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Wednesday, October 27, 2021


Rahul laments mediocrity


Politicians are falling into the lap of mediocrity in dealing with public agitations
Tags : Rahul Gandhi | Congress Vice President | Congress Chintan Shivir | 2014 Lok Sabha polls |


In his debut speech after assuming the official second-in-command position in Congress, Rahul Gandhi was as candid as he was reflective. Never since the days of Rajiv Gandhi more than two decades ago, has such a candid confession emerged from the ranks of the party.

“The existing system is designed to keep people with knowledge out and promote mediocrity. It does not matter how much wisdom you have, if you have no position you mean nothing....why do a handful of people control the entire political space? Why is it that chief ministers appoint a teacher? Why do ministers do what panchayats should have done,’’ wailed the new leader of party that has ruled India for nearly five decades out of total of 65 years of republican life.

What Rahul said was a mix of anguish, self-purgatory “no-more-of it” urge and an appeal for catharsis of the minds of those sitting on the dais. It is important to reflect on Sri Aurobindo, who once said referring to the average politician, “ He does not represent the soul of a people or its aspirations. What he does usually represent is all the average pettiness, selfishness, egoism, self-deception that is about him as well as a great deal of mental incompetence and moral conventionality, timidity and pretence.’’

On this background, Rahul’s pain is not without reason. Ongoing schemes like MNREGA, NRHM, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the proposed Food Security Bill are some of the world’s best direct delivery schemes but corrupt state governments and their agencies pocket entire sums allocated.

In major crisis situations resulting in public outcry, the response of the government has lacked wisdom and were perfunctory, vindictive and dishonest. Let us examine the Anna Hazare movement, a manifestation of collective consciousness against corruption. Falling into a state of self–deception and mental incompetence, the ruling class took a hostile position of “us versus them”. Instead of swimming downstream with collective consciousness of the masses, and thereby taking on corruption, it sought to quell this public anger with force, as if the culprit were the people with Anna Hazare as its leader.

From the prime minister to the ordinary babu in North Block, Anna was branded as a ‘media creation’ or worse, that he had “been planted by the RSS which has exported its workers into the crowd”. This adversarial position continues even today when Sonia Gandhi delivered her opening speech at Jaipur’s “Chintan Shivir”. There was hardly any appeal for a fight-to-finish war against corruption, other than some tangential references.

Take inflation, particularly the problem of food accessibility. India is a country where 21 million tons of wheat (ie 22 per cent of its total wheat production) is wasted due to poor management, mainly due to a lack of godowns, according to a recent report. This waste, coupled with equal damage to rice and other coarse grains, would have taken care of nearly 70 per cent of our total food grain requirements. We waste 40 per cent of fruits and vegetables between growers and consumers for want of refrigerated transport, poor roads and corruption. But the Planning Commission and the Union government fought with the National Advisory Council (NAC) for three years on whether it would be prudent to spend Rs 1.10 lakh crore under this head and whether it would not exacerbate the fiscal deficit – a perceivedred rag to FDI.

A rape in Delhi makes the entire political class jittery not because of the incident per se but on account of its horrific nature as reported by the media and resultant manifest sense of outrage across the country. Initially, the government and the police took it with characteristic nonchalance. Once the media took up the cause and thousands of angry youth laid siege at India Gate marching towards Raisina Hills, the seats of power began to quake. Again, the ruling class first got into the denial mode, then got belligerence and finally became manipulative by accusing innocents for the death of a constable.

The beheading of two Indian soldiers evoked great drawing-room outrage besides high-decibel thunder in TV studios. While the ruling party initially sought to tackle it with its usual pretension of equanimity, belligerent Hindutva forces used it as an opportunity to appeal to its constituency. TV anchors baying for Pakistani blood can be pardoned for their lack of sincerity but not those who decide the destiny of the nation. 

Great jurist Nani Palkhivala in his book Our Constitution Defaced and Defiled says, “At present the main infirmity of democracy is that the only job for which one needs no training or qualification whatsoever is the job of governing and legislating. Election mostly throws either mediocrity or extremism into power”. Well said. 

(Views expressed by the author are personal)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017