New Grammar of Rajniti
Poonam I Kaushish
The more things change the more they remain the same. Daily we are treated to some mindless antics, inane tantrums, silly shenanigans by our leaders. Of which ‘follow-no-rules’ is a fundamental part, instead they rule by law and are the law. No IDs’, no frisking and long queues, gaddis filled with gun-toting bodyguards jumping red lights to exhibit their ‘power’ might. God forbid, if anyone questions their misdemeanor, be prepared for open fury, “Main VIP hoon, tum kaun?”
Welcome to the world of VIP Brats. Last week we were treated to two high jinxes by our Very Important Persons. BJP strongman General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s son Akash Indore’s MLA assaulted a municipal corporation officer with a cricket bat for going against his diktat and carrying out demolition of an ‘unsafe’ building. His supporters rejoiced hailing him as their ‘sher’ leader’, notwithstanding Modi making plain he abhorred such behaviour irrespective of lineage and would take action. Last heard Akash has been served a show-cause notice.
Next it was turn of ex Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane’s son Congress MLA Nitesh to assault an engineer, parade him on the streets, tie him to a bridge pillar and pour buckets of dirt and mud on him in Kankavli. Questioned for his actions, Rane said he was merely acting on public complaints against inaction by the authorities and to ensure it does not happen again. Sic.
Worse, instead of feeling remorse for their misdemeanours both culprits strutted and preened like peacocks. Underscoring an inherent mindset of a VIP: Hum Khaas Hain. Which translates in to living life king-size and nauseatingly flaunting it. Showcasing their power via elaborate power trappings: retinue of chamchas who applaud even the inane and ludicrous, enjoy freebies that they fancy and conduct public affairs for private advantage.
Undeniably, both issues have left a bitter taste in the aam aadmi’s mouth. Already grappling with sky-rocketing prices, shrinking budgets and rising unemployment, it raises several questions: Can our poor country afford braggarts as legislators? Haven’t we had enough? Do our leaders actually deserve this extra importance?
Considering, most of them barely discharge their responsibilities honestly and honourably. Do our netas know the reality of Asli Bharat which they ad nauseum vow to protect? Do they care a damn? Aren’t symbols of authority contrary to the basic feature of republicanism enshrined in our Constitution? Whatever happened to democracy by the people, of the people, for the people?
Sadly, as the country saunters into the 21st century for our ruling neo-Maharajas Ministers, MPs and MLAs the vestige of 19th century India still lingers. All afflicted by two diseases: Acute Orwellian disorder of “some are more equal than others” and Oliver’s disease, “always asking for more”.
While some would dismiss the Orwellian syndrome I-am-more-equal-than-you VIP culture as fallout of the colonial mindset and feudal intent, all concur this in-your-face boorishness of our VIPs is omnipresent. Juxtaposed with the Oliver malady of always-asking-for-more alongside the high octane decibels of Saada Haq whereby, just about everybody, who’s anybody abuses power and public resources topped by being protected all at our expense.
The list of our neo-Maharajas replete with the power trappings that go with it is impressive: Ministers, MPs, MLAs, criminal-politicos and their kin if not kumha. Worse, a threat perception becomes a symbol of power! Sic.
Not a few aver that politics is all about perception. That there’s justifiably a strong element of symbolism and show associated with an elected public office. There can be no argument that leaders deserve special treatment. However, it’s conveniently forgotten that the handling is reserved only for offices they hold, not for the individuals per se. The President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, Speakers etc are protected across the world.
At the same time, a fundamental precept of democratic governance is equality of all citizens before the law regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religious or political beliefs and affiliations, caste, class or economic status. Unlike a colonial, feudal or totalitarian regime, in a democracy the rule of law applies equally to all citizens. No public servant, not even the President or Prime Minister, is above the law.
Alas, we seem to live in an India where only VVIPs matter, living life in the slim strip called ‘official’ in a race for privilege. Wherein there is a wide chasm between the aam aadmi and our khaas aadmis. Leading to increasing frustration, disconnect and contempt for the rulers which results in defiance by people at large.
Not for our neo-Maharajas the fact there’s something demeaning about the idea of VIPs, something inherently undemocratic. As it militates against the idea of equality, for the simple reason that it makes citizens inferior to rulers. When ‘black cats’ and police protection become status differentiators which come at the cost of dignity of the ordinary citizen, there’s reason enough to challenge the idea and rip it apart.
Clearly, the don’t-you-know-who-I-am’ VIP term is outdated in a democracy. That over one billion people should be beholden and subservient to their undaata is anathema and does not hold. It is ironic that those elected to serve the people deny the very people they serve access to themselves.
Contrast this with developed democracies where equality before the law governs the demeanour of public servants. In America baring a sitting President all others are frisked. Public officials routinely drive their own cars, meet people, go to restaurants and mingle with the hoi polloi. In UK MPs, Ministers and other VVIP travel in regular trains like aam aadmis and no one bothers to give them a seat. Unlike India where a Chief Minister is ferried in a 35-car cavalcade. Sic!
Sweden believes in sticking to the rules and rejoices in its complete absence of hierarchies. Everyone is treated the same, from company CEO to its cleaner, except of course, the King. Name-dropping is considered extremely embarrassing. In New Zealand recently the Prime Minister’s convoy driver was caught over-speeding, faced the legal process and was promptly served with regulatory notices.
Plainly, our leaders need to dispense with the jo hukam sarkar culture and dismantle their privileged fortresses, financial pampering and perks if we have to survive as a nation. This would force them to experience the pathetic state of affairs in Mera Bharat Mahan and understand how democracy is undermined when VVIPs break all rules, usurp flights and train seats and how unsafe public transport is for women.
Importantly, our netagan need to recognize that they cannot throw their VIP tag around. As a new generation comes of age our rulers need to remember a home-truth: Democracy is based on the fundamental premise of equality for all. Gone are the days when leaders were revered, today they symbolise everything that plagues India, warts and all.
Thus, in a milieu where simplicity and austerity is Utopian to our polity, it is time our high and mighty wake up to the danger lurking round the corner and smell the coffee. If they don’t change they will become increasingly irrelevant. The bottom line: Stop fawning, shed the colonial hangover, callousness and make no compromises with our netagan. We do not need gestures which total zilch. It remains to be seen whether our polity will continue to live life Maharaja-size and reduce hum-toh-janata-ke-sevak-hain to mere tokenism? —— INFA