Thursday, May 17, 2007

The disappointment

Indian politics has been a source of distress for a very long time. We see a few moments of spark at times, and then these sparks die just like the fireflies. I am not thrilled blogging about this, because it is very disheartening.

From the late 1989 - mid 1991 and from mid 1996 - early 1998, when we had multiple Prime Ministers for short durations, I felt very unsettled and disappointed. I was just a teenager during the 89-91 phase, and kind of felt like nobody cared about the masses. It was clear that people came to power for their own selfish reasons. Anyway, then there was some "stability" from 1991 - 1996. And then again we went through a few Prime Ministers over a course of 2 years from 1996 -1998. There was wastage of national money and to think that the very people who were not responsible for their actions and were indulging in 'by-the-minute' coalitions also had the power in their hands was pretty scary! The lack of accountability and the nonchalance were glaring. Now, all of this instability happened right around the time of my cross-over from adolescence to adulthood, and looking back I can see how that phase has a big influence on our perspective of the world around us. The political instability brought about a basic distrust. I had become quite cynical and indifference seemed like the only way out. I was happy to get out of the country, happy to go away to far away America.

While in the US, I was content to just keep track of the happenings in India from a distance. And over a period of time we got involved with the events in the US. We discussed and analysed the political scenario there - Clinton's 2nd term, Bush vs Gore, Gray Davis vs Arnold Schwarzenegger, Iraq war, the varied allegations against Karl Rowe etc. It was an involvement from my head (and not from my heart) and some of the emotions that I experienced were intrigue, anger, sarcastic awe (!) etc. Interestingly, I never 'felt' like how I did while in India; betrayed or cheated or anything as basic as that. Mostly because, as Indians, I don't think we can ever get affected by politics anywhere else as much as we do here. It is just the sense of belonging showing up, I guess.

Since R2Iing, a lot of things have been going on here in Indian politics. And with the recent forced resignation of Dayanidhi Maran over a family feud, the Prime Minister having no say at all in the matter and being at the receiving end of the coalition forces' whims, the feeling of disappointment is returning. (As an aside, it is funny to see how President Kalam is all for the 2-party system, and in the US, people want more choices and not be left with just the republicans and the democrats.) Slowly, I can see that all those feelings that I left behind are creeping back in. At the end of the day, I can sense the same cynicism, and the same indifference. Sad, but true. Sad, because personally I think indifference is the most harmful. Somehow, the years away in the US had helped keep the earlier negative feelings away. I am discovering that the feelings are right there, around the corner, waiting to peep out and give a grand show, at the behest of those in power.

PS: These 3 paragraphs have been quite hard to work on. I know a couple of you were wondering why I hadn't posted anything. From the time the 'Maran' issue cropped up, I have been working on this post!

9 comments:

nags said...

Chitra,

Talk of the indifference, you should feel happy about some of the happenings in the recent past.
- Supreme court is not in favour of OBC reservations.
- Mayawathi talks about reservation of economically poor people of all communities (every other politician is talking only about caste based reservation).

So, I believe the indifference is going to decrease...if not completely go away. Don't you think so?

Shankar said...

I think Maran's exit is a good thing. As Union minister for Telecom, and also the owner of Sun TV, there was a conflict of interest. Tata SKY couldn't make entry into the south because of that. He manipulated the TRAI to buy more time for Sun DTH.

I am not sure if the two party system is going to be any better. But I think a representative republic like the US offers a better system of checks and balances, and stability compared to a parliamentary democracy like India. There the president doesn't have to have a majority in either house, so the question of coalition blackmail doesn't arise.

Natasha said...

But shankar, on the other side, dont u think that Indian Telecom industry had a sizzling growth when Maran was in the Cabinet?? All politicians have Pros and Cons. I felt bad that he had to resign because of the family feud.

Chitra!! Good work!!!

Shankar said...

I agree there was growth in the telecom sector. But I think it would have happened irrespective of who was the minister. It was primarily driven by the explosion in the cell phone and broadband markets.

The family feud is quite unusual. I don't think something like this has happened before. But since he represented the DMK in the cabinet, I think it was right of him to step down (if he is indeed guilty of anti-party activities).

