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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Forget economy, who will reform politics?

Multiple corruption scandals, high inflation and sagging economic growth have virtually put the brakes on the Manmohan Singh government’s functioning. Adding to the UPA’s difficulties, Indian industry’s influential voices have publicly started accusing the government for policy paralysis.

To dispel the notion of inaction, the government has decided to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector. FDI stimulating the economy is highly overstated. It is being argued that FDI in retail will help small farmers. Local producers at the end of the chain may benefit marginally. However, multinational companies gaining immensely even at the cost of small shopkeepers is beyond any doubt. Ideal for the government committed towards the welfare of aam admi, badly suffering due to high inflation, should have been to expedite the food security bill. The highly controversial decision has stirred the hornets’ nest.

So far, almost half of Parliament’s ongoing winter session has been lost to vociferous protests. Ironically, the more India has progressed materially and with the ever-increasing literacy rate, the quality of polity in the country has declined substantially. Over the years, Parliament’s working, both qualitatively and quantitatively, has witnessed a downward trend. According to a PRS report, ‘A look at the number of hours the Lok Sabha has been meeting over the last 25 years indicates a steady decline in productive time. Further, at its current pace, the 15th Lok Sabha may be the most disrupted in the 25-year-period.’

Clearly such rogue behaviour is bound to infuriate the masses. Even though the slapping of Sharad Pawar is highly condemnable act, it only reflects the common man’s escalating frustration. The political class condemning the slapping incident in one voice cutting across party lines is remarkable. However, politicians invariably fail to come to the rescue of the citizen, inundated with multiple problems of poverty, inflation and corruption.

Politicians have undergone a dramatic transformation from self-sacrificing agents of social change to petty self-serving entities. The political class losing its moorings further and further with each passing generation scuttles the hope of any change. In the absence of inner party democracy, parties have become cabals only to protect their own interests. The proponents (sycophants) of Rahul Gandhi are busy selling the arrival of next generation leadership. Eventually he might emerge as the Congress’s leader despite a huge question mark over his abilities; he may even go on to become prime minster. A product of dynastic politics will hardly be able to clean up a corrupt system.

Only if he promotes inner party democracy in a real sense — ending the role of money and muscle power in elections — will it pave the way for honest and committed youth to join the politics. But the moment Rahul is able to promote the real culture of inner party democracy from bottom to top in the ruling Congress that would sound the death knell to dynastic politics. This is a huge contradiction; Rahul is in the running for the top job only due to his surname. The BJP, which claims to be a party with a difference, is no better than the ruling alliance. For every Raja and Kalmadi, the BJP has its fair share of Yeddyurappas that adds to the levels of overall despondency. All politicians are not crook; some might be even well intentioned. The system has become so corrupt and pulverising that an honest politician driven by the concerns of society, in a few years loses all hope of reforming the system; therefore he too became the part of the corrupt system. Singh, a renowned economist, has the reputation of being an honest man. But instead of reforming the corrupt system, he is touted to be heading the most corrupt regime.

Nevertheless, it will be highly illogical to blame the political class alone. Less than a year ago, the Anna Hazare phenomenon evoked keen confidence that finally a true reformer has arrived on the scene. The problems are not colossal but profoundly complex also, beyond the real comprehension of a simpleton like Anna. Hazare’s kneejerk reaction of ‘only one slap’ provides enough evidence about the stuff he is made of. Anna is now threatening to go on another hunger strike. Will that change the system?

Politicians have sold their soul, civil society initiatives have proved to be less than adequate, where is the hope for this system to reform?


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