Friday, January 06, 2012

Perception: The only thing that matters in politics

“Show me the man and I’ll show you the rule” – the statement is common parlance in bureaucracy, but this formalism is all the more visible in politics. Logic, allegiance, ideology, principles do not matter. The only thing that is important is perception.

This is precisely the reason why no politician wants to be seen as to be opposing the creation of the Lokpal lest he be perceived to be corrupt, even though it is no secret that covertly they are all working, or at least praying, for it to be a stillborn. The BJP is trying to project itself as the only party which is fighting inside the Parliament for a strong and independent Lokpal while covertly it is making a mockery of the report of the Lokayukta in Karnataka which had indicted the former Chief Minister. Committees after committees are being set up to investigate cases made by the Lokayukta even when the Karnataka Lokayukta has an independent investigation wing which had done its investigation in the matter. At the same time the BJP is playing its caste cards right by keeping Yedurappa close and now in UP, by inducting the tainted Khushwaha, who was expelled from BSP on corruption charges, and projecting him as a backward caste hero of sorts. It’s political double speak is also obvious from the fact that on the one hand it does not allow Parliament to function – the entire winter session was washed away in 2010 – and on the other, it approaches the President to call a special session of the Parliament on Lokpal.

The UPA is trying to project that it introduced a strong Lokpal Bill after wide consultations. While the introduction of the Bill itself could be under public pressure, the consultations have been nothing more than theatrics. The only ones really consulted seem to be the gallery of multitude of lawyers. If the bill in its present form is strong, then we must notify the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary that the word strong has a new meaning.

In election rallies and otherwise it is common for Rahul Gandhi and other Congress Leaders to say that Congress Party and Dr. Manmohan Singh sends crores of rupees to the states giving the perception that the UPA government is doing a favour to the states by giving them what is rightfully and constitutionally theirs. It is not the ancestral money of the Gandhi’s or for that matter of Dr. Singh.

The Congress Party is also trying to project itself as the champion of the religious minorities before the UP elections by talking about 4.5% reservation within the OBC quota and also indicating that it may be increased to 6%, while the Samajwadi Party is opposing it hoping that the minorities forgive him for his association with Kalyan Singh during the last elections and support him in anticipation that he would deliver on his promise of reservation for minorities proportional to their population.

The BSP has declared its support for a strong Lokpal and Chief Minister Mayawati has removed almost 70% of her ministers on charges of corruption, thus projecting herself as a champion of sorts of the anti-corruption drive. But it is doubtful if this delayed action when her government has almost run its course would cut much ice with the people of the state. The question is what she was doing for the past four and a half years. Was she unaware and hence incapable to govern, did she look the other way and choose to be oblivious of the facts while her corrupt ministers looted the state and misused their powers or was she hand in glove with them and now has engaged in theatrics to garner public support? The case is open and the people of the state will pronounce their verdict when election results come in March.

Mamta’s political compulsions do not allow her to exit from the UPA government, but she cannot be perceived toing the UPA line when it comes to matters she has strong opinions about. At the same time, even though the government is getting blackmailed by a very small partner in terms of numbers at every nook and corner, it cannot be seen as yielding ground to a smaller party and hence the bickering of the two parties in West Bengal.

The divide between perception and reality of upholding democratic traditions and principles is obvious from the fact how parties have to issue whips even for discussions on issues relating to ideals and principles. Inner party democracy is a farce or else why would party members be thrown out for only speaking adversely about what their leaders or their heirs say think or do.

In a world where perception becomes the end, why would any party endure the tough job of action? One only hopes that during the coming elections, the electorate proves otherwise and tears through the farce and double speak.


Abhishek Gunjan said...

very nice article dude :) keep it up

Varun said...

Brilliant observations! I guess perception is something that matters everywhere and not just politics. Perception and projection can take people places in an IT industry even though he or she doesn't know the ABCs of it. I hope ppl can look through this perception and vote rightfully this time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chandan,

Very Nice Read.

I am not against Lokpal but Somehow i doubt about its effectiveness. It is going to be agian a check point in the system which is an extra burden on the existing system which needs an overhaul.

The better solution to it would be to improve the existing system rather than adding an additional check point.

Manti Bose said...

Without doubt your post provides a comprehensive opinion about the present debate on strong lokpal bill as well as the fallacies of the UPA Govt. Infact the concept of judging by dint of perception percolates in every aspect of our lives spanning our job appraisals, social strata. so it comes less of a surprise that the world of politics is but ruled by the people's perception of the ruling party's ideology than facts.

Chandan said...

Thanks all.
It is true that perceptions are a significant part of life. However, one politics is not any profession. False perceptions may take an entire country to its nadir.

@Anonymous: I would have loved it if you had published your name. If not anything else, it makes interaction more personal. I couldn't have agreed more with you that the existing system needs fine-tuning or even a complete overhaul. However, the citizenry has no recourse to hold public servants accountable directly. Here is where an ombudsman will come in handy. The courts are paralysed by the sheer count of pending cases and the administration is severely politicised. An independent and strong ombudsman will enforce direct democracy in more ways than the Election Commission or the CAG.