Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi have recently revealed their vision of India. They, of course, are yet to reshape their party agendas. There was not even a debate over the proposals unveiled by them at the respective party conclaves that the two leaders addressed. Nonetheless, both received great applause. However the main issue is whether their notions would be able to dispel the sense of alienation and disenchantment that pervades in the country. The electorate of Delhi has already given expression to its disgust and lack of faith in the traditional politics practiced by the two main parties by denying them both a decisive mandate to form a government.
The disenchantment is not rooted only in the general public perception. Even intellectuals, academics, media and judiciary concur that politicians as a class have not delivered what they have promised. They have used power merely to keep a tenacious hold on their exclusive group interests, which has helped them cling to power.
Corruption is the new name of the game. The grand declaration of the two main parties’ intent to fight corruption does not convince anybody. The two parties have been running down each other in public, trading accusations and holding each other responsible for all that is pernicious in the last ten years. Narendra Modi has raked up the Congress track record in the last decade and the latter has harped on the nightmarish communal rights in Gujarat in 2002. Neither of them has displayed any concern for the pervading sense of alienation.
Recent strictures passed by the judiciary indicate that it was convinced that there was a nexus between politicians and corrupt elements in both the administrative structure and the underworld. Politicians escape punishment by manipulating the law enforcement agencies and ensuring that clinching evidence is not presented in the court to obtain guilty verdict. No wonder the Supreme Court has decreed that investigators need to be punished for their shoddy investigations. It also decreed the immediate termination of membership of those held guilty and punished for corruption and that too without waiting for the disposal of their appeal against judgments of lower courts. Both parties have maintained a deafening silence on these court directives.
Parties have been improvising the distorted logic to win brownie points and the governments have been unable to defend their decisions with conviction. They could not show that their hands were clean. The BJP went ahead and pilloried the Manmohan Singh government to pulp over the controversial recommendation by the Comptroller and Auditor General that auction should be the favoured route rather than political discretion, for allocation of government resources and services to the private sector. Neither side explained that auction would give moneybags the upper hand in securing contracts. In all this, emphasis ought to be on social development and equitable distribution to provide opportunities to the greatest number. Even though use of political discretion was introduced by the NDA government in 2001 for allocation of spectrum usage for telecom services, the BJP supported the idea of auction. Politics cannot be restricted to increasing the discomfiture of the opponent by scoring brownie points.
The erosion of politics was further amplified when both surrendered to social activist Anna Hazare, who held a gun and coaxed lawmakers into enacting legislation for punitive machinery for eradication of corruption. The Congress agreed to the demand and the BJP went along, possibly hoping to win Anna to its side. Both derided members who opposed the surrender to gun point politics. Sixty years in power corridors ought to have taught both parties that punitive measures cannot root out corruption. Anyone with little sense knows that all parties depend on and use unaccounted funds flowing from unscrupulous vested interests.
Corruption that Anna Hazare and his team talked about affected merely the upper class, because for the lower class the inevitable need is survival. Those who stand on roadsides and run small business need to grease the palms of beat constables and local babus to eke out an existence. Their life depends on it. But no one talked of it because they have always been at the periphery of the power structure: Crumbs have been thrown at them in the guise of welfare schemes.
For years there has been a total disconnect between politicians and the common man because of the several layers of security. Barriers are meant to protect them from terrorists. But instead common man has been debarred from coming closed to politicians. Leaders have felt safer under the ‘police raj’. They are insulated from thousands rushing in with their complaints through the open gates of their houses. That people have innumerable problems was apparent from the huge rush at the first ‘Janata Darbar’ of the Delhi government. Both parties ridiculed the AAP for the idea of a ‘Darbar’. They did not see the teeming numbers craving for attention of their representative governments.
‘Darbar’ is not a solution. However, the idea of opening the gates for the common man was the first sign of removal of barriers that stood between the leader and the voter. The realization that the leader was inaccessible to the masses was so overpowering that it virtually caused a stampede. Can the masses look forward to the idea of India that the two main political protagonists proclaimed while standing behind safe and secure premises barricaded by gun totting soldiers? Both want to take the masses to new horizons of development and good governance, but without shedding their barriers.