Few months ago, there was a survey done by a Facebook Page that I follow which asked a simple question – what ails Indian politics? Scrolling through the numerous answers posted by the page followers, I noticed three Cs that kept recurring – Corruption, Casteism and Communalism. In couple of months we as a nation would turn 75, yet these three Cs continue to haunt us.
The sad state of affairs today is that contestants from all leading parties distribute cash during elections. The only difference being the amount doled out. While one may easily dismiss this by saying the voter can take money from all yet cast his vote as per his discretion, what we usually fail to understand is the new normal it has set in terms of political campaigning pre-elections and governance post-elections. When every other politician in high office seems to be involved in corruption, the disenchantment and apathy it leads to can have anything but a hard-hitting impact on the political landscape.
Today, the cost of election campaigning is so high that let alone the poor, even the middle classes are booted out of participating in this expensive affair. It is said that in order to run a decent election campaign for an assembly seat in Telangana and to even be in the consideration set, one needs to shell out at least Rs. 20 Crores. Now with such money being spent, what else can we expect the politicians to do once elected?
However, to dismiss this as a problem only peculiar to politics would miss the point that corruption has seeped into the mores and values we believe in. As parents and teachers we encourage our wards to cheat in the exams to get good scores. We break traffic rules recklessly, construct houses illegally and bribe the bureaucrats with such nonchalance that expecting anything else from the politicians who come from the same society would be wishful thinking. Would it be possible for us as citizens to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing, no matter whether we can get away with an unethical alternative and no matter the inconvenience and consequences it may cause? Perhaps, what we need is ethical training and a tight slap once in a while.
Is caste annihilation possible and more importantly desirable? Caste perhaps is not the problem, caste discrimination could be the root cause of the charade we see everyday as our politicians hop from one caste meeting to other. No election is complete without the contestants trying to woo and cajole the caste groups by offering them the sky. In Telangana, things reached a peak in the recent times as certain castes were distributed free sheep as they have been traditionally rearing sheep, while certain castes were prioritised for issuing wine shops as they have been traditionally into toddy production. Now, is the state supposed to stereotype and silo the discriminated castes or help break them the shackles of poverty and humiliation?
However, is it the politicians who bring caste into politics or is it us in the society who have deeply entrenched caste biases? Having pride in one’s caste identity or working towards upliftment of those discriminated against is one thing, but making it the only identifier to define oneself and thousands of others is another thing. Perhaps, the destitute in the ‘upper castes’ may have more in common with the downtrodden in the ‘lower castes’ than the richer segments of ‘upper castes’. Would it be even possible for us to create a society where caste becomes just one other identity we don rather than defining and dominating our very existence? What good has come to any one us by playing coy to the vote-bank politics?
Using religion to drum up the passions at the expense of constructive debate on development has become a common theme these days in Indian politics. Wouldn’t a Muslim today have more common with a Hindu today than with a Muslim king who ‘desecrated’ a temple centuries ago? What reparations can one look at when all of us are travelling in the same boat of increasing unemployment, poverty and inequality?
Would it be possible for us to ever keep religion and spirituality a private affair and make Indian politics truly secular. Would it be possible for us to be proud of Ashoka and Akbar equally, while denouncing the caste prejudices and communal discord of yesteryears?
If we need to make the next 25 years count, it is for us as a society to bring into debate these three Cs of corruption, casteism and communalism and think of addressing them first at the social and cultural level. If there are any directive principles that are paramount today, they are to be ethical in conduct and to have compassion towards the less fortunate, even as we learn to co-exist and live in this country we all call as ours!