Saturday, May 23, 2009

The ‘Family First’ farce of politicians


Original Cartoon curtsy : Kumudam

From the sublime to the ridiculous. From the orderly conduct and salutary results of the election, to the ugly scramble for portfolios by our greedy politicians. How selfish are these “leaders”, how narrow their minds.

The coalition setup in the last five years was marred by the blackmailing tactics of the junior partners in the Government. Some ran their portfolios as private fiefdoms. The Prime Minister seemed to have no voice even when ministers like T.R.Baalu and A.Raja took highly questionable decisions that attracted charges of massive corruption. When an alliance minister is answerable only to his party boss and not to the Cabinet, it is coalition adharma.

There were several paragons of corruption in the last Government. But the DMK was special because it projected the view that India was just a part of Tamil Nadu and Tamil Nadu a part of the family estate. How else can we explain the DMK’s proprietorial demand of nine specified berths?.

Don’t forget that the proposed ministerial list was headed by son Azhagiri, daughter Kanimozhi and grand-nephew Dayanidhi. Isn’t a modicum of administrative experience necessary for a minister in such a vast and complex country as India? Azhagiri’s experience is confined entirely to the streets of Madurai. Kanimozhi has hardly ventured beyond poetry. Yet, they are fit to be rulers of our great country because their father loves them.

But then, do we have a right to fault Karunanidhi if he puts his family’s interests above his country’s? The Family First thesis was elevated by Indira Gandhi into a major plank of patriotism in India. The promotion of sons, daughters, wives, nephews and girlfriends has become the most outstanding feature of our democracy. Politics is the preferred family business today.

The Congress continues to spearhead this idea. Look at the way the Prime Minister publicly pleaded with Rahul Gandhi to accept a ministerial position. See how every Congressman attributes the present victory to Rahul Gandhi’s brilliant campaigning and brilliant tactical thinking. Manmohan Singh is hardly given any credit although his quiet efficiency and clean image have been major factors in the Congress victory.

To be sure, Rahul Gandhi is an energetic modern-minded young man and therefore an asset to political India. So are Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot, Navin Jindal, Jitin Prasada, Priya Dutt and Supriya Sule. But so, too, are Shubhra Saxena, Sharandeep Kaur Brar and thousands of others. The first lot got on top because they are the children of their fathers. Not the second lot.

Shubhra Saxena came first out of nearly 12,000 men and women who wrote the final IAS examination this year. She has IIT background and international work experience which makes her, in terms of qualification and ability, equal to the Deora-Pilot-Jindal-Gandhi lot. But she won’t be on top of the political heap because she is middle class and her father and husband are neither famous nor wealthy. Same with Sharandeep who came second in the all-India rankings.

For that matter, someone like Indira Nooyi (of Pepsico fame) was once reported favourably disposed to a political appointment in the US. Why are such people of proven quality not available to the political leadership in India? At best they can only become unseen, unheard-from backroom advisers, like Sam Pitroda is to Rahul Gandhi.

Our system is strong enough and will eventually triumph. But the first step to that victory is the recognition that political power as a family right is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. Thanks to Indira Gandhi, it has became a reigning concept in India. The concept gives opportunities only to those who have the right fathers. It is bad for India. It must go.