Politics today is, as it has always been, the art of wining power. The problem with it now, though, is that there is no restriction on just how this power is won. This has resulted in ballooning of cases of horse trading with party hijacks and resort politics being the slick new techniques used to reach goal. Perhaps Ambrose Bierce was right when he called politics a ‘strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.’
Hostilities between political parties are a common knowledge. Conflicts are often far beyond the pale but our politicians have truly outdone themselves when it comes to finding ways to steal elections from those backed by people’s mandate — and they have the gall to justify it.
It all started back in 1982 in Haryana when a regional challenger, the Indian National Lok Dal led by Devi Lal — perhaps for the first time someone not from the Congress party — gave rise to the debauched technique of ‘politics in paradises’ to save the party members from the possibly malevolent intentions of their opposition party, the Congress. Since then this deplorable mechanism was used in 1983, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2019 and already in 2020. It has consistently facilitated and abetted this genre of politics and no party today can claim to be irreproachable in good conscience.
Unfortunately, in this gamble, the victim is not the reputation (or lack of it) of the political classes, but instead, the great city of Bengaluru, Karnataka’s capital and India’s Silicon Valley. The city not only plays host to millions, rich or poor, who earn their livelihood in its bustling localities; it also is hostage to the mendacious and fraudulent political trend in question. When politics goes on in paradises, Bengaluru is the paradise.
Even today’s modern democracies lack alert, vigorous citizenry that could block such politics in paradises. There is no miracle cure to either the absence of political trust in society or the poor political behaviours birthing cynicism and strangling faith in governments. Hardly any professionalism has been injected into politics even after Mr Modi’s clarion call to end politics after elections and get down to business with governance. The concerns of the political classes include neither a better balance between partisanship and bipartisanship for good governance nor attempts to address the falling trust in the system that puts them in power in the first place.
Though our democratic system is resilient, it is not inviolable. It is under a constant stress and seems to be driven by the political classes who subscribe to the idea that the end justifies the means. If politics and politicians today cannot rise to more honourable heights, they should at least have the politeness to not drag Bengaluru down with them.
(The writer is a political analyst and professor of political science, Karnatak University, Dharwad)