Friday, May 17, 2013

In India, the more it Changes, worse it becomes

In India, the more it Changes, worse it becomes
(Le plus ca change la plus ca la meme chose= (In France) the more it changes the more it remains the same)
After every few years in India, we hope it cannot get worse, it was much better earlier. But we are shocked and surprised every time .See a dysfunctional democracy or increasing anarchy in political action and reaction .A dead parliament , ministers refuse to take responsibility for their crimes .There is no accountability .PM remains mum, hears nothing , apparently sees nothing .Sonia Gandhi's three monkeys in one. The spokesmen and ministers have become brazen and could not care less for any norms or sense of accountability .The system has little moral standing .The opposition especially BJP or SP or even TMC are no better. The British coating of some rule of law has disappeared and the Indian polity had gone back to its end Moghul era feudalism with mediaeval outlook, fast reverting to ancient era tribalism.
We just had elections in Karnataka .Will anything change, unlikely .A piece on elections in 4 Indian states when BJP was ruling at the centre in 2003 written in Bucharest is given below. Things have gone from bad to worse. Judge for yourself.
Take care Gajendra Singh 8 May 2013. Mayur Vihar Delhi

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Something's rotten in the state of India
By K Gajendra Singh                                                                   10, December, 2003

While celebrating the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) unexpected victory in three major states last week in the Hindi heartland of India - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh - the party's jubilant leader, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked: "We are called communal and are accused of practicing communal politics. But what about this election?" He then added: "Hum ko bhi aisi asha nahi thi. Hum logone socha tha two-two ayega" (Even we didn't expect this. We thought it would be two-two). As it turned out, the opposition Congress only managed to win in Delhi, of the four states contested, where it had been in power.

In Delhi state, the government obviously won credit for better governance because of Supreme Court-led efforts to control pollution in India's capital, traffic disarray and other such issues as rape. Which begs the question, why have a government in Delhi state when it fails to discharge its functions? The BJP leadership is generally held responsible for the ills of Delhi, made worse during its rule, and the return of its former chief minister would have only made matters worse.
The Congress, India's oldest political party, founded in 1885, and led in the past by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, has mostly had things its way since 1947 post-independence India, and it still rules in 11 states. Its chief spokesman, Jaipal Reddy, said: "In Madhya Pradesh, we have been in power for 10 long years. And in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh for five years. We see the results mostly as a product of the anti-incumbency factor." Downplaying the debacle, he added that the Congress had been losing and winning in these states in a cyclical manner over the past three decades.

In the phrases "anti-incumbency factor" - invented by ruling parties when they lose elections as a ready excuse - and "losing and winning in these states in a cyclical manner" lies hidden a fast deterioration of Indian polity. The "anti-incumbency factor" phrase is as obscene as "collateral damage" used by militaries in their wars. It is symptomatic of the Indian electorate's loss of faith not only in the so-called leaders, but in the system itself. In protest electorates have even voted for eunuchs against party candidates, a real cultural rebuff in Indian tradition. Other countries don't appear to have this same factor, yet Indians seem to take some comfort in a change of regime.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the political elite across the board has imposed an oppressive system, distorting the letter and spirit of the constitution and molded it for its narrow ends. It only serves the political elite and a massive political parasitic service industry it has spawned.

The installation of a Vajpayee-led government and winning the first-ever vote of confidence (274 against 261) in March 1998 brought euphoria. It represented a millennium mark in the evolution of India's fast-churning polity since independence towards its more natural destiny. After Muslim Turks and others from Central Asia had established sultanates in and around Delhi in the early part of the second millennium, for the first time a Hindu government, tolerant and eclectic but espousing the aspirations of the over-whelming majority of the Hindu community, became rulers of Hindustan.

Apart from the BJP (179), the other coalition partners were former fiery socialist and anti-foreign merchandise. George Fernandes of the Samata Dal (12) , itself a splinter from Other Backward Castes (OBC)-dominated secular Janata Dal party; Ram Krishan Hegde's Lok Shakti (3); and Navin Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (9) ; Mamata Banerjee (7), who left the Congress more for personal than ideological reasons; Surjit Singh Barnala , whose party Shiromani Akali Dal's (8) loyalty to the country was once questioned, and Brahmin autocrat Jayalalitha of the All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK-18), an offshoot of the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), originally established to counter Brahmin and North Indian domination over the south. The DMK had even threatened to leave the Indian Union in the mid-1960s when Hindi was sought to be imposed on south India.

