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Saturday, August 11, 2001



Opinion | Prev

Votes, not leadership

Ranabir Ray Choudhury

WITH every passing year, only one fact is becoming clear vis-a-vis the Indian political landscape, namely, that the politicians of today are far more interested in acquiring, and holding on to, power than in providing true political leadership to the peo ple. Admittedly, it is the primary business of politicians to acquire political power because it is only then that they will be able to translate their ideas (which they have placed before the people at the time of elections) into reality, in the process , hopefully, furthering the cause of the society they belong to. But has this been the case, say, during the past decade?

That the practice has been radically different is indicated by the absence of multi-faceted development of Indian society in recent years. India is essentially a poor country, the inference being that the majority of the electorate is poor. This being th e case, The large majority of politicians seeking the support of the electorate have no choice but to peddle development programmes in the run-up to elections to try and persuade voters to vote for them. But are these development programmes implemented a fter these politicians get the votes? The short answer is no. If they were, the country would have been better-placed today in terms of its economy and society generally.

The more important issue, however, is: why has the country been burdened by the sort of politicians who are more interested in politicking instead of doing their damned best to lift the poor out of the bottomless pit of hardship in which they have been t rapped? One answer could be that the post-Independence generations have been brought up in a social school which has relegated the cultivation of ideals and ideology to the backwaters of the curricula. This, in turn, seems to have given birth to a breed of politicians who have put their own personal interests above that of society. In other words, the country has got a crop of politicians it deserves which, in a way, underscores even further the seriousness of the moral crisis staring the nation in the face.

The seriousness of the situation stems basically from the fact that, in the given situation, the task of finding the right sort of politician for the nation -- not the Chandrababu Naidus, the Jayalalithas, the Karunanidhis, the Arjun Singhs, the Mamata B anerjees, the Sharad Pawars, the Ajit Singhs, the Pramod Mahajans, the George Fernandes', the Ram Vilas Paswans, and a host of others -- has become even more difficult not merely because the breed is already scarce but also because it will not be allowed to raise its head by the crowd the moment the majority perceives a threat to its vested interests.

So where does the nation go from here? This is difficult question to answer because, in this particular case, one should always guard against the temptation of being too pessimistic in one's reading of the future for the simple reason that the fundamenta l interests of the nation are involved. Even at the cost of being a bit unrealistic, the nation's future should always be wrapped in Hope and Optimism because that is the only way the ideals espoused in 1947 can survive and eventually be attained, even i f the process is perceived to be a long and arduous one.

Even so, since it would be foolish to put on blinkers at a time when danger seem to be lurking in every nook and corner, it would perhaps be sensible to hoist the warning signal that unless our so-called political leaders reform their ways (which to some may be asking for the impossible), Indian society in general will continue to hurtle down the road of sharpening contradictions and eventual confrontation, for which no one but the `leaders' of today will have to be bear full responsibility.

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