The practitioners of power, particularly at the highest levels, naturally have a perspective quite different to that of the common person. Their goals are beyond the commoner’s daily struggle to make ends meet. Hence, while it may be thought that Uttarakhand’s priorities today are reconstruction and rehabilitation after the Tapovan disaster, 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 – particle and wave, as it were.
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 – from saris to laptops to mobiles to 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. And who cares about the long term effects!
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. In India, however, this is difficult to enforce. An increasing number of the youth marches now to a different drum-beat. 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 the ‘Pheku-Pappu’ debate. 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 placed in the usual caste and community combinations? There is also the upstart, AAP, that functions in a populist paradigm, unhindered by the past.
Come the next elections, the youth will be distressed to note that the same old, much discredited, candidates are being sought to be recycled. Will they be able to weigh in on the crucial issues in ways that matter, or is it going to the old pattern repeated again?