We are making the politician an integral part of our lives. We have conceded too much to their breed. They are no so ensconced that they will not vacate the space themselves. We will have to spare ourselves of them, says Mahesh Vijapurkar.
There was a time when the politicians got little space in our society except for the politics they played in the tight boundaries of ordinary politics -- the civic bodies, legislatures, Parliament, and of course, during the run up to the elections. And once in a while, a good speech, rarely made, however, secured some attention in the media.
They did not dictate our lives.
Now, everything from them and about them gets disproportionate attention and space both from the media, and off-media as well. They also play a disproportionate role; in fact not the Constitution intends for them. They play an extra-judicial and extra-constitutional role, interfere, and show a poor understanding of the cultural mores.
Hitherto, they made policies, they, of course, poorly monitored what they themselves crafted. Of late, at least since at least over a decade, they have begun to play games with our lives to their exclusive benefit while all the time pointing out that they were concerned with the public weal.
That is a con game they have perfected.
In the recent fallout after the Delhi rape, we should realise how they are trying to even shape our thinking without even being giants in any field like our former politicians who were statesmen or statesmen who were also in politics did. Their list is too long to be cited here. Today, hardly anyone can be counted in that category.
The utter nonsense they spoke point to how we have crass politicians with peanut brains. Rapes happen because women beg for it by dressing provocatively, they cross boundaries by going out with a male who is not a relative, girls are not married off early enough, someone wants to discredit a government, they should be treated as chattel and discarded; astral reasons dictate rapes, one shot off his mouth: rapes of adults was okay, those of minors deserved death sentences.
It is because news and current affairs television networks call them to the studios and if they are too busy to hop from one to another on the same subject, the outdoor broadcasting vans are sent to out to them to serial uplink them to the studios. Their qualification is that they are politicians and do not even have proper briefs; they just sound off, denying a rival politician the space. They even speak on behalf of the government.
They speak on everything taking to lines that are the logic for the moment. They wrestle with the anchor and get even upbraided, and submit to even harangues just because they can dominate the airwaves. No subject is beyond their ability -- or so they and their hosts think -- as long as they are outrageous in their outputs. Thus they are brought into our drawing rooms thus and loom large.
We have allowed the politicians this space. For every little thing people run to them for succour. Be it a contract, a job, a transfer, a promotion, even speeding up ordinary things that should ordinarily happened quickly. They are enrolled by us to even secure admissions to schools and colleges. Little wonder they have made schools and colleges their side business.
Recently I came across a gross event. A woman and her two young daughters were menaced in their own home which was also vandalised in Dapoli (a town in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra). The vandals were local bigwigs and the woman had to run to an MLA knowing that the police would not act on their own. It so happened, tragically, that the vandals were of the politician's entourage. She and the MLA had no business to interact -- she should have got her help from the police. There are many areas were we make politicians -- from gram panchayats to Parliament members to become our intermediaries, with less attention to their mandated roles.
Disputes are taken to them. Monetary help is sought. A former MLA in Assam says in the absence of funds to sustain oneself in the constituency post-election, the next round would be avoided. An MLA has to do favours, peddling influence, also spend from the pocket for the poor who knock on their doors ever so often. Which also means the government does not function for the poor or anybody except the one who has a politician on call.
Another in Vidarbha quit politics after being pitch-forked from a sweeper's job to the legislature. He just could not fit in, with his sense of service, with the entire lot of power brokers who made more money than policies. He begged his party not to give him a ticket again. These two, however, are exceptions while others strut around dispensing patronage and gaining votes as quid pro quos.
These two explains why to be a 'good politician' by contemporary standards, one has to earn. By hook or cook which simply means grease for these ostensible purposes and a lot more for their own pockets. It is done by wheeling and dealing. In other words, just be corrupt and pretend to be Robin Hoods. And to top it, demand privileges, including respect.
They cleverly have subverted the entire system to an extent that nothing would be routinely done to render unto a citizen what essentially is his right and they have to intervene. By pocketing the authorities or conniving with the other rent-seekers called officials, they took the government out of reach of the common man. Only what the politician wants is to be bestowed on them; the rest denied.
By re-electing them, we are perpetuating the ill and further eroding our access to our own rights, making the politician an integral part of our lives. We have conceded too much to their breed. They are no so ensconced that they will not vacate the space themselves. We will have to spare ourselves of them. How, is the big question but perhaps the spontaneous outrage witnessed in Delhi should guide our path.
Mahesh Vijapurkar is a Thane-based commentator who plugs the common man's point of view.