Sunday, November 26, 2006

Uncommon man

Revealed reluctance to learn from populist politics

Election fever is on across India with four states going for elections in the next four to five months. This reminds me of the previous municipal elections in our locality. One of those days I bumped across a contender who had kept ‘bicycle’ as his election symbol. Out of curiosity, I asked him as to what made him opt for bicycle as a symbol. Bang came the rehearsed retort – “Bicycle, because that’s what every voter in my constituency gets from my party, once I’m voted to power”. I could not hide my smirk because while talking to him I also saw the other competing contender’s poster (of course, clumsily pasted on the wall) with an elephant on it.

It is a matter of disgrace that elections (local, legislative and union) are like any unorganised mandi, where every political party is a shop establishment with political leaders as its merchants desperate to buy votes, whatever the price. Today, every vote has a price irrespective of whether the voter (a misnomer called ‘the common man’) is ready to accept or decline it. And in this ‘State’ly Trade, where populism-led bargains range from a pouch of cheap desi liquor to signing of a nuclear deal, it is just the private gains of uncommon parties at the cost of the very same common man. Ironically, ‘Populism’ which was meant to represent the common man’s interest, has been reduced to a distorted form of ‘competitive populism’, over the years by vested political interests.

A couple of decades back, a charismatic Chief Minister of a South Indian state, through a cosmetically designed manifesto, stated that once his party is voted to power, rice would be available in the state for Rs 2 per kilo. Once voted to power, the state finances bled to keep up to the promise. And the common man paid through his nose (in form of taxes) to compensate the subsidised rice. Currently, the UPA government is contemplating the Sixth Pay Commission. Only a shameless political leadership can even think like this, knowing that the Indian economy even today bleeds from the gratuitous handouts of the Fifth Pay Commission!! Reservations (another populist stunt) has created such a havoc that it succeeded in allocating ‘seats’ at the cost of sowing ‘seeds of irrevocable mental divide’ among the very same common men. One can author an entire encyclopaedia of such social sinfulness masquerading as populism. The recent case of Tamil Nadu is an arch exponential notation to the same. Mr. Karunanidhi wants to award television sets to some 53 lakh families to fulfil his election promise. In order to fulfil this commitment, the honourable chief minister is audacious enough to ask the Centre for an excise waiver.

In reality, competitive populism, albeit in the name of ‘common man’, has given nothing else but left millions of them illiterate, thousands jobless and hundreds diseased. In such a scenario, I wonder why we consider common man so ‘common’ as there is so much ‘uncommon’ about him. As depicted in R.K. Laxman’s famous cartoons, it requires a lot of uncommonality to survive, in such scheming political scenario and still keep smiling ‘commonly’.


No comments:

Post a Comment