In the US too this kind of stuff happens. All secretaries (equiv of our cabinet ministers) there are nominated by the President. And there have been umpteen times when they have been asked to step down by the President for whatever reasons (eg. Donald Rumsfeld).

Chitra said...

Clarification: My gripe is not about Maran's dismissal, it has to do more with the way coalition forces work, mostly without ethics or principles. We saw a lot of that earlier (including horsetrading), which is where I am coming from.

Also, I am not saying that things are perfect in the US. In fact, far from that!

Kaushal said...

Hi Chitra,
I feel the coalition form of govt is the best thing that could have happened. This enables local represntation at a national level. The earlier form of one party getting a majority is flawed because at a national level local issues tend to get drowned.
Agreed that there are certain drawback in this too. But if you see the recent history of various coalition govts, you will see that this form of govt is evolving and in a good way. For one there is a lot more stability in recent coalition govts (which was not the case in the earlier coalition govts). So I feel that there are quite a few good things with this form of govt also. It just takes time for this to evolve and improve itself. This form also helps in keeping different parties in check.

Also I feel that the Indian politics has been maturing (albeit very slowly). For one our elections are no longer a rigged affair and are very peaceful and have come to truely represent people's choice and are very fair. I feel our elections are much better than the US elections (what with GWB's rigging of his elections).
Secondly with a fairer election, parties have started giving a little more attention to people's problems since they very well know that they can be thrown out in the next elections.
Ofcourse corruption and criminalization of politics is still a big issue but I am sure that slowly these will also get addressed.

One thing you have to agree, for a poor third world country we still have a pretty good system (much better compared to other coutries in our status). So dont feel very disappointed but hope for the best. It is bad but it is not that bad and the positive thing is that things are improving.

Pradeep said...

I can fully understand your views. There are pluses and minuses with our brand of politics. I guess a lot of the confusion will end if we don't compare Indian democracy with any other country's. We need to just work on our pluses.

amritha said...

hi chitra,
i am a regular reader of your blog and i must compliment you on it. the distressing political scenario in india was one of the reasons we moved to the US from bangalore - "like rats deserting a sinking ship" as i keep telling my husband. especially issues like the reservation policy make our hearts sink even now when we think about it. of course we miss bangalore terribly and are itching to get back, but thats another story.....

Chitra said...

Nags, yes, the things you mention are 'positive'. However, with regards to the SC's reservation decision, lets wait and see. And as for my indifference decreasing, well, looks like the men in the blogosphere will help my case, what with their staunch optimism! :)

Shankar, like I said in my clarification I do not have issues with Maran gone. In fact, if he were 'let go' for the reasons you mentioned, then great! However, with just the coalition politics at play here, it is not a good thing. You are also quite right about the minister not mattering at all for a particular growth. These days, things are so driven by the economics that it wouldn't matter who is the 'go-between'.

Thanks Natasha! I am quite sure that with Maran's personal interests in Sun TV, his role was conflicting. However, the reason for removing him from power, didn't make too much sense. From this set of responses, and from talking to people otherwise, it does look to me that women like us are still sceptical about things in the Indian political system. However, a lot of the men are much more optimistic. Wonder why that is! :)

Hi Kaushal, you do have a point about the coalition form of government. I would like to buy into your optimism as well, however coming from my own cynicism, I will err on the side of caution for now. :) My husband is equally optimistic about things in general. I guess over a period of time, it is going to have to rub into me. Whenever India faces such minor upheavals, he always thinks it is democracy at its best! Thanks for taking the time for your well thought out response.

Pradeep, yes as long as we stick to pure democracy, we are looking ahead positively.

Thanks Amritha! Welcome to my blog. Yes, in the past, when I was very affected by the irresponsible behaviors at the top, I used to get the same feeling, "like rats deserting a sinking ship".

The reservation policy is looking at a new direction with the whole thought for the forward poor as well. We will see. Though my post sounds like the way it does, I get a feeling that things are not as bad as they were even 10 years ago. There is a general sense of jubilation about Mayawati having included people from upper castes on her side. And the place does have a general positive aura. If you do decide to come back, I am sure you will notice it too. And if you are itching to come back, do give it a shot. You may be surprised! :)
PS: Can you please email me?