These heterogeneous groups joined the government for power, but they diluted and kept in check the aggressive Hindutva (Hindu dominance) philosophy as espoused by BJP's fanatic and militant factions, the Rashtryia Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishal Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal. They also strengthened the BJP's tolerant mainstream wing, led by Vajpayee, which was quite happy to keep out of contentious issues such as a uniform civil code and the building of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya on the site of a razed mosque. The BJP's alliances and consensual approach highlighted that a coalition sensitive to the diversity of religions and regions, races and languages, castes and cultures, was preferable to an umbrella party like Congress.

But like the Congress party governments, the BJP government also included dynastic progenies, and pragmatic and opportunistic newcomers, while its pre-confidence vote maneuverings proved that the BJP had acquired all the ills and skills of the Congress in political horse-trading. Despite this, the installation of a BJP-led government was a major milestone in the unfolding evolution of Indian polity.

The big question was whether the Hindutva forces would mellow or create total disruption in the generally tolerant Hindu community ethos. The fragility and the future of the BJP-led government today, in spite of its uneven and divisive rule for nearly six years, resides in the persona of Vajpayee himself, as no one else in the party has his stature, credibility and acceptability at the "all India" level.

There was unease and fear among Muslims and even Christians whether the BJP-led government would steamroll their sense of security and interests. After all, the BJP had built up its strength with rathyatras (mobile "chariot" journeys ), including one by now Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani from Somnath to Ayodhya, invoking memories of the desecration, demolition and looting of a Hindu temple at Somnath by Muslim invader Mohammed Gaznavi. Advani's ride ended with the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, allegedly built on the site of a temple built for Hindu god Rama.

The rathyatras and the show of aggressive Hindu fanatic force to demolish the mosque were to assert Hindu majoritarian supremacy in the new political arithmetic after independence.

The demolition on December 6, 1992, was followed by serious communal riots all over India, Bombay, now known as Mumbai, being the most affected. Mostly Muslims, who had protested against the demolition, were victims. So they retaliated with revenge bombings in Mumbai, with support from Pakistan, causing the death of hundreds of people and a terrible loss of property. The ruling pro-Hindutva party government in Mumbai, which had won elections by polarizing the masses, later ignored the findings of a High Court judge, who held police officials and others responsible for the killings and arson against Muslims.

Evolution of Indian polity
From the 7th to the 11th century, lack of interaction between Indians and their Iranian cousins and others in Central Asia, conquered and dominated by Arab-led Islamic forces, made India inward looking and fossilized its caste-based polity. Indian polity lost its mobility, resilience and the capacity to synthesize and assimilate new ideas. It went on the defensive against the conquering Islamic religion and Muslim polity. It withdrew into its own shell and became frozen. And so it remained throughout the Muslim rule and British rule over Hindustan. The latter only perpetuated the static nature of Hindu polity, reducing Indian rulers as their aides, notwithstanding some social reform ripples. Indians never had a revolution, like the French, Americans, Russians or the Chinese. The Dharma (religion and duty), put one in one's place. A headman's son could aspire to be a headmen, an untouchable would remain an untouchable.

The process of peaceful massive social engineering through competitive party politics and reservations in favor of the disadvantaged since independence has unleashed social, political and economic forces hitherto unseen in Indian history, in the process rearranging its polity. It shattered the Brahmin-imposed village autonomy based on a rigid hierarchy of priests, landowners, traders, artisans and untouchables, which had survived Muslim and British rule.

Soon, former bus conductors, petty smugglers, village pehelwans (wrestlers), and the progeny of peons could rise to the highest levels of government as chief ministers and cabinet ministers, as shown by the Lals of Haryana, the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh and others. Imagine the creative and other energies released into the system, with the profession of politics providing an ambitious and determined person, but poor, uneducated, socially and economically disadvantaged, the opportunity to work his or her way up the system.

Unfortunately, in this free-for-all environment, many criminal elements, after first helping the politicians in vote "gathering and controlling", like an Arab's camel, have moved into the tent (of power). And the system's inbuilt resilience for corrective action now appears to have been lost. After watching the slide into dishonesty, chicanery and total disregard for all civic norms, first the Election Commission and then the Supreme Court took some measures to strengthen these independent institutions, but without great success so far.

