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Political Cult Figures

Political Cult Figures

India is a land where people believe in and honour the so-called political personalities and other ‘big-wig’ guys as cult figures. At times, they swear by the country’s constitution when it comes to the rights provisions like freedom, equality, democratic principles and what have you. But, come political personalities, the same people are ready to hold them in admiration, bow to them in adoration, and crawl before them in perspiration. They also know how to throw out the baby with the bathtub in desperation when they think it best.

We the general public often consider the brood of politicians as opportunists or fence-sitters because they switch sides or are party-hopping wits. But, we ourselves often switch sides to win their favour. When there is a megalomaniac chief minister or a lackey-promoting prime-minister, many people engage in pandering to his idiotic wishes by placing him on a pedestal.

That is where we let politicians arrogate to themselves leadership as their individual privilege or family fiefdom. The individualistic politicians want to thrive like a huge teak tree without allowing any plant or tree to grow beneath it. According to an ethno-botanist friend of mine, teak is considered ‘mahajan tree’ by the adivasis.  Because they know by experience the way mahajans thrive. So these self-congratulating and ego-massaging politicians get into a selfie mode and take avaricious pleasure in absorbing all the adulation and veneration a fawning public or crawling discipleship offers. Once the garlands begin to wither away, a leadership vacuum is created. It looks as if the leader’s charisma ends with the last nail on the coffin. 

Next, we come to the family banyan tree where the huge tree spreads out its political fiefdom with all its sprouting branches sending down their roots to the earth. It is all in the family. Politics is family business. From papa to mom to grand and great grand children, wives, cousins, nephews and nieces, all strutting as brand ambassadors of their political feudal estate.  And the nation is in their frying pan. They allow no one else to get near them. Other political aspirants are allowed a toehold as long as they are useful or sing to the signature tune of the family patriarch.

As against this, the few politicians who try to pitch in with a committed ideology or public service mentality do not get much traction. The ones who get political mileage are those who are adept in shouting matches, hoodwinking the general public with empty promises or consorting with the hefty and the mighty. They look for brand ambassadors from the film world to sell their image. It may very well be an asinine message. But the tall message has a fevicol effect for the time being. Because, these politicians know where to strike. The reason being that we Indians, on the whole, are enthralled by mythological religious beliefs.  So we transport our mythological hallucinations into public life by wanting to see our politicians as mythical figures. We wish to see them playing Hanuman to bring us the Sanjeevani elixir of subsidized rice and free tablets to cure all our poverty ailments.

To cap it all, our politicians, cutting across parties, have derailed social analysis and replaced it with the strategy of supplying placebos. Thus, they mesmerize the public at large into vote banks.   The onetime Marxists have turned fervent advocates of Chinese neo-capitalism. And, the Maoists are busy extracting their pound of flesh from capitalists and industrialists. The parties who shouted Nehruvian socialism from the rooftop or those who owed allegiance to democratic socialism are fighting for survival and are diverting into opportunistic ways or a suicidal mode. Some parties with their fundamentalist religious ideology and nationalist propaganda are forcing down the throats of people the idea that theirs is the only route to ‘nirvana.’  Napoleon Bonaparte’s words are memorable, ‘In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.’ We are all stupid, aren’t we?

As someone put it succinctly, ‘The Indian public is caught up between the devil and the deep sea, as far as its political identity is concerned.’ Unwittingly, we have let India’s destiny slip into the hands of these politicians for whom politics is just business or a rollercoaster ride at our expense. George Bernard Shaw, who wrote, ‘ Politics is the last resort for the scoundrels,’ must be having the last laugh in the grave!

#(Published on 13th March 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 11)