How to Clean the Plates!

The political calendar in India is something that gets extra attention during election season. And parties are gearing up to celebrate the coming election festival while adjusting their strategy of inaction by switching policy focus to their respective areas of strength. All are too eager to address unemployment, education and other important challenges that disturb ordinary people. Interestingly enough, most political parties, irrespective of their ideological stance are united to protect their time-tested right to lie. In other words they would like to retain their privilege to dupe voters by promising limitless generosity in their poll manifestoes. Major parties barring Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of the redoubtable Ms Mayawati opposed the move by the Election Commission to impose restrictions on them in announcing freebies in election manifestoes. The Commission was actually reacting to a recent Supreme Court judgement seeking guidelines about such promises in the form of poll manifestoes before polls. The all important verdict came in the process of disposal of a special leave petition on 5 July, challenging the freebies announed by the Tamilnadu government. Representations of five national parties and 23 regional parties, including minor outfits like NCP and LJP, that attended the special meeting convened by the Election Commission, vehemently opposed the idea of making election manifestoes sensible and realistic, by not promising the moon to the voters on the eve of every poll. It doesn’t matter whether it is a parliamentary poll or a local level election they are ready with their manifestoes full of promises. They have no responsibility in explaining whether promises are realisable or not. Poll without charity business is unthinkable as banias of all sorts believe in ‘give and take’ philosophy. After all everybody forgets what politicians said during election campaign. Manifestoes over the years may make a curious reading because they are not meant for implementation. Also, parties cutting across their ideological divides are not in favour of the Supreme Court verdict against curbing criminalisation of politics. As expected the Congress-led UPA government moved the apex court seeking a review of its July 10 judgements disqualifying MPs and MLAs on being convicted and debarring arrested persons from contesting elections. In other words parliamentary culture as it is in India, is unlikely to change for years to come. This is the only area where they think there is no need of ‘reforms’. And without reforming this system all the tall talks of fighting corruption in high places sounds hollow. In reality corruption starts with poll manifestoes that are full of lies and untruths. As things are the system will be run the way it is being run, notwithstanding legal activism. Then they have the usual tactical manoeuvring of diversion.

They can always engineer communal riots—under one pretext or another, as it is happening in Jammu at the moment. Also, it is simply a matter of minutes, if not seconds, to make the Indo-Pak border hot which in turn fuels jingoism across the length and breadth of the sub-continent. Allegations and counter-allegations by India and Pakistan about violation of the cease-fire along the Line of Control [LoC] are so routine that people on both sides of the fence seem to have reconciled themselves with the hard reality that they will have to live in a situation of ‘No War, No Peace’, for generations to come. The ruling elites in New Delhi and Islamabad as well need enemies for their survival. The so-called peace process between these two hostile neighbours is just a diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy as it will never deliver. They cannot make two parallel lines meet.

So long as LoC is not accepted by both sides as a permanent international border, it is next to impossible to avoid border skirmishes which are essentially aimed at expanding real estate. And without an amicable solution to the vexed question of Kashmir left by history, border clashes are bound to recur from time to time. And clashes mean security personnel on both sides will die while people will suffer in cross-fire. Parties in power as also in Opposition are not really averse to continuing conflict because it helps them to divert public attention from market mayhem to border mayhem, particularly during election season. For the sub-continentals it is more than a military strategy.

Peace movement has never been a part of political agitation in this part of the globe. Even the left looks reluctant to encourage people to people initiatives by some civic groups to expose the fact that there is a good deal of planning in keeping the enemy perception in both countries alive. As a result the Indo-Pak friendship movement has been a non-starter right from the beginning.

Pakistan is basically ruled by the military. Not that civilian rulers in Pakistan are less jingoistic than their military counter-parts. In truth Pakistani decision-makers consider a military-first policy and nuclear development as essential in riding itself of an Indian military threat, and also as the pre-condition for concentrating on economic growth. But the ‘rationality’ of the original intention of possessing superior military capability cannot cover side-effects and high cost.

What is true of Pakistani Generals is equally true for Indian ‘Democrats’. Cultural exchanges between the two countries have been a casualty of continuing jingoism and conflict. And without cultural exchanges, no lasting peace and democracy movement can emerge in the sub-continent. As it is election time it is quite logical that communal passion and volatile border will get currency.

Vol. 46, No. 7, Aug 25-31, 2013

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