Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thrishna and Gill; Thrishna and MLAs

Thrishna encapsulates a concept the philosophical sweep of which cannot be captured in the English equivalent, desire. It is like the term agni which is larger, deeper, more multi-layered in its meanings than fire. The English words are essentially literal whereas the Sanskrit terms are civilisational.

Thrishna in its fullest, widest sense is on display in contemporary India. The Bhagvat Gita had seen with astonishing clarity what was going to happen in the 21st century in Bharat that is India. Identifying thrishna as a rajas guna, it tells us that all actions born out of rajas are directed towards securing sensual enjoyment and therefore cause bondage resulting in several lives.

That friendly warning never curbed the thrishna of the Commonwealth Games organisers. All their actions were directed towards self-aggrandisement. Even after the Games, they persist in activities that will lead to bondage. Sports Minister M. S. Gill wanted to go and spend a week in Glasgow to study how Scotland was preparing for the next Games four years away. Why on earth would he want to study that after contributing his share to the mess in Delhi? Fortunately for the tax payer, the Prime Minister shot down Gill’s self-serving desire.

The tragedy of self-seekers is that they can never stop. Nothing is enough. They are never at peace because, as Panchatantra teaches us, only he finds peace who is no tormented by greed. In his thrishna for more and then more, Gill was ready even to compromise his constitutional position. As Chief Election Commissioner, he was obliged to be strictly apolitical and non-partisan. But after he laid down the job, he accepted a political appointment under the Congress party. How are we to know that his decisions as CEC were not influenced by his desire to win that party’s backing in due course?

The last CEC, Navin Chawla, accepted a Governor’s posting as soon as he retired. At least he had no reputation to lose because he was known all along as a star of the Emergency and an unquestioning camp follower of the Congress dynasty. Judges, Speakers and Comptrollers & Auditors General are all supposed to be never beholden to parties. That worthy democratic convention has been roundly violated in our system because of the debilitating power of thrishna.

Sri Krisha was specific when he said that the thirst for pleasure, power and wealth propels people into activities meant to satisfy the desires, then into further activity to acquire more. Krishna equated thrishna with kama and said it was a fire which only burned more when it was fed.

That was a remarkably apt description of what Karnataka’s MLAs were going to do some yugas later. Ironically the aptness has been brought out by the BJP which of course claims copyright on the wisdom of the Gita. When the electorate gave the BJP a minority status in the Assembly in 2008, the party proceeded to acquire a majority status through the simple activity of buying MLAs in the marketplace. That activity has now led to further activity to acquire more MLAs from the open market. The more their kama is fed, the more the fire burns.

Evidently political parties have discovered that buying and selling can effectively defeat both the democratic and judicial systems, especially if you have a colluding Speaker on your side. In the ongoing second round of trading in Karnataka, the going rate is said to be in the range of Rs 50 crore per MLA. That’s more money than the equivalent weight of steel or cement fetches. Electoral reform can end these collective insults to voters. A rule, for example, that an MLA who resigns is disqualified from re-election for the next five years. But to ask legislators to pass rules that curb them is like asking a thief to call the police.

The much-touted “first BJP Government in the South” has certainly created history. The innocent had thought that the culture of the South would change the BJP for the better. In truth, the thrishna of the BJP has changed the South for the worse.