I’ve been associated with politics since I was born because of my father. But unlike some of my colleagues, I was never raised to get into politics. I witnessed politics first hand and got immersed in it only around 2002-’03. A decade ago, criticism of politicians was a globally accepted norm. There was still some respect associated with politics. Now, I see the profession is hated and treated with a lot of disrespect and disdain. Even globally you see a lot of anger towards the political establishments in many countries.
Technology has united people and given them a voice which is a very good development. In India, if you are doing something out of the ordinary in politics there is no reward, the mechanism has gone out of the window. What of those politicians who are not megalomaniacs? What about those who are not into politics for personal power, legal or illegal, and are driven by the fact that they can actually do something? What do they expect? I speak for myself when I say that you don’t expect to be rewarded for doing your job. But you do expect some reward, maybe on the electoral front, for doing something out of the ordinary. However, that reward mechanism too has gone out of the window.
During the last 10 years, people have wanted to be associated with politics. Today, I see a contempt towards the entire political fraternity. Also, I fear that there are two kinds of politicians. Politicians who are good people but are completely indecisive and politicians who don’t care about what the Delhi and Mumbai circuit thinks of them. Both in my view are dangerous for the nation.
Coming to the Indian society, there is one section that is educated, has access to the Internet and mobile telephony and social media. They see themselves as part of the global community and have very high expectations from the political class. In the last couple of years, you saw the non-political movements come about, and then they morphed into political movements and lost credibility in the process.
People were upset with all political parties. They realised that the alternative didn’t have solutions to India’s problems. The electorate went back to choosing the best out of the people that they had discarded earlier. The new emerging section of India’s electorate is louder and larger in numbers and is vociferously demanding its space. I think that people have been ignorant of the political process. For example, a lot of the urban middle class, who didn’t vote, are angry at their own apathy towards the political class. This has led to more accountability and in turn more pressure on professions such as the media. But I feel that this section still needs to mature. When they participate more in elections, they will begin to understand that the system has flaws but can be steered in the right direction. The system doesn’t have to be dismissed entirely. The demographic changes in India have led to incredible social changes and that has affected the way people vote, the way they see politics, the way the media has played its role. This has created a completely different political environment today. It’s very different from what existed 10 years ago. I have to tell myself everyday that the challenges I saw in 2002 when I got into politics don’t exist anymore. And if I don’t do that, I’ll be irrelevant very soon.
(Deora is Union Minister of State, Communications & IT and Shipping)
As told to Shutapa Paul