Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Rogue Politicians at Their Cynical Worst; Will People's Anger Reach Crisis Point?

Now that the celebratory mood of the New Year has passed, we can take a cool look at what 2011 did to 2012. It did bad things on the business front: growth slowdown, euro crisis, rupee's fall and so on. The ill effects of these will continue to haunt much of the world, triggering not only protectionist policies already initiated in America, but also hate crimes in White countries against non-Whites.

The dead year also did something historically portentous: It brought people out into the street in protest against the selfish rich and the scheming politicians. It was a public rebellion such as the world had not witnessed in recent memory – not even during the turmoil that followed the dismantling of the Soviet Union at the start of the 1990s; that was a revolution from above although it turned later into a revolution from below.

What 2011 saw was a revolutionary surge from below against tyrannical forces above. It brought about bloody regime changes in some countries. In some other countries hated rulers further entrenched their positions through suppression and killings. In many democracies, the honesty and competence levels of elected governments were challenged by those who elected them. The message everywhere was the same: Those who govern can neither ignore nor take for granted those who are governed.

Nothing summed up that message more poignantly than the oft-quoted story of the small man who started it all. This streetside vegetable seller in a small town in Tunisia was fined, then slapped and publicly humiliated by a police woman. The man went away, but returned an hour later to set himself ablaze in the town square. The anger of the masses was aroused and the Arab Spring was under way.

In America it was not humiliation of the citizen that made the worm turn. It was the ugly face of capitalism, hence the name “Occupy Wall Street”, instead of “Occupy the White House”. Globalisation favoured the Fat Cats, the multinationals, the big banks whose CEOs walked off with big bonuses even as their business applied for bankruptcy. People wanted an end to this exploitation.

In India is was public disgust with corruption that turned the people against the system. The reality about corruption in India is that no party and no leader has made any real effort to combat it, not even the few leaders who were known for their personal integrity. It was as though the system of venality, turpitude and deception was so deeply entrenched that no leader or party could dare to oppose it. When generations of leaders functioned on that premise and decades passed with corruption only getting wider and deeper and more brazen, Hazare happened.

Infuriatingly politicians assume that voters are for fooling, that all the people can be fooled all the time. Look at the happenings in UP. Murderers and rapists were proudly flaunted as cabinet ministers by Mayawati. For more than four years they were allowed to violate all laws and, as the Comptroller and Auditor General reported, misuse public funds in PWD, Housing, Excise, Animal Husbandry, Medical, Family Welfare. After this prolonged plunder, just as the election schedule is announced, she dismisses some plunderers, rapists and murderers. Does she see the people of her state as mules?

We can put the question to the BJP bosses as well because that party quickly absorbed into its ranks several of the dismissed plunderers. The rejects of Mayawati will now be the heroes of the Party With a Difference, now renamed One More Party of Hypocrites. What a cynical abuse of elections? How crude can these manipulators get?

Politicians do not realise that people have started seeing through their trickery. The anger of those who took to the street all over India will intensify as rogue politicians grab power through deceipt and intrigue. The neutralisation of good men like Manmohan Singh and the indifference of power-wielders like Sonia Gandhi will aggravate public discontent. What shape will the Indian Spring take, and when?