Politics was never on my palette till 2014 and in the last five years, I have seen political discourse hurtle down into downright abuse. I have been restraining myself from writing about politics after the 2019 general elections. From being an active political commentator on Twitter, for which I had to cope with many abusive trolls, I have reduced myself to a mere spectator. But, the ongoing political theatrics in Maharashtra has forced me to pen down this article.
I have never felt that democracy is any better or is the alternative to monarchy or autocracy. The fundamental objective of the concept of democracy is to eradicate two words—power and rule. Unlike monarchy and autocracy, in a democracy, power over people is not vested in any individual and consequently, no one can rule over the people. Democracy gives people the right to choose representatives who will govern them.
Governance has innumerable aspects to it and to fulfill all of them, an extremely complex system of administration has been created over a period of time. This complexity has inadvertently put the power of the people right back into the hands of their representatives which is why the word ‘rule’ never got erased. President’s rule, Governor’s rule—makes me feel like the President is the Emperor of the country and the Governor is the King of a state. The concept of democracy has been mangled to spread the power of people thin and wide, and this is the bane of multi-party politics.
So what transpired in Maharashtra? As is the norm of 5-year cycles, people were required to vote for a new government or endorse the existing government for another term. Due to a multi-party political scenario, people’s votes spread out among the different political parties with the result that no party got a simple majority to claim stake to form the government. This is where the system of multi-party democracy rears its ugly head. Political parties and independent candidates who fought against one another in the elections align with each other to form coalition governments. This sentence needs to be noted carefully. ‘Fought’ or ‘fighting’ is a word associated with the monarchy wherein wars to succeed a king used to be common in the past, but the word is still used in democracy. This is how media reports it rather than mentioning that candidates competed with one another to win people’s mandate to give them better governance.
How are political parties separate from one another? Supposedly through their ideologies but are in reality driven by the ulterior agenda to form the government at any cost. What is the reason for this desperation? Two basic reasons. The most important objective of a government is to collect taxes from people and organisations and use the money for the development of the country through different schemes and by providing funds. Signatures of political leaders who become ministers are required to activate the schemes and funds so that the tax money can be released to the public. 80% of the money gets eaten away by corruption, right from the ministers to the municipal level. The ministers also hold sway over the functioning of the private sector through bureaucratic red tape. These reasons have debilitated India’s economy from flourishing for decades.
I do not blame the political class entirely for this ongoing disastrous situation. Ministers only sign on the dotted lines, and without the aid of the bureaucracy and civil administration, no amount of corruption is possible by any means. So how do we know they are not the real culprits? Simply complain about a government officer to a minister. 99.9% chances are that the minister will ignore the complaint and would most probably inform the government official which would lead to some sort of action by the police or another government department against the complainant. 90% of political leaders in India still don’t have enough education to do critical thinking and differentiate between what should be done and what shouldn’t be, so handling complex government offices is far beyond their limited capabilities.
Coming back to the Maharashtra fiasco, apparently, the Shiv Sena hierarchy has been silently fuming at their eroding vote bank because of BJP’s agenda of fulfilling the RSS agenda of aggressively spreading Hindutva across the country. So, the Shiv Sena top brass decided enough is enough and demanded that the next chief minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government should be from their party. This was roundly derided and discarded by BJP as Fadnavis was their popular leader. The ensuing political bickering and deadlock are what brought none other than the wily Sharad Pawar into the fray. I was under the assumption that the man had almost retired from active politics but what he has made happen in the last few days has been mind-boggling.
Though he has been largely silent at the national level politics, he has demonstrated how well he can flex his muscles when it comes to a political bout at the state level, even at the ripe old age of 79. So why has he suddenly plunged into putting together a coalition between the Shiv Sena, his party and the Congress? He most probably saw this as the best opportunity to reassert his dominance one more time at the state level and extend his sphere of influence at the national level. But more importantly, he must have seen this as the opportunity for his party and his successors in the party to become strong political influencers in the future.
Outwitting the Modi-Shah team at their own political game has been no easy task in the last five years. They are undoubtedly driven by their lust to hold on to power at any cost and they can never be out of action for any period of time. The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition, if they form the government, is a 3-way marriage with each party having their own agenda. The Modi-Shah team will pull every trick out of their hat to cause an implosion in the coalition which is going to make the government stand on shaky ground.
I feel sorry for the people of Maharashtra. They were made to stand in long winding queues to vote and this political drama is what they have got in return. Instead of a government that will address the state’s agrarian distress, economic issues, environmental issues caused by the destruction of the Aarey forest and a large number of people suffering at the hands of the Punjab National Bank among many other pertinent issues, all they have got is a chance to watch the political slugfest unfold. But, no one seems to be asking “to hell with all the political wrangling, where is the governance and administration I voted for?” Rather, the ongoing drama has piqued everyone’s interest and they are indulging in discussing and squabbling about it.
Not even God can save this country from the mess it is in.