Too many Politicians; too few Statements?

Jun 12, 2011     Posted under: Current Affairs

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One of the paradoxes confronting contemporary Indian political scene is the large number of politicians (more so with the induction of the youth) and the virtual absence of statesmen of caliber. In fact this situation presents a contrast with pre-independence days when India could boast of a long list of prominent statesmen ranging from Ram Mohan Roy to Lokmanya Tilak and on to Gandhi, Nehru, Netaji and Patel.

This phenomenon of a plethora of politicians whose horizons are narrow, interests are particular and perspective rarely futuristic can be ascribed to the changes in the functioning of our political structure and in the society. It is simultaneously the cause and effect of malaise affecting both.

In pre-independence times the political and cultural goals were diffused and idealistic. They could subordinate to themselves the specific goals of particular communities or regions. Hence, one found leaders like Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel whose vision encompassed not only the whole of India but also looked beyond the immediate present.

However in the past –independence period when these diffused and idealistic goals had to be translated into specific goals, politics in India became qualititatively different. Although we adopted parliamentary form of government we did not have sufficient training in it nor did the structure of our caste –ridden society had in-built channels of secular mobilization. Resultantly in the “politics of scarcity”, primordial means came to be employed for achieving secular means. Thus arise caste and communal leaders.

This cost-based politics soon put value based politics in the background. The new genre of leaders or the politicians of our reference became so electoral-central in their approach that national consideration became secondary.

Another factor for this phenomenon was that while there was unprecedented cultural renaissance in respect of regional languages and cultures no systematic effort was made to cultivate the perception of Indianness.

The paradox with which we are faced is also the result of a lop-sided development in the functioning of our government. The failure of national opposition parties has led to anti-congress elements to restart to regionalism. In such politics emergence of statesmen becomes a near impossibility. The Congress Party, too , must share a blame because its highhandedness in the imposition of Hindu in Tamil Nadu, insensitivity to Andhras in pre- NTR Andhra Pradesh and maldistribution of portfolios at Center. These have strengthened regionalism. However, the objective remains that workers of several regional parties are frogs in the well and cannot provide the social base for statesmen.

The need to stem the rot is imperative. A simple solution is not possible. But attempts can be made through a proper mix of centralization and decentralization, through some drastic changes in the electoral system, changes in the system of administration. Besides values of national integration and such allied diffuse and idealistic goals should be given the primacy through voluntary agencies. A responsible media, too, can play a constructive role. In such a congenial atmosphere one can expect a number of statesmen to come and guide the nation to the 21st century.

NitiN Kumar Jain

Nitin works in an IT MNC professionally but blogs and owns NKJ Live. He is also the co-owner of a professional start-up ARGHAM BYTES

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