Published in Devlok, Sunday Miday, May 15, 2011

In the Ramayana, when Dashrath asks his son, Ram, to go into exile and Ram obeys, one wonders what is Ram’s motivation. Is he obeying his father? Or is he taking an action that ensures that the integrity of the royal family is never questioned? In former, the reference point is the family. In the latter, the reference point is Ayodhya. In the former, it is about being a good son. In the latter, it is about being a good king. They are two different things, a subtle but sharp divide that is often overlooked.

When I look at the young crop of politicians in India, I see good sons but I do not see good kings. Everyone is working for their party. No one is working for India. What matters more than the development of India is the power for the party.

Hear the speeches carefully. Observe them carefully. They will all speak of poverty alleviation and of corruption and of wrongs done to their potential voters. And then they will blame the ruling party, whoever is in power, for all the terrible things that are happening to them. They promise change if voted to power. Change does happen: they come to power, but poverty remains, the corruption remains, and so do all the wrongs.

Then begins the next round of speeches, with young leaders of the opposition doing the very same thing. And those in power, quoting statistics of how they changed things, numbers that are rarely reflected in reality.

The electoral system we have chosen as a country has transformed into non-violent warfare. Every four years, two parties fight. One wins. The loser spends the next four years mocking the rulers and doing everything in its power to block activities of the rulers and to oppose them at every moment. This is done to ensure the rulers lose the next elections.

And the winners spend all the time working towards the next election, hoping to secure the next term. This means, not allowing any developmental activity to take place in constituencies where the voters elected the opposition, and using their power to generate funds, often by nefarious means, to reward party workers and give their party the money-power needed to fund the next elections.

In all this, India really does not matter. What matters is fighting and winning elections. So young politicians give rousing speeches and lead marches with the sole intention of defeating their opponents. Do we hold politicians responsible for this or the design of our electoral system? Inbuilt in our version of democracy is fighting. Fights, even non-violent ones, are never good.

Ultimately, we have to live in the same house, share the resources, even with our worst enemies, because everyone is an Indian. Somewhere along the line, a warped system is emerging thanks to our election system. We have ended up institutionalizing  Mahabharata through our electoral system, with every politician imagining himself or herself as a Pandava and branding his or her opposition as a Kaurava. It is all about kicking brothers out of the house, denying them resources, because they oppose us. All is done in the name of the family. And that is not good for the household that is India.