The "Hindu" perception of Dharma and the rule of law is often quite ambivalent. Hindus believe that by propitiating local deities and gods (now the local politician, now the police sub-inspector), one can escape punishment. It is hoped that recommendations for an independent Vigilance Commissioner, a Central Bureau of Investigation and an Enforcement Directorate will be fully implemented, and that the implementation of the rule of law will be further strengthened, with the proper checks and balances of a truly democratic system. The institutions of the judiciary and the media, so easily tempted by wily politicians, have to be above suspicion and exercise their duties without fear and favor.

Post-independence Brahmin dominance
Soon after independence in 1947, the lawyer-led Brahmin-dominated Congress party, with electoral support from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (dalits, former untouchables whom Mahatma Gandhi named Harijans - children of God) and post-partition defensive Muslims, ruled India, with the Brahmins monopolizing the levers of power.

Soon the number of Brahmins occupying senior government posts doubled. From the mid-1960s, at the ideological economic level, the new Congress elite was opposed by maharajas, big industrialists, traders, landlords and free marketeers through the Swantantra Party, and at the social level this elite was challenged by Jats, Yadavs, Ahirs and Kurmis, that is, petty landlords and cultivators who had benefited the most from the post-independence abolition of zamindari (tax collection on land).

The challenge was first led by Chaudhary Charan Singh, a Jat, and then by various Lals of Haryana, Mirdhas of Rajasthan and the Yadavs of the cow belt. But this process left the dalits squeezed out. Prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh, leading a minority coalition government, panicked in 1990 and resorted to the "Mandal card" (further reservations for other backward classes, OBCs) to outflank his deputy, the overbearing Devi Lal, leader of the Jats (not included in the OBC list). It was a devastating mistake.

The thoughtless reservation for OBCs has done incalculable harm to the Indian polity and the state. But it did initiate the loosening of the heterogeneous OBC grouping. Disenchanted with the "Yadavs only" policies of Laloo Yadav, the Kurmis in Bihar founded their own Samata Party. At the lowest rung of the ladder, the dalits, first organized by B R Ambedkar in the 1930s through the Republican Party of India, gathered under the umbrella of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Kansi Ram, and then under Mayawati (one name) in the north. But its leadership is neither astute nor temperate. The dalits are groaning from the weight of the creamy layer of Jatavs, Minas and others who have become the major beneficiary and the "new Brahmins". Non-Brahmins in Tamil Nadu, and land-owning elements in Telgu Desam, Kanara and the Maharathas had already asserted themselves against Brahmin domination. And the process of the heterogeneous and frozen polity being split into myriad pieces of castes and sub-castes still continues.

Is there still some hope? Only if the political class tries to reform the system, which at the moment seems most unlikely. It has itself become the problem. Many people say that MP (member of parliament) stands for maha pindari (big highway robber) or maha pakhandi (big fraud). Many politicians would certainly fit this description. Some say that elections only mean one set of the pindaris replacing another. During the state-supported pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 against Muslims, the ruling BJP would not admit to its crimes. Instead, it brought up the issue of how under Congress rule in 1984, after the assassination (by a Sikh) of then premier Indira Gandhi, many thousands of Sikhs were killed and burnt alive, mostly led by Congress goons who remain unpunished, to justify the murders and killings in Gujarat. And even the Supreme Court did not do its job, with Hindu criminals let off in collusion with a polarized bureaucracy and the police. As a result, many Muslims in India have started joining subversive organizations. The chickens will come home to roost.

It is amazing that Gujaratis have refused to learn from events in Sri Lanka, where similar government-led killings of Tamils led to the creation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and mayhem. Gujarat borders Pakistan and has a long coastline, traditionally used for smuggling contraband and arms. The Gujaratis have exposed their limited social, cultural and political acumen for short-term gains. They will pay a heavy price, but the politicians now back in power would already have made their millions - a Gujarati obsession. The true nature of Gujaratis has perhaps been hidden too long because of the persona of Mahatma Gandhi, a Gujarati.

