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DIVISIVE POLITICS IN INDIA

Updated on April 4, 2012

DIVISIVE POLITICS IN INDIA

We started out on our journey as republic with divisive politics. In fact, the malady is inextricably ingrained in the very system of our governance. It was for his successively leading the Congress Party to the winning post in all the general elections fought under his leadership on the strength of solid Muslim votes, assiduously cultivated, fostered, nurtured and nourished by him, that India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru earned the tag: “The First Muslim Prime Minister of India.”

He inherited the British policy of ‘Divide & Rule’ disguised it in “Quota & Reservation in jobs etc. for the selected sections of the society” on the basis of their ‘social’ as against ‘economic’ status, which has since reinvented itself, many times over, and in multiple forms, penetrating deep in the civic society and the polity, and has since come to be universally recognised, with loads of trepidation and frustration, as “Divisive Politics.”

While the minority (read Muslim) vote-bank still continues to remain the mainstay of the Congress Party’s political culture, the divisive politics, over the years, has displayed the uncanny tendency to blossom forth into multiple strains as it hybridized into V.P.Singh’s “Muslim-S.C &S.T.-OBC Combo Vote Bank. several years ago, but is still being fondly cultivated. fostered, and nurtured by the likes of Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, Amar Singh- the list is long. Public memory is proverbially short, but not so short as to forget how this strain of divisive- identity politics once catapulted the one of the wiliest cats of the jungle of U.P. politics to the top post, and brought the other one dangerously close to grab it. In the recent U.P. assembly Polls, Mulayam Singh led S.P. gave Congress Party, a taste of the latter's own medicine by consolidating Muslim-Yadav-OBC votes in a solid vote bank in favour of his Samajwadi Party. It would thus appear that the caste, community and religion-based politics has almost invariably registered its victory over the issue-based politics in all manner of elections everywhere in India, be it Panchayati or Parliamentary elections. In other words, our pretensions to being a secular nation not withstanding, communal-ism still reigns supreme in India. During and in the aftermath of elections, this divisive politics based on blatant communal-ism is, however, accorded dubious respectability with nomenclature adorning it with phrases like, Social-Engineering. The bag of the wily politicians here is full of wonderful wiles, and the common man is always taken for a ride.

However, in the sixties when this divisive politics, tried to spread its dirty tentacles in Maharashtra, the awakened and enlightened Marathi people, could not resist but to counter it by breeding and developing its yet another strain. (the poison kills poison). Their great leader- Bal Thackeray- founded Shiv Sena in the fifties. Under the leadership of much-venerated Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, they went ahead to cultivate and breed “ Regional-cultural-linguistic” variety of it, christened “Maharashtra for Marathi Manus.” As the poison kills poison, this culture is now proving a lethal weapon, not only against the divisive politics, as such, but mainly so against those who, till recently, have been reaping bumper harvest of political gains by gleefully perpetuating it for the furtherance of their own entrenched vested interests for several decades now. It looks extremely ridiculous on their part when they criticize the most respected leader of the region for something what their own leadership had earlier invented and used to the hilt to repeatedly gain political mileage over its rivals not only in politics but also in many other dubious matters . During the earlier seventies, the writer of these lines spent about 5 years in Nagpur where he, then as a very young school-going boy, could palpably perceive the all pervading influence of the leadership of Bala Sahib Thackeray over the people of Maharashtra.

Pretensions to the contrary apart, divisive politics of quota/Reservation in government jobs, seats in the educational institutions and other such matters selectively for certain targeted groups, even if draped and decked with the covering of social justice, does what it would invariably do-i.e. Dividing the nation,. Such act of preference to selective groups or communities, by any name, certainly disadvantages other communities, and as a consequence, keeps the nation divided. Unfortunately, the politicians across the board, cutting across the party-lines, keep sitting pretty while the governments run by them perpetuate this worst form of racism albeit in disguise of social justice even if it results in fragmentation of society, and divides the nation. Divisive politics by any other name cannot get any less vile. You cannot fool all the people all the time.

Where this politics of exclusiveness, quota/reservation, identity and vote-bank, religious-cultural-linguistic chauvinism, the stuff by which the Divisive Politics is made, would lead us to? Balkanisation of the nation, where else?

The interesting, though hugely disturbing, aspect of the phenomenon is that the quick-fix-solutions, instead of containing the malady which is inextricably intertwined with our very system of governance, go only to fuel its growth in different strains and forms. As no political outfit or individual can gain any ascendency over its rivals without resorting to it, it would be highly despicable and downright in the bad taste to blame any individual politician or political party for embracing it in pursuance of their cherished political ambitions.

The culture of identity and selective politics and the politics of vote bank is integral to our system of governance and we will have to live with the evil so long as this system lasts. For winning the next election, all that a ruling political party needs to do is to distribute huge largesse from the Exchequer among the selected, targeted groups at the material time, during the run up of ,as also, in the aftermath of elections. Thanks to the system, such ad-hoc measures have paid rich political dividends all the time in every election in the past, and, therefore, now are relied upon for gaining political mileage over the rivals in the politics. The trend can only be changed if our politicians could eschew communal politics of caste, religion and community, quota and reservation, and replace it with the issue- based politics in conformity with the secular ideals enshrined in our Constitution. But can we trust our wily politicians to do something which they willfully avoided doing for the last more than six decades.

