Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Public Diary 10: Politics of Fear and Fear of Politics

Elections have been declared. Delhi’s streets are now vibrant with processions, sloganeering and adrenaline induced symbolic gestures. This afternoon I saw two processions passing by the Lado Sarai Street. From the first floor glass window, I get a full view of these processions. The weather is cold, I shiver and soon I understand that the shiver is not caused by the nip in the air. In fact, I shudder; my innards shake and as the cliché goes, a chill passes through my spine. Why does my body show such a reaction? I remember retching hopelessly during the slide show of a contemporary artist who has worked in the styles of almost all the materialistically successful contemporary artists in India. Some artist friend commented then; here is one art critic who has vomited after seeing works of art. I did not know why I vomited; was it her works or the revulsion caused by the heady mix of aesthetic and liquor? I still do not know. I remember an art dealer who wakes up from his automatic slumber the moment he listens to the figures that a work of art could fetch and dozes off when he hears anything else about the same work of art.

Body reacts to fear before logic and reason let it adjust to the context that caused the fear. Body shudders, stiffens and at times it pushes the inner fluids out involuntarily. Scientifically, you say, that these reactions are caused by the chemical changes happening in the brain. The first one procession that caused a shiver along my spine was by the ruling Congress Party. Young people in their khaddar uniform worn for the occasion sit inside their jeeps, SUVs, big cars and other possible four and two wheelers. I notice the jeeps; they all have very thick wheels that show arrogance, power and speed. They show their open palms at the imaginary spectators standing either side of the road. Like smaller animals before bigger ones, other vehicles and pedestrians push themselves to the shore of the road prompted by an unknown fear. I look at the people who sit in the bonnets of the car; a clear show of power, control and arrogance. They imagine themselves to be future rulers. In fact, in power or out of it is immaterial to them. They know how to push the local voters around with their display of muscle and money. That is what exactly I see before me. The people who sit on the bonnets look like invaders of an innocent city. They cherish that image and flourish in it.

The second procession is by the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party). They are not on vehicles. They walk, shouting slogans. They too are in their uniform of Khaddar. They all wear a Gandhi topi with the inscription, ‘aam aadmi party’ or ‘mein aam aadmi hun’ (I am a common man). They hold brooms in their hands and that is their election symbol. Now they walk with confidence because the opinion polls say that they would come in power. Or, as most people believe, at least they could make some shifts in the vote bank that would make the mainstream political parties jittery. They are not on vehicles because they do not have the money to bring the vehicles out. But I am sure that once they are in power they too would come by vehicles and they too would sit on the bonnets of their car like conquerors or invaders. I do not believe neither in Congress rule nor in Aam Aadmi Party rule.

Arvind Keijriwal, the young leader of AAP is just forty six year old. I like those people in their forties and are have a public profile. Whether they are Khans in Bollywood or in politics, or in art or in literature, I like all of them because I am curious about their ways of thinking. As I am in my mid-forties, I have a strange identification with these people. But I do not believe them. I am just curious to know about them. I became curious about Keijriwal because he is in his mid forties. I disbelieve him because his voice does not convince me. He came as a social reformer along with Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi. From social reformation he shifted his attention to political reformation. As there is no alternative left for political reforms within the parliamentary democracy he chose the same route. Ordinary people believe in his capacity to bring about changes in the society. He speaks to the middle class through the FM channels. He says with confidence that his party would come to power and instead of doing a swearing in ceremony at the secretariat or Raj Bhawan, he would call for a huge rally in Old Delhi’s Ram Leela Maidan and pass the Jan Lokpal bill that assures transparency and accountability in governance. I often change the channels when his voice comes through the speaker. Somewhere I find this man has lost his cause. He is in his own way to bad politics; the model that has been on ever since 1947.

I do not believe in the thinking pattern of the Indian middle class either. They all feel that there is a savior in Keijriwal. But I am sure that they would not vote for him. They know that he is transparent and well meaning. He has the capacity and knowledge to bring changes but they do not believe in the system that he is going to work with or the people who are going to be with him. When it comes to governance people give a chance to the established ones; Keijriwal is yet to establish. He has to face failure and he has to learn it in the hard way. But by then he also would have changed into a seasoned politician who works from within the corrupt system. Keijriwal must be a well meaning politician with right intentions. But the people who today support him see him as a point of investment. People want change; but as they have invested, they want their dividends too. So if he comes to power, they will ask for their pound of flesh.

