The Supreme Court of India has done its best to cleanse the political system in India, which just like our rivers and other water bodies, has become so polluted that its dirtiness is simply accepted as a fact of life. But, what can one do when being dirty and filthy becomes almost like an essential qualification to be a part of politics, and when players playing this dirty game enjoy rolling in filth and slinging muck at each other, refusing to clean themselves or to be cleaned by anyone else? They just want to remain that way.
With so much dirt around them, it has nearly become second nature to wallow in that dirt, and even if a squeaky-clean player would like to play the game called politics, he or she compulsorily has to jump, roll, throw and receive all this muck. Still better is to become an indistinguishable and inseparable part of it if one wants to survive and thrive in the game.
Even the next generations of these players, with aspirations to become part and parcel of the sludge, learn the art or science – doesn’t matter whatever it is, till the time one remains in the game and is entitled to use the maximum quota of muck allotted, with earnest endeavour to push the allocation limit further by playing better to be entitled for more – of this game just by observing, testing it pretty early in their lives, and then taking the plunge at the opportune moment.
At times the complete plan may be disturbed by a person of immense authority – formal or informal, right or wrong – who seldom speaks, and speaks only about highly selective topics – which may be picked up by a programmed computer for random generation of topic, which no seasoned player of the dirty game could have anticipated, otherwise they would have surely researched to find an antidote, or made their best efforts not to make him speak.
This is precisely what happened when Rahul Gandhi termed as ‘nonsense’ the move to promulgate an ordinance to protect criminal-politicians from the ill-effects, as perceived by them, of the Supreme Court decision. Strong words indeed! Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, unarguably would not have bargained for such vitriolic attack when he, of late, had said that he was more than willing to work under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
Dr. Singh did get guidance with severe criticism. The entire team must be ruing the day when they did not consider it necessary to consult the ‘leader’ – under whose leadership they were and are all willing and eager to work – and get his approval and blessings before going public.
The way it has worked is a fantastic illustration of Jeremy Bentham’s dog law. When a dog is punished for doing something wrong, the dog learns that ‘that’ act is undesirable and should not be repeated. So, it is learning post-event. Whether prior or post, it’s good that the penny has dropped.
Complex problems, or simple problems made to look complex, often have simple solutions if something basic and obvious has been overlooked. The ordinance about politics and crime is a case in point. From the beginning it has been based on the premise that criminalisation of politics is acceptable.
That’s not the case. In a true democracy where most of the people are not criminals – as fortunately the case is with India – it should be nobody’s case that criminals can represent the People of India. It would be a mockery of representative democracy coupled with the power of judicial review that the politicians of all hues, shapes and size gang up and blatantly misuse the legislative process for their own personal and selfish gains.
It is a welcome move that one of them – who is not even considered to belong to the mainstream politicians – stood up and said that enough is enough. Whether it is his naivety or a well-planned move, which doesn’t appear to be the case, or a knee-jerk reaction with the “I care a damn what you think” attitude laced with the message “Look, I need to tell you who the real boss is” the political class is not ready to face it.
Now, what next? With egg on their face, and accepting his unbridled authority, will they do what he wishes and says?
Or, will they lose the sight of obvious as to what the people of the country aspire and try to muffle his voice? Both are unlikely scenarios. So, what is the most likely scenario?
The middle path: keep appreciating the work done by Dr Singh, which includes the team; also try to word the ordinance in a deft manner so that the country keeps interpreting it in more than one way; and also the tactical move of using a red herring. The government desperately needs a sensational issue to divert attention from this huge embarrassment for face saving and security of the nation, unfriendly neighbours and global peace always come handy, without fail.
Whatever happens, one thing is sure: the country, as of now, expects much better policy formulation grounded in truth and transparency, and hypocrisy and double-speak may not work. Frank Capra – the famous film maker in 1939 in the movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ – told the story of a patriot naïve going to Washington as a Senator and rocking the boat of scheming businesspersons and politicians. We, in India, today need many Mr. Smiths who don’t lose the sight of obvious.