Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Elections 2009 – II

The good was, of course, the freshness of youth. Young MPs have been in focus and to many this is sure sign that politics of this country will change for the better. But this optimism is paradoxical. The good and bad are not that distinct perhaps. Vir Sanghvi has made a point. Most of the young MPs are actually second- or third-generation politicians, heirs of a family business. Commenting on this he says, "A disturbing proportion of them were born into political families." Disturbing indeed, as he goes on to name the political heirs running the nation. And mind you, not all are young : Farooq Abdullah, Prithviraj Chavan, Salman Khurshid, Dayanidhi Maran, Selja, G.K. Vasan, M.K. Azhagiri, Parneet Kaur, Ajay Maken, Bharatsinh Solanki, D. Purandeshwari , Tushar Choudhary, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Jitin Prasada, R.P.N. Singh, Prateek Patil, Agatha Sangma, D. Napoleon. And then Sanghvi goes on to name other dynasties. Naveen Patnaik, Chandrababu Naidu, H.D. Deve Gowda and his son. I think he gave a special thought to this sentence when he wrote about the Badals: "In Punjab, the Akali Dal is a family business run by Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and his millionaire son, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal." I found that truly amusing. He points out dynasties in BJP: Vasundhara Raje, whose son Dushyant Singh is an MP, Manvendra Singhand so on. Towards the end of his Counterpoint in today's Hindustan Times he makes a chilling observation:
But family-dominated politics is a closed shop. Entry is open only to those with the right credentials of birth. Outsiders are banned from entering. And slowly but surely, true democracy is replaced by a kind of feudalism in which the peasants are given the right to choose between various aristocrats. The peasants can never enter the ruling class because the wrong blood flows in their veins.

Good and bad are in front of us. Intertwined. Can we begin a process of untangling the two? Sanghvi pins his hope on the "dynast" to free politics from the clutches of "dynastyism". But shouldn't the reviver search for talent beyond the obvious quarters. Maybe he is doing his best. But maybe the aam aadmi shoudl do his bit. Perhaps there is a way the youth of this country can serve in politics despite the lack of the dynastic patronage. That will be good indeed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Elections 2009 — I

Let's start with the ugly. That's easiest to spot. While in the NDA rally in Ludhiana on 10 May, Nitish Kumar clasping Narendra Modi's hands was a slimy sight, what was uglier than that was Badal Junior, Sukhbir, hugging the Gujarat chief minister. As a member of a minority community that suffered state-sponsored pogrom, one wonders how Sukhbir could embrace that shameless trader of death. What values, or lack thereof, does this espousal exhibit? That's for students of politics to decipher. I would go back to poetry. To a poem to be exact that my friend Laltu wrote after the Gujarat riots of 2002. The poem was in Hindi. Here is my English translation that I discovered recently on my hard drive.

It's too late

Little black drops can be seen from afar
Sitting in the bus we overlook them
Assured no matter how difficult the journey may be
In the end each one will get back home

The cold that freezes on the windowpanes
Pushes us close together
We don't know that what rains out there
Is clotted blood; even the blood of the real
That burns
And we still smell it in coals of memory
No longer startles us
Suddenly the bus turns on a bend
And with a start we wake up

The sound must be of the clouds
We think and our bus
Plunges in chemical smoke
It's too late
By the time we see
Written on each other's faces.

© Laltu

Monday, May 11, 2009

Key to the Deadlock

Deadlock is a curious situation. The whole universe is caught in a state of an intriguing impasse. Nothing is really happening. Nothing of consequense, that is. Yes, there are terrible things happening, like the massacre in Sri Lanka, but if one looks closely, this is a stage in deadlock where one contending faction has made a manoeuvre and the other is going to respond soon to neutralize it. And by factions I don't mean Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE. In old-fashioned terms, in T.S. Eliot's words

The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil

There is a fight of principles. Each has a bag of good and evil mixed, out of which they hurl the sin-stained clusters of their innocence on the other. A lot is happening in Nepal, Pakistan, the general election in India too and far off three ladies (four, if you count his mother, or some failed love affair) have pushed the success of one man in South Africa. But is there a breakthrough in sight? There is a seeming movement though. People are wanting to get married. Houses are being bought. A friend is graduating in the USA. Another one is going for poetry reading in Europe, despite the fact that poetry makes nothing happen. Now the latter phrase is W.H. Auden's who was a 'committed' poet himself and wrote that line to commemorate another 'committed' poet (W.B. Yeats). Poetry does not break the deadlock. Poetry, in fact, is the mainstay of any deadlock, promising deliverance, yet not delivering on the promise. It is the opium of the aesthete. It gives hope. It defers the fruit of that hope. Yet in this janus-faced relationship with deadlock and hope, poetry performs a useful function. It helps survive in the deadlock, in the eye of the storm. Auden comes to mind again as in his "Musée des Beaux Arts", he highlights the co-existence of suffering and indifference, the deadlock of apathy and tragedy. This record, this recognition compels endurance, the grandest virtue for this age. There are few things possible, perhaps, only in poetry.

It's 11 May today and by sheer coincidence I chanced upon this little gemstone of a poem by Joel, which, incidentally, he wrote on this very day many years ago, when 'existentialism' was in vogue and people typed not on computer (which means I exercised my editorial discretion while italicizing "can" and "may" at the end).


Always, of course
One chooses: the eternal
Curse of the blessing of free will.

One may praise
If one wants to,
One may not die
If one wants to

One always can
But not always may

© Joel V David