ByÂ Charumati Haran:
Just the other day when I was watching the news, I was struck by a curious analogy: Many of the individuals in our present set of prominent politicians are rather like spoiled children.
Spoiled children love to be pampered. Our MPs receive a variety of allowances, their own staff and security along with perks including a furnished house, free first-class travel and health services. Lately they were even given iPads! While some of these are necessary in the work of a politician, these are apt to be misused as well. We had a case a month back when politicians who were supposed to go for a ‘study visit’ to South America, actually enjoyed a Safari and dance performance. It is heartbreaking to think that a hardworking tax payer’s money is being given to politicians to waste. I sometimes think people would be more willing to pay their taxes if they actually believed that politicians are doing something useful with it.
When politicians demand higher salaries and perks, I see spoiled children demanding more privileges. In the last few years, our MPs and MLAs have demanded — and received — several salary hikes. Salary increase is one of the agendas that unite the parliament even more than action on price rise.
When they stage walkouts and ‘bandhs’ on not getting what they want, that’s like children throwing tantrums. When they argue in parliament, I am reminded of a dialogue from the famous cartoon strip, Calvin and Hobbes: “If you can’t win by reason, go for volume!” This would explain why we often hear the dialogue, “Don’t you know who my father is?” It’s these spoiled children who often act stubborn. Think of our politicians and how they stubbornly keep picking up old issues again and again. Think of how many of them refuse to change their point of view with the changing times. In the last few months, we have had so many cases of khap panchayats and even MPs suggesting archaic ideas like spicy food, cell phones and late marriages being causes of rape.
Spoiled children are selfish. Our politicians are selfish when it comes to furthering their personal gain or party goals over what is best for the nation. Sometimes it seems they have no qualms in playing with the fate of our country. Many are determined to use their privileges, ill-gotten or not, for their family members and dear ones, rather than using it to improve the lives of the people, as we see in the lavish celebrations they have. Some of them become the mean kids in the playground and build their own cliques, by which I mean the criminal-politician nexus. Some of them bully each other (and sometimes the government) to get their own way.
Finally at the end of my reverie, I began wondering, “Why does this happen?” The last piece of the puzzle was revealed: children become spoiled due to the pampering given by their family members. In my analogy, the voters are the ones acting like indulgent mothers because they forgive politicians’ mistakes and crimes and re-elect them again. But of course some blame must also lie with the system which allows such things to happen. There is too much opacity and not enough accountability. Sadly, many capable people avoid joining politics or trying to fix the system out of indifference or fear.
The worst of it is the spoiled children rarely pay voters the respect that is due to them. Also, this is not an innocent matter of a spoiled child stealing chocolates; this is a serious case in which voters are being harassed, sometimes with threats to their life. Think of the incident last month when a politician was caught on tape waving a gun at a toll booth. The worst politicians are mean and conniving.
I don’t believe that all politicians are bad or that the situation is hopeless. However, this choice comes down to us. Who do we want should rule this country? Mature adults or spoilt children? How can we make sure that the work of good politicians and citizens is not spoiled by these spoiled children?
So like that wonderful advert by ‘The Hindu’ said recently, “Behave yourself, India. The youth is watching”