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Suparn Verma on Indian politics

Last updated on: April 4, 2012 14:20 IST

Politics, India's greatest reality show

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How do Indians react to the political soap operas enacted daily on television screens?

Filmmaker Suparn Verma likes to believe he's politically challenged, but in the last two decades, even he has picked up a thing or two about the Indian political system.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

I thank God everyday that I was not part of India's freedom struggle and am so glad no one from my family who lived in that era is still alive.

Just imagine having to fight the East India Company, lose many a compatriot and family member and, for the last 60 years, wake up to news of scams and corruption by political leaders and bureaucrats every single day.

I like to believe I'm politically challenged, but in the last two decades, even I have picked up a thing or two about the bunch of jokers in power and in the Opposition.

First, some fun facts for the day.

We have seven national political parties -- the Indian National Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India -Marxist and the National Congress Party.

We have 60 state level parties whose symbols are as interesting as a car (the Telangana Rashtra Samiti), fan (the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress), lock and key (the All India United Democratic Front) and a bungalow (the Lok Jan Shakti Party) and as varied as a comb (the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha), banana (the All Jharkhand Students Union), flowers and grass (the All India Trinamool Congress) and a drum (the United Democratic Party).

And if 67 parties weren't enough, we have 1,206 unrecognised parties registered with the Election Commission, give or take one or two because, after manually counting the list, I might have zoned out a bit.

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Photographs: Uttam Ghosh

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Governments are no longer about running the country

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India first got the taste of coalition politics when the Left Front formed a government under Jyoti Basu in West Bengal; at the national level, a coalition government was formed under Prime Minster Morarji Desai heading the now insignificant Janata Party (a breakaway section from this party formed the BJP).

But coalition politics really came of age in the nineties, giving rise to the Third Front. The Congress too had to create the United Progressive Alliance and the BJP needed to put together partners to form the National Democratic Alliance.

Coalition is all about numbers and this is what has bought state- level parties like the BSP, SP, TMC and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to the bigger playground of national level politics.

Today, party leaders tell their cadres what to do in Parliament. Coalition partners call the shots when it comes to the government's decisions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cannot do anything without Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's go ahead; they both, in turn, cannot do anything without their coalition partners' go ahead.

This is how Mamata Banerjee can get the Union railway minister sacked, and the railway ticket price hike rolled back, without setting foot out of Kolkata!

We are now witnessing the Great Indian Satire, whose foundation lies in the fact that each party has a different manifesto and ideology. Policy decisions are made and revoked or put in limbo.

Governments are no longer about running the country; they are about ensuring how to maintain a majority till the next elections.

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Yeh sab Scam hain bhai!

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There is no Opposition today; there are only opportunists waiting in the wings to join hands or pull the rug from under those in power.

Eventually, it all comes down to money. We have so much of it and we have been robbed of so much that the numbers boggle the mind.

The list of scams increases in number and in denomination with each passing year and decade -- many were buried, many glanced over, some forgotten, some punitively punished with a figurehead put behind bars.

Today, scams are entrenched in the very fibre of our lives. Every aspect of our lives is mired in corruption from our birth (hospitals), our learning (education), our diet (food), our travel (transport/ roads/ railways/ aviation), our basic needs (realty/ electricity/ coal/ petrol/ diesel), our investments (share markets/ banks)... you name it -- everything is a racket run by people protected by the very people who run the political machinery.

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Aaj ka Scam kya hain?

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Money is the greatest unifier across party lines and manifestoes and ideology.

The satire we are living in gets much funnier with each passing day. It is the age of social media so, in 2011, Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption campaign were the hottest buzzwords.

But since we are a generation used to instant food and short movies and ad breaks, we have a problem when a campaign takes longer than we expect it should. So we make a mockery of it.

When a housefull Ram Lila ground in New Delhi is followed by an empty ground in Mumbai's Bandra Kurla Complex, you know the Jan Lok Pal Bill has become yesterday's news.

The Commonwealth Scam is yesterday's news; Kalmadi is out and about, shaking hands with his colleagues. We have moved on to Coal Scam.

We created laws to protect a few industrialists; those very industrialists are buying companies like Jaguars and Range Rovers today. Yet, we need to protect 'a few Indian industries'!

Even though our policies have effectively killed off all our small scale industries, we have to save the big players.

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'Entertainment! Entertainment! Entertainment!'

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Indians are a shameless lot with zero sense of national pride and civic character.

We love living in filth, spitting on our roads and gloating with glee at how much of a mess Pakistan is in as compared to us.

We live in the age of Vidya Balan, where it is all about 'Entertainment! Entertainment! Entertainment!'

RTI activists are shot dead every day. Do we remember a single name? Do these murders make headlines?

It is such fun to watch blurred out clips of a veteran Congress leader having an orgy with three women or BJP MLAs watching porn in the Karnataka assembly.

Thank God for Lalu Yadav! He allegedly may have made millions in the fodder scam, but I really don't care because he is so entertaining.

Mamata can run her state and this country to the ground, but Didi's antics are so goddamn funny!

And the BJP is a party whose quotes are worth remembering because they change every day.

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Are these the political leaders we deserve?

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Why should I buy a Rs 250 theatre ticket to watch a movie? Instead, I can watch real life villains and vamps on my small screen, in the greatest reality show, with dynastic sagas, murders, rapes, crimes and corruption, spiced up with sex clips.

It is such a good time for entertainment that even actors and actresses are entering politics. Very soon, we will have reality shows like Kaun Banega MLA and good-looking boys and girls lining up to be in the legislatures.

Just imagine! It will be like Putin's Kremlin with centrespread models being given key portfolios or Berlusconi's Bunga Bunga-like girls in Parliament.

I can see my future, directing these lovely men and women in Parliament. A whole slew of people will find themselves busy -- writers will draft great speeches, an army of image consultants and PR personnel will get to work, and a barrage of news channels with huge TRPs will thrive on the largest democracy in the world.

It will be a world in which Niira Radia is legally allowed to fix deals with politicians, industrialists and journalists. Soon, films will be promoted in Parliament, which will be filled with a mix of power and beauty.




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