Freebies at the cost of economic health, dynastic politics and appeasement of one or two sections of the society at the cost of all others are the bane and reality of Indian politics today.
- During election season, politicians have an extra incentive to promise freebies at the cost of the States’ economic well-being.
- Almost all of the parties in India today have become family-run coporations, BJP and Left parties notwithstanding.
- In the name of secularism, parties have time and again made decisions and statements to appease one section of society.
- Secularism rather than being the policy of Church-State division, has evolved to be appeasing the “minority” at the cost of justice.
Being a democracy, politics plays a major part in the governance of India. It is as complicated as it is diverse. Political parties and politicians play the great game for the ultimate prize of power. This is just a small attempt to look into the various facets of the great Indian politics.
Welfarism vs Nanny State
Being a developing country with a large population living under poor conditions it is a necessity for the State to provide some help for fulfilling the basic necessities of life. At least this was the idea during the initial years of independence. India’s first prime minister, who was more attracted to the socialist model of the Soviet Union, initiated a welfarist and partly populist culture in Indian governance. It peaked in the years of Indira Gandhi, who was on a spree to nationalise corporations and licence raj. Its ill effects were at last felt in 1990 when India was on the verge of insolvency along with political instability.
India came out of it due to some critical policy changes. It turned away from licence raj with LPG reforms and ushered in a new era of economic growth. It didn’t mean a complete shift to a capitalist model but a sensible blend of capitalism and welfarism. At least that was the idea, as it so happens it is always difficult to find a proper balance of both. For example, how much free rice for the poor is acceptable? What is the particular point at which free rations must be stopped? Although it adversely affects the State exchequer some of the welfarist schemes are dire necessary for many households. Do you let the poor farmer die because he didn’t get a reasonable price for his work or should the State intervene? Although India has done better in this regard, there is still some progress that can be made to find the balance. Especially during election season, the politicians have an extra incentive to promise more generous schemes at the cost of the States’ economic well-being.
The maturity of both the citizens and leaders is tested during this time. The feasibility and the delivery of the promises are to be examined properly by the masses. The credibility of the promises is to be given paramount importance considering its importance in policy decisions in the next term of the government. Although it can be said that governments are becoming more attentive to these promises, many state governments are still not careful enough in this regard which has resulted in bad economic conditions in some states.
Do you know who my father is?
Almost all of the parties in India today have become family-run coporations, BJP and Left parties notwithstanding. Although there is no problem in more than one person in a family taking an interest in active politics, It becomes problematic when the whole party comes under one family and the only qualification to enter is the surname and birth.
While looking at the reason for it, it is easy to blame the family but one has to take a more nuanced approach. When the voters become more affiliated with the family and its members than the manifesto or vision or credibility, it automatically gets converted into family members getting tickets to contest in an election. There are several instances of this.
In the recently concluded Himachal Pradesh assembly election, the main reason for the defeat of the BJP is that some of the family members who were denied tickets contested independently. Although many couldn’t win, they could make a significant dent in BJP votes so that the opposition could win in the first-past-the-post system. When the voters get this affiliated to the family it becomes tough for even a cadre-based to encourage and give opportunity to many new talents in the cadre.
Another example is the curious case of Lalu Prasad Yadav. He was arrested in a multi-crore fodder scam and was judged guilty. Yet the core voter base of his party hasn’t diminished. This shows the extent of his influence on the minds of the people of the region. His son who is now the head of the party and still has considerable support. If the voters in spite of knowing the corruption, which was not only an allegation but a judgement by the court of India are ready to support a family, then the gradual shift of political parties to family-run parties is inevitable.
The members of these families for their part are reluctant to let go of their control over the party even so slightly as to give opportunities to the young and meritorious members of their party. This can be easily understood by the fact that their pursuit of power is ultimately for the money in store in the position and so it is totally unacceptable for the family to share it with any. Even parties that were started with noble intentions of social justice or as a fight against corruption have fallen into this trap and are unrecognisable from the intent with which it was started.
On the eve of Independence, India was divided into two nations. A Muslim ruled Pakistan and a Hindu ruled India. The leaders of our nation, for some strange reason instead of seeing that Pakistan was created for Muslims, started bending over backwards to appease Muslims to stay back in India. As if they wanted some certificate from them about the credibility of the secularist intent of India. This not only shows post-independence but also even in the pre-independence period the leaders were trying so hard to appease Muslims. This shows itself in the Khilafat movement. What business do Indian Muslims have with the head of Turkey, that they started this movement to ask the British to go easy against him? Not only that it was actively supported by Congress which was the premier organisation then. Ironically, the Turkish people were not interested in this movement which eventually died down.
Another instance of this is terming of the Moplah massacre as the Moplah rebellion, which properly differs in the intent of the perpetrators and the resulting plight of the victims. This ill-conceived policy of appeasement initiated by the founders of Congress is still being religiously followed even by present politicians without any forethought. This has led to erroneous policy decisions of bringing an ordinance to block the judgement of the Supreme Court to give compensation to the old Muslim woman Shah Bano. The reasoning given for this action is to protect the Muslims from getting their feelings hurt.
In the name of secularism, parties have time and again made decisions and statements to appease the Muslims which they consider a minority. Secularism in the political sphere has been given a different meaning altogether. Secularism rather than being the policy of Church-State division, has evolved to be appeasing the “minority” even at the cost of justice to a person who has been promised and enshrined in the Constitution.
(Views expressed are the author’s own)