The same attitude prevails when the BJP and its allies are caught with their hand in the till. They start accusing the Congress and other parties of corruption in the past, as if to justify their own corruption now. And it continues unabated. The people of India continue to suffer as they have over centuries. The political class and their supporting "industry" have become a burden on the poor masses. Indian democracy has been reduced to ritual festivals and ministry formations, both occasions for free-for-all money exhorting. With many jaded film stars now in the cabinet, the tamasha (play acting ) is now complete. That is all that the electorate mostly gets. During the recent elections, film stars were lured by political parties to gather crowds.

And it should be noted that the recent state election results have nothing to do with the so-called rise of women's power. Both Uma Bahrti and Vasundhara Raje were forced by the BJP to become chief ministers - in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, respectively. During the election campaigns, TV channels were saturated with advertisements projecting Vasundhara as a sincere, attractive and even glamorous chief ministerial aspirant. Uma Bharati was bluntly told by law minister Arun Jaitley to not over-exert herself and be mindful of her appearance. She should not, it was stressed, look either tired or disheveled.

Regardless of whoever is in power, though, the wheel of unending suffering of the Indian masses will continue. And after the next elections, and the next. So apart from defeating the current "rascals" in power, what purpose is served? The political class has totally destroyed the instruments of governance. And no country or corporate organization can last without good bureaucracy or administration. The Ottoman Empire, based on the merit system for recruitment and promotion, lasted for 600 years. When distortions entered the system, the empire rapidly declined and collapsed. The Roman Empire also lasted long because it, too, was initially based on merit. It was possible for a citizen from anywhere to become an emperor. So the attempt by some journalists to compare the US with the Roman Empire is incorrect.

In the Indian system, under the spreading pernicious system of reservations, a variation of the Brahaminical caste system, the Indian political class has institutionalized mediocrity and decay. The loyalty of the bureaucracy and other levers of power is to individuals, families, caste dynasties, and not to the state. In this situation, families and mafia rule.

One minister once even commented that the civilian head of a government department was only a servant of the political minister, who could ask the latter to prepare tea. Sadly, this is what really happens. The political class is delighted at the humiliation of the bureaucracy (but which only weakens the state) which it envies and hates. Now most bureaucrats become handmaidens of politicians and become minor pindaris themselves.

Apart from the judiciary, the media should keep a watch on political parties and the bureaucracy. There may be a free-for-all among the Indian media, but they have largely lost their mission and professional integrity. Many of them are compromised by study grants and well-paid visits to the West for seminars and short courses. Many media barons have an unholy relationship with politicians, not for principles, but for pelf and power. They feed on each other.

It is a matter of national shame that successive prime ministers during the past 30 years have refused to pass a bill to appoint an ombudsman, who would be empowered to look into corruption and other charges against ministers and members of parliament and other politicians. Quite clearly, politicians are not interested in eradicating corruption among themselves. Many corruption trials have been going on for decades, with the courts functioning at a snail's pace as politicians are involved. And these scams are invariably used before elections to throw mud at an opponent.

Any "feel good" atmosphere that there might be in the country is mostly among the ruling political classes, its support industry and allied industrial and trading classes. The poor are still left to the whims and mercy of corrupt politicians and policemen.

The body of the fish rots only when its head gets infected. Unless cabinet ministers, members of parliament and other politicians are brought under the ambit of the law and the guilty punished, their ill-gotten wealth confiscated, there is little hope of India taking its place in the comity of fully-developed nations.

The elite talk of looking at half a glass of water and seeing it as half full, not half empty. Many people do not have a glass, some have never even seen one. Those who celebrated the recent state elections in a five-star hotel should ponder the fact that before the arrival of the British East India Company in the late 18th century, the sub-continent's share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent in 1750 ( 32.8 percent for China ). But by the time the British had finished with India, the sub-continent's share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of the British increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy.

The islands of information technology and call center prosperity in India are like the factories established by foreign companies from the 16th to the 18th centuries. India cannot even assure uninterrupted power supply to the citizens of its capital city Delhi.

Unless India transforms it polity, it will resemble the 11th century at the time of the invasions from the northwest, or during the last centuries of Moghul rule, when every job was for sale and groups of Marathas, Jats, Rohillas, Sikhs and invaders roamed around the country looting and inflicting misery on the suffering masses of Hindustan.

The head of the fish is in danger of becoming seriously infected, after which the body will rot.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Email

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