Much as they rant against politicians, the Indian public expects too much of them. They have now set down Arvind Kejriwal as a liar and a fraud after he was found persuading a television interviewer to avoid questions about the corporate sector. Kejriwal feared that his views might anger the middle class. But, this is by no means a one-off case.
Many decades from now, my most vivid memories of elections in my youth will be that of the indelible ink mark on the fingers of conscientious people littering my Facebook newsfeed. According to the Election Commission, the polling rate in the 2014 elections is the greatest in the history of independent India. Before you sing loud hosannas to the voter who carries a part of the Indian society
on his shoulders, remember: voters are like adolescent boys. It is dangerous to give them what they crave.
But then, it is impossible to give voters what they profess to like without aggressing against them, as it is impossible to give the teenage boy what he “craves” without aggressing against the girl. The aggression might as well be worth it if that is what they genuinely want. But, what if it is not? Of course, the difference is that unlike the teenage boys, the sanest among us learn to live with what the average voter chose when he was knocked out of his wits.
Read Should We Celebrate Record Polling? in DNA.
Farming is considered a patriotic enterprise, and nearly half of India’s labour force is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Almost everyone believes that in the election season, political parties should pledge to aid this patriotic endeavor to feed the nation.
But, farming is a risky profession, and agricultural products form only 14% of India’s total produce. After the economic reforms, the growth in agricultural GDP has averaged only 3.4%. Even India’s high inflation is said to be caused by such low agricultural productivity. George Bush had once said that India’s greedy middle class that consumes more than it produces is responsible for the rise in food prices across the world. Now, one of the greatest challenges the new government would face is that of controlling inflation. But, are these claims even plausible?
Read Why Blame The Farmers For Price Rise? in DNA
India is the most populous democracy in the world. It is also the country where young men and women were once hauled away to forced sterilization camps. The youth learned that even the fundamental right to propagate one’s kind could not be taken for granted. But they still had the right to propagate political delusions. In 1977, when Indira Gandhi closed the sterilization camps and called for fresh election, the philosophy of population control was quickly voted out of existence. People marched into the polling booths and voted against it with a feeling of vengeance. But this was a rare moment in the history of Independent India because moral outrage in politics rarely has its roots in the love of liberty and justice.
Read Has The Indian Republic Failed The Youth? in DNA
H L Mencken, who died on January 29, 1956, was the first celebrity intellectual and one of the greatest journalists of all time. He was a witty polymath, and knew more about the American language than almost anyone. Today, the “misogyny epidemic” is much debated in the Indian media and social networking websites, but very few Indians have even heard of Mencken’s scholarly work, “In Defense of Women,” written way back in 1918. Mencken knew that of all the delusions that are close to the heart of men, the most pathetic is their belief that they are intellectually superior to women. Rarely do we see a woman who can expatiate on inflation statistics or predict the size of our economy four decades from now with such great precision, with decimal points. Men are convinced that this makes them superior to women. Mencken held that this is a delusion.
Read Men Smart? Women Smarter! in Business Standard
When an auto rickshaw driver in Karnataka ferried people to the polling booths for free on the Election Day, the media called him a great philanthropist. But, is it self-evident that it is a virtue to vote? Does it make sense to encourage the passive to vote?
The mainstream media celebrates the phenomenon of the people who do not even know their own age registering their opinion on complex policy matters. They are, after all, eager to vote. The underlying logic is irrefutable: “If ignorance does not stop the passengers from pushing the buttons and pulling the levers of the air craft, this must be noble. At least, they are doing something.”
Read my piece, In defense of the passive citizen in DNA.
If voters are decent fellows who are pained by the aggressive vote buying tactics of politicians, it is not hard for them to do something about it. They can easily decide to not vote for the politicians who spend more on advertising and campaigns. Nothing angers people more than the influence of corporations in elections. If politicians have raised money by promising to sell favors to Tata’s and Ambani’s, it is suicidal to vote for politicians who spend more. If voters reasoned like this, politicians will spend as little as possible. Politicians can sell favours only if the voters do not care. If politicians sell favours that anger voters, they will soon be looking for a real job.
Read Does Corporate funding undermine democracy? in DNA.
Several millions of students will enter higher educational institutions in the next one decade. The Human resources development ministry wants to double the gross enrolment ratio in higher education by 2020. The brick-and-mortar colleges in the country are not equipped to meet their needs. Many believe that with higher internet penetration, the demand for online education will grow radically in India. Some even believe that the traditional university system might not survive for long. Though the internet penetration in India is low, in numbers, the number of internet users in India (150 million) is second only to China (575 million) and the United States (275 million), and the numbers are growing radically.
Read Will The Internet Replace Universities? in DNA.
The Hindu nationalists see people of a different religion or ethnicity as rivals. The left-wing politicians perhaps hate the rich far more. But, almost everyone hates foreigners, though they do not always go overboard in expressing their hostility. Democratic politics in India is a lot more complex than that, but this does not change the nature of the issue: Politics is about hatred. Politics is about envy and resentment.
It is hard to think of a popular policy that is not intended at lowering the status of such enemy groups, and raising the status of the in-groups. If you think that the “well-intentioned” redistribution schemes are any different, you are fooling yourself. Hatred is hatred, and resentment is resentment, regardless of who the voters think to be the enemy group, regardless of how they justify their acts.
Read The Politics Of Hatred in DNA
“For liberal intellectuals, it is very tempting to blame Modi for the “politics of hatred”. But, is there any good reason to assume that the vast ethnic massacres, ethnic cleansing and forced sterilisations that underscored post-Independence India like a long trail of blood has nothing to do with the “politics of hatred”?
The philosophy of anti-capitalism too targets “convenient scapegoats” like the foreigners, the corporations and the rich. In practice, though, it ruins the man at the bottom of the income pyramid. It does not occur to liberal intellectuals and journalists that it does not take great virtue or insight to damn a politician who condoned riots. But, if they genuinely cared about social justice, their hearts would have been bleeding for such “convenient scapegoats” too, and not just for the riot victims.
But then, it is worse than a waste of time to blame politicians. Without pandering to popular prejudices, they would not have been elected to power. But, the common man could have easily taken reasonable steps to avoid political ignorance. After all, he has nothing to lose. The liberal intellectuals themselves could have read an elementary text on Economics. They too have nothing to lose, except their friends and those positions of power and influence.”
Read my piece Why do liberal intellectuals hate Narendra Modi? in DNA