A Lucid Dream and Reality
By Mubasshir Mushtaq
The 2009 General election is going to witness a dawn of professional politics where political parties will be marketed as commodities to lure potential voters. It will not be merely a traditional competition between Congress and BJP but a plethora of small parties with regional interest will compete to get a share of people’s sympathy. Isn’t it good news for the general voter? The potential voter will get to choose from a variety of political parties thus making an end to the politics of ‘either or’ (read Congress or BJP). Welcome to the era of coalition politics where the interests of two mainstream political parties will be subject to strict scrutiny of smaller parties. The threat from smaller parties is so strong that some politicians are flouting the idea of a Congress-BJP alliance! The days of political monopoly are over!
The five years of UPA rule was supposed to benefit Aam Aadmi (Common Man) but it has only served the interests of Khaas Aadmi. UPA’s Common Minimum Programme was replaced by Uncommon Minimum Programme based on four ‘achievements’: Indo-US nuclear deal, Chandrayaan moon mission, 9% growth and Slumdog Millionaire Oscar win! None of this is directly related to the common man.
Indo-US nuclear deal is still no-clear deal to many; it will take at least 8 years to generate nuclear power. Chandrayaan moon mission is part of a satellite programme which any government would have followed it. The “9% growth rate” is indeed related to the fellow Indians but nobody is asking this: what percentage of Indians have benefited from the 9% growth rate? Merely 10%! This figure sums up the economic policy of the UPA government which is ironically headed by an economist and has the “dream economic team.”
The government of “Aam Aadmi” has shown remarkable generosity in subsidising big business houses and SEZs (Special Economic Zones). UPA has tacitly ignored small and medium enterprises which constitute the majority of Indians. The rich-poor divide has widened but yet UPA is singing a tune of good times! In the last five years India has not witnessed economic prosperity but economic regression. This fact can be gauged from Human Development Index of United Nations Development Programme where India’s rank has slipped from 124 to 132 in 2008. Even countries like Bhutan, Algeria, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Iran have performed better than India!
What is the role of UPA government in a British movie with Indian actors? The euphoria over Slumdog Millionaire at best can be described as an act of individual creativity. The movie depicts the story of India’s poor and the bottom-line is the survival spirit of Mumbai. The movie must remind our shameless politicians a fact that gathers dust in government files that at least 30% of India’s population still leaves below the poverty line. There are at least 260 million Indians who still go to bed hungry every night.
The UPA, very subtly, is doing an NDA. It is building a momentum similar to NDA’s India Shining campaign. NDA had pumped 4000 million rupees of Indian taxpayer’s money in the form of advertisement just to communicate Indians how good they are feeling! P. Sainath, rural editor of The Hindu had commented then, “The fastest growing sector in India Shinning is not IT or software, textiles or automobiles. It is inequality.” His comment still holds relevance.
If Congress has miserably failed in its economic policy then BJP has floundered in making it a real issue which affects fellow Indians irrespective of their caste and religion. BJP is still trapped in its stone-age politics despite the fact that its allies have made it abundantly clear that they don’t support BJP’s Ram Janambhoomi movement. The BJP’s poll strategists have forgotten a fact that Indian economy was performing better in NDA’s rule.
None of the political parties have a slogan to communicate what they stand for. Congress does not have a stand to stand on. It is in self-congratulatory mode. BJP reeks of infighting and its Prime Ministerial candidate is behaving like Alice in Wonderland! Mayawati, the touchable politician of India’s untouchables, is doing a Hillary Clinton. Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh Company do not belong to anyone; they only understand the politics of selfishness. Sharad Pawar is a man of vested interests. He can go to any extent to save his party’s interests; even an alliance with Shiv Sena can not be ruled out. Shiv Sena, which used to be like a family managed business has suffered partition. Raj Thackeray, the “stray cub” has begun to bite in order to save Marathi interests.
Slogans have altered the course of history but our political parties are indulging in mud-slinging. None of the parties have a slogan to define themselves and their party’s ideology. In the recent history, two slogans had a profound impact on people all across the world. George Bush Senior, a strong contender for retaining American presidency in 1992, was defeated by a young and charismatic Bill Clinton who coined the famous slogan ‘it’s the economy stupid!’ It highlighted a deteriorating economy which had undergone recession. Bush senior had emerged successful in Cold War and first Gulf war against Iraq but yet it was only on the basis of a powerful slogan his government was brought down.
The second slogan consumed Republican Party of George Bush Junior. Obama’s slogan ‘We need change’ captured the imagination of ordinary Americans who were fed up with a war-infested President and an economy that was on the verge of collapse.
Indira Gandhi knew her party’s slogan; Sonia Gandhi does not have a slogan. L.K. Advani does not know the art of sloganeering! Leftist parties have an old slogan which Prakash Karat is not very keen to modify. Mulayam Singh has fresh slogan for fellow politicians: Hum Saath Saath Hain!
Isn’t it slightly confusing for the fellow Indian voters? The voters want to identify with political parties but not a single party is willing to identify itself with a cause! Each political party is trying to shine its old and rusty ideology but as P. Sainath wrote, “All the shine we work up will not conceal the darkness.”
Is a new light in the form of Third National Front needed to illuminate a new India?
That remains a lucid dream.