Hypocrisy Unlimited

Politics of Compromise

Manas Bakshi

Socio-political developments in Indian polity, especially in the recent past, have caused concern more than ever before. In the absence of a fruitful economic policy paving the way for employment, eradication of poverty and illiteracy, security of life and health, elimination of nepotism and corruption from public life, it is but tomfoolery to think of a smooth sailing of life at socio-political level. What is more, people are being driven towards a situation that enslaves them into a compromised equation with inconsistencies just to scratch out a living. And indubitably, in these doldrums, most affected is the mindset of middle and lower middle class people.

Now, how far the secular fabric of India has remained lucent when it is about to complete 75 years of independence is a point to reckon with in the present socio-political perspective. When a particular state or the country as a whole is on the precipice of a lopsided economy crippled by black money power and economic offences, the safest way available to a politician, irrespective of his colour to save his skin from the agitators on whatever ground—political, social or religious—is to deflect the attention of the people, already ridden with the maladies like price hike, unemployment, palm assignments and nepotism, towards politics of polarisation from the main issues. It needs politics of compromise with the religious sentiment of either majority or minority section of the people.

It goes without saying that infuriating people of one section or community against the religious sentiment of another is an often-used tool people are all aware of but hardly feel the urge to combat unitedly. Instead, people fall in its trap; because due to lack of basic education and socio-political awareness, it is easy to exploit the religious sentiment of one section for inciting it against another with some apparently attractive measures. Sometimes, it is playing the card of dole politics; sometimes it is by raising hope in the policy of appeasement. For the power wielder has to enjoy the benefit of vote bank politics while befooling a larger section of the illiterate masses with fake promises. But true to say, dole politics or politics of appeasement serves no such purpose as is ultimately beneficial to the minority community or any other backward class. Sachhar or Mishra committee report has made it glaringly evident. The need is to provide them with proper education, and liberation from unhealthy conditions of living and joblessness. But ironically, it has not happened like that; rather people are getting attuned to politics of compromise in more ways than one.

First comes criminalisation of politics. Criminalisation of politics and politicisation of religion for cheap populism and/or political gains have become the order of the day. In India, MPs and MLAs accused of criminal cases are no less in number today; so much so that the Supreme Court is reportedly looking for “ways to end criminalisation of politics”. Economic offenders like Vijay Malya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi apart, Mafia dons involved in coal, stone, sand scandals and the smugglers at the border areas are swelling in number. And this, despite the provisions in Prevention of Money Laundering Act while political leaders who appear overtly vocal about such issues hardly turn a hair in the real world since they know it for certain who to bank on to come victorious in electoral politics.

Next comes the art of adopting the politics of compromise for political gains using religion as a tool. It was observed during the assembly election, 2021, in West Bengal that the candidates of the contesting parties toed the same line of action for earning confidence of the electorate vulnerable to religious sentiment. Visiting the temple of Lord Shiva or goddess Kali, chanting mantra from Sri Sri Chandi before beginning with their election campaign became part of programme of the candidates concerned—whichever the party. For instance, on 12-03-2021, a BJP candidate at a Kali temple at Debra in Midnapur offered puja before starting her election campaign. It was followed by the TMC candidate there the very next day. This episode was repeated at some other places as well.

The question remains was it out of devotional urge or religious faith or just to cause titillation to religious sentiment of a particular community to strengthen their individual vote bank on religious basis—clearly indicating politics of compromise with religion? There is another aspect. One wonders whether there is a ray of hope—in Md Salim’s ascendency to the post of the secretary of West Bengal state committee of the CPI(M)—of regaining the minority base of political support to the party it is said to have lost substantially to TMC at the time of last assembly election. The point cannot be brushed aside if viewed in the context of the Panchayat election in West Bengal to be held in 2023.

Admittedly, politics of compromise is not restricted to religious emotions only. Sometimes it involves ideological standpoint also. For instance, the rally of CPI (M) on 23 January 2020 at Kolkata on the occasion on Netaji’s birthday was indicative of a 90 degree U turn on part of the party which once called him ‘quisling’. Even Tagore was not spared the stigma of a bourgeois poet by some of the extra revolutionary forces of West Bengal in the seventies. Nothing could be more astounding.

Pity is if politics of compromise—seemingly a must for a political party likely to sweep polls— reaches such extent that someone has to wear a fez to prove himself Muslim friendly, then—as a Maulavi at Park Circus has rightly pointed out—will the person concerned exact khatna to display his love or feeling for Islam? While at the time of crossing side from one party to another, one’s credibility in obeisance to the party he/she owed allegiance to is in question, loss of trustworthiness and ideological bankruptcy of many a so-called leader have become prominent as daylight. While on the one hand, it is for a political carrier together with greed for power and a better position in the ruling force to satisfy oneself and his followers than anything beneficial to the people, it is also meant for broadening the scope for unbridled defection at the time of election, on the other.

And politics of compromise taking various shapes and colours is not secluded but a ubiquitous phenomenon in so far as some leaders even at the national level opt for taking meal at a Dalit’s house at the time of election only to forget their miseries afterwards. Politics of compromise sometimes hints at politics of opportunism when political parties raising voice against CAA or in support of a Bandh called by Sanjukta Kisan Morcha maintain a stance of equidistance in the hour of need. Unfortunately, democratic values too have ebbed away where dissent is gagged; conscience of the civil society is impaired. Even middle class intelligentsia seems to have lost its voice before money and muscle power. It may be questioned who are the intellectuals? Those who were in a procession in protest against a misdeed of an earlier regime were mostly in expectation of a position in the cultural or academic field if the party of their choice came to power. It takes no time to switch over setting aside political or ideological values if it happens otherwise. For, they know how to keep mum when it is their duty to speak out. When shall people be alert to the hypocrisy of the politicians and intellectuals to free themselves from the tentacles of politics of compromise or politics of opportunism?

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Vol 55, No. 14-17, Oct 2 - 29, 2022