The divisive politics has its roots in our system and as such it will require overhauling the system itself. If we are interested in destroying demon , root and branch, we will have to change the very system of democratic governance. Blaming the individual politicians or the political parties for the evil would be tantamount to not seeing the wood for the trees. It could prove counterproductive.

The remedy lies only in replacing this system with the American Presidential model, and sooner we replaced our Westminster type Parliamentary form of governance by the Presidential model, the better it would be for the health of our democracy.

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      soumyasrajan 5 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Nice article Sanjog. I quite agree with your assessment that an overhaul of system is needed to get away from the divisive politics. You have nicely summarized the situation today with all these parties indulging in divisive politics and described tactics of all such main parties.

      But I am not so sure that your solution of presidential model will change any thing.

      Have you noticed that practically all the parties you have listed have one aspect in common. They are all run in feudal manner by one person or family ( Sonia Gandhi family (earlier it was Indira Gandhi family) Mulayam Singh, Bal Thakare, Mayavati, Karunanidhi, Jai Lalita, etc. etc. Different brands of communists and BJP are perhaps the only nontrivial one which have a little cadre based management. Even there one can see traces of similar feudal tendencies - like Jyoti Basu family or Vajpeyee- Advani ruling for a long long time.

      In other democratic countries (USA, Europe, UK) also families do play important role but not in so raw manner. It is also controlled by rules and regulations (like in USA there are primaries to avoid too much feudalism and also they have rule that no president for more than 8 years) .

      In our country the feudal structure is not at all controlled.

      You are only seeing one aspect of for example shiv sena that it supports Marathi manus. That is very minor part. Try to see whom it opposes-- when it started it was south Indians, then after some time it became Gujaratis, then Muslims then ... recent is UP-Biharwallas. Celarly there is no principle involved in it. Only principle seems to be to raise sentiments to keep rulers in party and their rule intact.

      Problem with such organizations is not so much about whom they support it is more whom they oppose. It is also not hard to see that this support they get to survive in their such attacks generally comes from Congress.

      Almost all of divisive politics if you see carefully seems to be a tool used to keep feudal structure intact among rulers (in political parties, media and press etc.).

      In fact fortunately army is not in this so far - other wise there is not much difference in way we are going downhill and way Pakistan has gone downhill much faster (with army and feudal lords ruling much more directly).

      Before going into so strong things like Presidential form etc. why should we not ask our election commission, supreme court (it is possible under current rules for them to act) to get rid of this feudal structure in parties and media and press etc.

      For example they can force parties to implement their constitutions properly (congress is supposed to elect president and other positions etc. of its party - does it ever do that- last one properly held was between Indira Gandhi and Moraraji Desai for primeministership).

      They can also ask parties to modify constitution to not allow any one to hold any top positions for more than 5-8 years (including their family members). No big constitutional change is required to make such changes.

      It can be done perhaps with in current laws as principle of natural justice and equal opportunities.

      That it self may take care of a lot more than just divisive politics.

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      SANJOG MAHESHWARI 5 years ago

      Thank you, Soumysasrajanji, for your insightful comments. I think and believe that adoption of the American Presidential Model of democratic governance would not only prove to be the panacea for most, if not all, of our ills but will go a long way in uprooting the rampant corruption plaguing our society and the polity. In my hub:' A Plea for adoption of American Presidential Model of Democracy", I have attempted to make out a case for the adoption of that system of democratic governance for our country as well. I am fully aware of the fact that no political party or the politician across the party lines, will ever like the switch over to it, and may even go to the extent of questioning its very feasibility in Indian conditions, for the obvious reasons. Who will like to sacrifice his/her vested self-interests for the sake of nation? Your observation that about all the political outfits in our country are rooting for feudal set-up can't be more correct. However, the reason for it is also quite obvious. This set-up helps yielding more votes for the concerned parties at the hustings. Loose democracy could be as harmful to a party, as it is to a country like India. Any and every politician's self-interests are intrinsicly intertwined with the interests of the political party to which s(he) happens to belong at the material time. In no way are they, even remotely, linked with the nation's interests. This is why they look for a tight feudal arrangement for the party set-up, and a loose variety of it for the governance of the country. American Presidential Model is very much like a feudal set-up ( with all executive powers vested with the President ideally with necessary checks and balances, at all the stages. Further, after the expiry of his term of four years in White House, a lame-duck President goes for house-hunting for a roof over his head and a shelter for his family, if he has any.Not for a single day is he allowed to overstay in it. Immediately, on the expiry of his term, he joins the ranks of the commoners and goes back growing peanuts or doing whatever he had been doing before occupying the White House, the building which becomes out of his reach for the rest of his life once he is out of office after a fixed term. In India, generations after each succeeding generation of 'once upon a time' MP or MLAs, continue to occupy the palatial bunglows sitting on several acres of Prime land in the Capital's prime location. All MPs and MLAs continue to draw all perks, pension, freebees etc etc. The politics has come to stay as a family business to be passed on by one generation to the next, generation after generation, till somebody in the family decides to say ' enough is enough'; though this seldom happens, as no business in India is as lucrative and comes as packed with that tremendous power and pelf as the business of politics. Thus our Westminster type Parliamentary democracy fully ensures that only loyalty to the party pays, and not the loyalty to the country. Hence the feudal arrangement for the party to enable it to reap rich harvest of the votes in elections, and loose democracy for the nation for enjoying the spoils. Thanks again for sharing views on this burning issue. Hope you will allow me the benefit of your opinion on all other matters, as well. Looking forward to a fruitful and interactive season of exchange of views and ideas. Take care.

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