Petty Politicians' Tit For Tat Mantra

Chiranjit Banerjee

My residential school had both formal and informal rules of engagement that were spelt out upfront (within hours and not just days of being admitted) by the school authorities and the senior boys respectively. The latter usually had the blessings of the establishment even though some of it may have been covert. I still vividly recall one of the several missives that my school mentor (who was all of thirteen even as I was within touching distance of twelve) held out very sternly for me, “ Don’t ever try to take a lift from Bengali boys senior to you and don’t dare speak in your mother tongue while on school campus.” In short, there was going to be no patronage racket on identity lines at the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC). Its unsurprising that some of the dearest friends that I ended up making in those life defining five years are not Bengalis. At every juncture, our masters and prefects reminded us to rise above our origins and identities. There was simply no room for pettiness in school.

But when I look around at our political leaders, one only sees them jostling for unfair advantages, whether for themselves, their families, their parties or their cronies. They fail to rise from the quagmire of their sharply etched identities, time after time. The other manifestation of pettiness laced with vendetta that dots Indian politics is the "tit for tat" governance model. You sent the enforcement agencies after our financiers, we will return the compliment; you handpicked servile governors, our appointees will touch newer lows; you ran caste based patronage rackets in the higher bureaucracy, we are entitled to our favorites; you promoted judges aligned to your thought process, so will we; the cultural institutions were taken hostage by your camp followers, our ideologues will follow suit; you muzzled the media, we will silence them forever.  

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Most of India likes to march to the beat of the humdrum lowest common denominator. The exhilarating strain of the high note is not for them. Every morning, the papers point to yet another politician (or for that matter bureaucrat or industrialist) falling in the esteem of those who put nation before self. When regimes change, business analysts take only a few minutes to profile those cronies who are likely to profit from the incoming administration and also those who would come to grief. Ditto for bureaucrats, police officers and tax sleuths. It is all about “either yours or mine” and never “ours”. That’s how polarized India has come to be in these seventy tumultuous years of independence. It feels like we have had only partisan Chief and Prime Ministers who only cared for the formations supporting them. Leaders who were once considered beyond reproach are now being reviled in this “tit for tat” downward spiral that seeks new depths every day.

Rising does not fetch you as many votes as stooping does. This is being abundantly proved by the coarse narrative on social media where venom circulates more vigorously than camaraderie. Hate mongers rally constituents far more easily than statesmen do. It feels like even as some of us were being motivated to rise in school, most others were being nudged to fall. Most of our billionaires made their fortunes by falling from grace as the continuing exposes on their misdeeds surface. As did our politicians. And as tit for tat continues unabated, we could soon be feeding on the carcass of the nation in making.

 

(The writer is a Corporate Consultant, based in Bengaluru)

Comments   

0 #1 Erhard Rodrigues 2018-05-27 14:34
This beautifully articulated note resonates the bitter truth of today’s polity. Hope it spreads widely and gets the required visibility.

Many thanks Chiranjit !
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