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Power Politics

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The practitioners of power, particularly at the highest levels, naturally have a perspective quite different to that of the common man. Their goals are beyond the commoner’s daily struggle to make ends meet. While it may be thought that priorities today are economic growth, the politicians know better. While lip-service has to be paid to ‘public service’, they know well that far more important is the issue of which contracts are going to whom; what impact policy change would have on the earnings in which sectors; and, of course, what the prospects are of getting a party ticket in the next election. So, a good politician has to live simultaneously in two states of being. Traditionally, it has been a very carefully structured world, built up over the decades to extract votes from the electorate with as little effort as possible. ‘Development’ has been substituted increasingly with raiding the public exchequer to distribute all sorts of goodies based on feedback about local conditions – from saris to laptops to mobiles to loan waivers, even cheaper rations. After all, there is moral sanction to extort from the tax-paying rich post-election, even to the point of destroying industry and enterprise. Of course, those who don’t pay taxes cannot be touched as they invariably are exempt for one reason or another – a ‘creamy layer’ as it were that even a surgical strike like demonetisation cannot undo. The coming up of a parallel world of anarchic freedom in cyberspace has proved a great inconvenience. There is such a temptation to go the Chinese or Pakistani way and block the medium. An increasing number of the youth marches now to a different drum-beat altogether. Will its maverick ways impact upon the all important function of life – the elections? While the two major ‘national’ parties are overtly taking cognisance of the medium, it is confined actually to directing personal abuse. There doesn’t seem to be appreciation enough of the emerging culture it represents, which is sharp-edged, irreverent and highly opinionated. In the essence, it is obligated to nobody.
How much will the new circumstances impact on the purposes and practice of politics in even a small state like Uttarakhand? Are the two major parties in a position to undergo the necessary transformation – thereby acknowledging youth participation – or will faith be on the usual caste and community combinations? The Congress hopes to rule with the help of ‘others’. There is potential for a substantial shift in urban areas towards unconventional alternatives and these require acknowledgement from the political class. Unfortunately, there is little evidence of this happening with the necessary level of sophistication. The youth will be distressed to note that the same old, much discredited, candidates are being sought to be recycled for the Lok Sabha contest, particularly by the challengers. Can the people afford to invest in the politics of change just for the sake of change? The people of the state may not have much of a say directly in the course events will take on the national stage, but they can act with greater sophistication in their immediate area of influence.