India being a developing country, one would expect our political leaders to show a modicum of decorum in simplicity in their living and working style. On the other hand, the moment they don the neta’s cap, they seem to have appropriated to themselves the green signal to gloat in self-glory and float in lavish luxurious living.
Except for a national figure or two, like Gandhiji, Lal Bahadur Shashtri or Abul Kalam, most of the rest of them seem to enter politics to amass wealth and to wax eloquent with power hunger.
What can you expect of such leaders who will sup with the poor man in his hut before glaring cameras while the food may have been brought by their aides from a five star hotel? Some such leaders may have risen from humble beginnings. Once, in a tribal area, some political VIPs, including a tribal politician, ate in a tribal hut making a show of it before reporters and cameras. But, the hotel, from which the food was brought, nailed the lie.
Once in the political arena, their ‘purchasing power’ shoots up. They purchase land, buildings, estates, invest in foreign banks and display their royalty without any remorse or sense of shame. I once heard a political leader waxing eloquent about his humble origin and how, by his own efforts, he became a self-made successful political leader. He told his hearers how he used to spread a towel at a road junction and show some gimmicks to collect some money to support his studies as his poor father was unable to educate him. So far so good! But, what he did not tell them was how he used his sleight of hand to amass enormous wealth in such a short time as a political creature. Or, how his purchasing power as a ‘successful’ politician galloped even as he lived surrounded by islands of misery suffered by those who voted for him!
Those who hail from wealthy families are not to be forgiven either. Once secure with political portfolios, they do not show much of an eagerness to lift the economically or socially downtrodden from the quagmire of misery. Their inflated remonstrations may get deflated after a short while because of their preoccupations with self-aggrandisement. Much of their time is taken for defending their ill gotten wealth or justifying their corrupt dealings or fighting court cases.
Our politicians need a lesson or two from their counterparts in some other countries. There are Prime Ministers and ministers cycling to their office unguarded, unprotected by any aides or body guards. It is said of Mujica, a former Tupamaros guerrilla fighter in the 1960s and ‘70s, who was shot multiple times and had to spend 14 years in jail in harsh conditions. On being elected as the president of Uruguay, he donated 90 percent of his presidential salary to charity. He bade good bye to the lavish presidential palace and opted to live in his ramshackle farm with his wife. It was also reported that his sole asset amounted to a 1987 Volkswagen.
The narrative about Joyce Banda, the first female president of Malawi, is equally inspiring. As part of redeeming her country from a financial bottle neck and to introduce financial austerity, she sold off the presidential jet and the fleet of 60 Mercedes limousines. She preferred to fly commercial and even joked: ‘I am already used to hitchhiking.’ The money got from selling the plane went to feed more than one million people.
It is not that such ladies and gentlemen do not have access to the luxury of travelling in air conditioned cars or jets. Nor do they lack in private wealth to enjoy the amenities of a villa life. But, if simplicity is their life style, they are trying to prove that they do not need aides and guards to protect their lives or assets. Their conscience is clear and hence, having nothing to hide, they have no fear of any accusations of corrupt indulgences in private or public life. Nor will they want to abuse public wealth by a show of power and pelf. They do not make a splash of their service but their deeds speak volumes.
Many of our political leaders think that, in order to show that they are humble servants of the people of the nation, they should walk on red carpets or don ten lakh worth overcoats. Once they have graduated to the political scene, they are drunk with power and they thirst for more power. They may confer on themselves the political ID as ‘Sevaks’ and ‘Pradhan Sevaks.’ But, it is the sense of power that stimulates them to make the police dance on their finger tips or to sell out the nation to business tycoons and capitalist friends. Abuse of power makes them use a phone call to silence their opponents even through devious and dubious means or to order eliminating dissenting elements in fake encounters.
Should not these megalomaniac politicians mend their ways? In an explosive atmosphere of terror and travesty, which they have created by their own doings, it may be that they need Ak47-trotting black cats as protective cover. In order to justify their uncalled for actions they need to buy or terrorize the media. And, to win the hearts of the gullible public, they dish out filmy style narratives with a flourish.
Such politicians live in a make-believe world and they want the people of the nation to live in it too. Times of India graffiti in 2015 read as follows: ‘Do we need exclamation point? Nothing surprises us anymore.’ Very true, as far as our political breed is concerned. Most of them do not surprise us anymore! Neither their ways nor their gimmicks! We seem to take for granted that they are that way. It is this lackadaisical attitude that kills our democratic sense. Democracy is not a rule of the fools, for the fools and by the fools. If we want to redeem our democracy, we better realise that. The earlier, the better!(Published on 13th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 46)