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DIVISIVE POLITICS IN INDIA
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.