Political illiterates have failed the democracy, Nation

If the country is to realize its unlimited potential, then time has come to embrace ‘new politics’ – a paradigm shift in the way politics is conducted in the country.

V S Pandey

India as an independent nation opted for democratic governance and has struggled along for the past seven decades meeting disappointments on many fronts but continuing to repose faith in democracy.
Recently, the state of Bihar, after a hotly contested election, opted to give another five years to NDA government. All the poll pundits had predicted victory for RJD led alliance citing heavy anti-incumbency wave against the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Now all eyes are set on the next state assembly elections to be held in West Bengal , Kerala, Tamil Nadu and in Uttar Pradesh. No doubt some party will win and someone will lose, but ultimately nothing worthwhile is going to change on the ground, as has been the experience during the past several decades. The main reason for the unsatisfactory progress during all these past seven odd decades, in a large sense, has been poor, rather bad governance. Wrong people are in wrong places, time and again, solely because the people as such have not taken serious interest in politics considering it to be ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’.

The famous German playwright, thinker and poet Bertolt Brecht wrote “the worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”
Despite impressive strides taken in certain sectors since independence, life for large sections of the rural and urban population has not changed significantly for the better. Major problems remain, be it of literacy or quality education, good and affordable health care or even availability of pure drinking water. Apart from the rich and to a certain extent educated middle class, for the rest of the population it remains a struggle to spend each single day with one’s dignity as a human being intact! When that is the case with 65 percent of country’s population, it is no wonder that the country’s latent potential for unlimited growth remains largely unrealized till date.
Why has this potential remained largely unrealized so far? Who have failed us? Undoubtedly the ruling elite have wielded power in the name of the common men but have largely worked to feather their own nests, promote their own self-interest at the cost of welfare of the masses. Political culture of ‘self-protection’ and ‘self-perpetuation’, carefully disguised as ‘political mandate’ received in democratic elections held at periodic intervals, has largely ruled the roost. Obviously, the victims have been large masses of rural and urban poor for whom daily protection of their basic dignity as a human being has become an ordeal. Right from birth to death they have to face the cruel, exploitative face of bureaucracy and goons of political class. Absence of ‘good governance’, a sensitive, honest and responsive administration at all levels, is the natural outcome in such conditions.
Political parties, of all hues, just failed to chalk out a clear economic policy and road map to solve even basic problems like poverty, lack of basic infrastructure, power, health and educational facilities etc. Lack of clarity on the model of development has cost our country dearly. What we require is to work out a development model of our own, taking into consideration people’s requirements, cultural ethos, natural resources, teeming population.

There has to be clarity of objective in entering the political arena. Political power is a means to ensure progress and prosperity for the people and not an end in itself. For fulfilling this objective, sustained sincere work is needed and assumption of power is the beginning of a long hard journey along a road which has to be built as well. People look for solid performance and not just hollow promises. Every Commitment made has to be kept. The most important commitment is integrity, sincerity and honesty of purpose.
If the country is to realize its unlimited potential, then time has come to embrace ‘new politics’ – a paradigm shift in the way politics is conducted in the country. The chasm between ‘words’ and ‘action’ has to be bridged. Hypocrisy of feathering one’s own nest while cooking the goose of the common men has to be discarded forthwith. People of this country have time and again reposed their trust in leaders who promised them a better deal and provided huge majority to these leaders only to be disappointed time and again. How long can this charade go on? Remember you can fool all the people some of the time and some people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. The fact remains that democracy is here to stay and to make it work, people of proven competence; integrity and responsibility have to come forward and displace those who have assumed the reins of power by default. Our great nation deserves a much better deal.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is the former Secretary, fertilizer, Government of India)

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