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Indian political parties’ hollow talk
Publication Date : 11-10-2013
It is strange how the two political parties that can be held directly responsible for the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar are also the two most brazen entities when it comes to brushing off the death and destruction that is holding western Uttar Pradesh hostage.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has been established to have had a direct hand in the violence is the first off the block, defending guilty legislators, and pointing fingers at all and sundry except itself. It continues with its partisan attitude, with not a word acknowledging the terrible fissures that have crept into village society, with communities that used to live in harmony now pitted against each other as a result of these political machinations.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) that has stood by and watched the violence break out, without lifting a finger to prevent it, is now a major participant in an anti-communalism convention being organised by all the so-called secular parties on October 30. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav is vocal against the communal forces, with not a word about the hapless people of western Uttar Pradesh who continue to live in fear and terror without faith or trust in the administrative machinery to provide protection and security.
It does seem that the Samajwadi Party is not particularly worried about the violence, having convinced itself that it never really had any presence in the Muzaffarnagar area, and hence has not lost the vote in real terms. In fact, there seems to be some level of jubilation that in the process, arch rival Ajit Singh and his Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has emerged as a major loser with the Jat vote shifting almost entirely to the BJP now. In the Samajwadi Party’s assessment, the adverse impact on the Muslim vote can be limited to parts of Western UP, and will not eat into the SP’s terrain in central and eastern UP.
It is strange how all these prima donnas who were once in the Janata Dal have spent the ensuing years in fighting each other, more than in countering the communal forces. The levels of animosity between Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav were legendary, until they came together in an uneasy pact to support the Congress party. The Bihar Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader ruled out the possibility of a rapprochement not so many years ago to this writer, maintaining that he could do anything but mend fences with Mulayam Singh. “Never, that will never happen,” Lalu Yadav said angrily and actually it never really has. Relations between Janata Dal(U) leader Sharad Yadav and the other two Yadavs who had all been part of the Janata Dal government soured early on, and there is little likelihood of an electoral understanding, pre or post. In fact, it can be said with some certainty that the three will oppose each other with all the seats at their command, even as they do not hesitate to make common cause with either the BJP or the Congress. This has been the bane of the so called Third Front politics, the inability of the regional warlords to make peace and bring levels of maturity and sobriety into government formations.
Giant sized egos remain another big issue, with an overriding belief in their right to rule. But to be fair, here they share the stage with the Nehru-Gandhi family and Narendra Modi, who also are convinced that they are the answer to the people's aspirations, although actually that is far from the truth. A level of authoritarianism has crept into the management of political parties, which cripples dissent and democratic functioning. It has afflicted all parties with the BJP too now in the throes of overriding authoritarianism under Modi.
Issues have become secondary to personalities and while this is more than visible in the campaigns of the regional parties, it virtually hits the voter in the face when it comes to the BJP and the Congress. Narendra Modi has acquired this larger-than-life persona, the answer to all ailments, as he spends his time focusing not on issues but on style that is characterised by a strong attack on the Congress and the government at all levels. He relies on a macho-man image to get his message through. Rahul Gandhi remains caught in the ‘young man’ image, although he is well into his forties, for whom the learning process is still not over. He relies on a mix of naivet้ and youth to get his message across. Both have supporters, but now that Modi has peaked, his campaign too is raising more questions than it answers.
All said and done it is going to be a heated general election, with the state of flux being exploited by all political parties to push home the numbers. The Indian voter will see politics at its worst, as individuals jostle with each other, and political campaigns run amok to garner votes. Violence, anger, animosity, personal jibes and attacks, nastiness, below-the-belt campaigns will all be part of the electoral tamasha, with India’s future now entirely in the hands of the voter. In that, it will not be political parties that will introduce thought, introspection, sobriety, issues into the campaign. The onus will be on the Indian citizen to keep democracy alive by using his and her innate wisdom to sift between the drum-beating and the reality, and make choices that will keep India’s Constitution and its Preamble alive on the streets and lanes of this country. A tall order, given the fact that the leaders have long forgotten to lead, but a challenge that India’s electorate has faced with aplomb even in the past.
The writer is consulting editor a The Statesman.