostly of it is limited to the Hindi heartland. The eastern or southern states of the Vindhyas are not on the same page. The BJP should not fritter away its advantages by squabbling over its prime ministerial candidate. The priority should be to ensure the victory of the party and not of any individual. In a parliamentary democracy, a Prime Minister is selected after the elections by the winning party, otherwise it is like counting chickens before they hatch.
It is alarming that politics has descended so low in our country. The BJP president goes to the US to plead for a visa for Mr Modi and some non-Congress MPs petition the US President to continue denying visa to him. Mr Modi is reported to be using the caste card to rope in a general with dubious reputation into his party under the mistaken belief of garnering more votes. This will only promote fissures in the Army and politicise it. The Army is a truly secular, totally national, free of casteism and completely apolitical organisation, the like of which is not found in any developing country. Politicians should not undermine this great national asset to further their agendas.
The ruling party seems to be suffering from a Modi fixation. Leaders of the sycophant brigade are trying to outdo each other in vitriolic attacks against him and demonstrating their loyalty to the ruling family. In doing so, they have crossed the limits of decency, stopping to use terms like frogs, “Gangu Teli” and so on. The Opposition has retaliated with the word “cockroach”.
The prospect of a Third Font coming to power, comprising some mutually antagonistic parties (the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Trinamul Congress and the Left, the All-India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), several prime ministerial aspirants and without a common programme is alarming.
Some of them, like the Trinamul Congress, the DMK and the AIADMK may sacrifice national interest for their regional agenda. One is haunted by the spectre of the late Mughal days, of independent subedars and emperor reduced to a puppet of wazirs.
The results of 2014 elections appear unpredictable. Let us hope that our electorate in its wisdom rises to the occasion, and notes to lift the nation from the present morass and provide a solution in the best interests of the nation.

The writer, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

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