I do not travel by auto rickshaws. When it is needed, I either choose a cycle rickshaw or a shared auto where you need to pay less ten rupees for a ride. I prefer to walk and I love walking, if possible alone. The failure of AAP is that its support base is auto wallahs. AAP offers a clean society without corruption. But corruption starts from its own support base. Not a single auto wallah in Delhi is ready to go by meter. I see them every day harassing people at the entrance of the metro stations in Delhi. You cannot question an auto wallah despite the police’ assurance of fining them, confiscating their vehicle, putting them behind bars etc, because they have now political clout. They pilfer you or just refuse to take you wherever you want to go. When they loot the passengers, they justify their acts by saying that they are pressured to do so as the prices have gone high. They never think that they people who travel by rickshaw are doing that out of necessity and they do not make their money just by fluke.

The failure of AAP is written already in the auto rickshaws itself, even if it would surprise people with its electoral success. I would have been a proponent of AAP had the autowallahs been right behaving. I believe that if at all the changes should happen, it should happen from the people; not from the government. The government comes later as it is chosen by the people. It is right that a populace gets a government that it deserves. We choose our oppressors. Suppose, the auto wallahs in Delhi say today that they will run by meter and they would behave like social volunteers, the changes would have started from then and there. You may then ask, why social change is not happening in a place like Maharashtra, where auto and taxi wallahs behave well and don’t charge a paisa more than the meter. Then my answer is that there is no AAP. Here in Delhi we have AAP which claims to be people’s party. It is not people’s party. It is an investors’ party. The leaders apart from Keijirwal have invested in it and their lumpen muscle base is in the auto wallahs.

Let us consider it a bit more realistically. The young brigade that has joined Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Arvind Keijriwal is a well meaning one. None of these young people in these parties thinks about doing corruption and getting rich. They want to bring about changes in the society and for that they work in various capacities. They are basically apolitical people who are more charmed by the ideology and charisma of the leaders. Those young people who work for Modi in fact do not think of killing Muslims in this country. Those young people who joined Rahul Gandhi at his behest really do not think about extending the Nehru dynasty. The young people who have just left everything for supporting Keijriwal do so because they believe in this man’s intentions to change the society. But the masses are different. The mass behavior and mass base is different.

How do we think that they auto wallahs who are supporting AAP today have been like this forever. Not a single auto wallah is seen without having a god’s or goddess’ picture in their vehicle. Not a single auto wallah thinks of removing those ugly posters inside their ricks. Not a single auto wallah behaves in a decent way. But I should not be generalizing. There are good auto wallahs too. But they are outnumbered and hardly their meters work. Why can’t they change? Why can’t they think that they could facilitate change? If they charge according to meters more people would prefer to travel in them. But they never do. Had they done it things could have been different. The people from all the walks of life would have thought of changing in some way. The change should start from some point. If does not start no internet can bring changes in our society. Aldous Huxley observes that in democratic societies corruption starts from up and in totalitarian societies corruption starts from down.

You should be the change that you want to see manifest in the society, said Mahatma Gandhi. Unto the last, said John Ruskin. Unless and until one changes oneself nothing will happen in this society. Congress, BJP, AAP and every other party is evil. Only the individual can change. And a series of changed individuals facilitate the changing society. Be the change that you want to see. 


prax said...

its easy to blame and it also easy to paint an ideal picture. It is easy to judge the outcome based on little knowledge. It takes patience and courage to try something to make a radical change in the society. It might not be a silver bullet to eradicate all the ills in a society. But it at least makes an effort to gather the like minded people who wish well to the society.

Asokan said...

Listen to Kejriwal carefully, can feel the sincerity and commitment.
like auto drivers , entire community of highly educated middle class also is part of AAP, who fit in to the behavior norms you prescribed.