Main vip hoon, tum kaun?

Arrogance Of Power

By 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. For whom politics translates in to conduct of public affairs for private advantage with two sets of laws: rule of law for us where innocents are jailed for trivial crimes and rule by law for them read ‘follow-no-rules’. God forbid, if anyone questions their misdemeanor, be prepared for open fury, “Main VIP hoon, tum kaun?”
Welcome to the world of VIPs arrogance of power. Last week we were treated to two high jinxes by our Very Important Persons. BJP’s Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’’s furious reaction as he snatched a mike and phones of journalists when they sought his comment on the UP Police SIT holding his jailed son Ashish guilty of murder and hatching conspiracy against farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri which mowed down eight. “Dimag kharab hai kya? Aise jo tumhare media waale hain na, yahi choron ne ek nirdosh aadmi ke liye bataya. Sharam nahi aati hai? Bewakofi ke sawaal mat kara karo…”
If this was appalling a BJP MP was caught on camera slapping a wrestler during a national championship event in Ranchi underscoring an environment, wherein our netas times out of number behave like Bahubalis with the State maintaining a deafening silence. Not for it that Mishra’s continuance as Minister is untenable Constitutionally, ethically, politically, and morally despite the Government stating the matter is “sub judice” and a father could not be punished for his son’s sins.
Alas, these latest high jinx of our ‘don’t-you-know-I-am-a-VIP’ underscores the vestige of 19th century India, colonial mindset and feudal intent still lingers whereby our neo-Maharajas MPs and MLAs are afflicted by two diseases: Acute Orwellian disorders of “I am more equal than you” and “always asking for more” with in-your-face boorishness sans accountability being their trademark. Immortalised by Mumbai mafia don-turned MLA Arun Gawli: “Ab mere pas bullet-proof jacket hai!.”
Remember Shiv Sena MP who assaulted an Air India manager because he was denied a Business Class seat on an economy Pune-Delhi flight. “I hit him 25 times with my sandals, tore his clothes, broke his specs….I have no regrets…I have many criminal cases against me….I am an MP and will not tolerate any insult.” Or BJP’s Indore MLA assaulting a municipal corporation officer with a cricket bat for going against his diktat and carrying out demolition of an ‘unsafe’ building.
And Maharashtra’s Congress MLA assaulting an engineer, parading him and tying him to a pillar pouring buckets of dirt and mud on him. Questioned, said he, “I 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 our netas strut and preen like peacocks. Accentuating an inherent mindset of Hum Khaas Hain, which translates 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.
Undeniably, 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. Add to this 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.
Big deal if this leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouth, increasing frustration, disconnect and contempt for the rulers which results in defiance by people at large. Raising a moot point: Do our leaders actually deserve this extra importance? Aren’t symbols of authority contrary to the basic feature of republicanism enshrined in our Constitution?
Can our poor country afford braggarts as legislators? Haven’t we had enough? Whatever happened to democracy by the people, of the people, for the people? Considering, most rulers barely discharge their responsibilities honestly and honourably. Do our leaders know the reality of Asli Bharat which they ad nauseum vow to protect? Where over 700 millions live below the poverty? Succinctly, they don’t give a damn.
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.
However, 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.
There are many challenging moments in democracy where hard decisions have to be taken.  Indian democracy is not so fragile that over one billion people should be beholden and subservient to their undaata does not hold.
Plainly, the don’t-you-know-who-I-am’ VIP term is outdated in a democracy. It is ironic that those elected to serve the people deny the very people they serve access to themselves. They need to dispense with the jo hukam sarkar culture and dismantle their privileged fortresses 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.
In sum our rulers need to understand Parliamentary majorities are not immortal. The right to remain in power is not immortal. It gets shaken by their arrogance of power. 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. We do not need gestures which total zilch. It remains to be seen whether our polity will continue to behave like Bahubalis and live life Maharaja-size and reduce hum-toh-janata-ke-sevak-hain to mere tokenism? — INFA