Should they come along?

THE GREAT INDIAN CIRCUS

To all of us creatures on this cursed planet earth, the advent of the 21st century appears imminent, come what may. But then, our politicians would like us to believe that, but for them, the 21st century may not happen and it is their bounden duty to take us there. Having allowed them to graze all our greener pastures during the twentieth century, the people of the land certainly deserve to hear such audaciously presumptuous utterances from them. The slight on our collective intellect apart, the very assumption that we may need them to guide us into the next century reveals the exalted opinion they have about themselves and the extent to which they have taken the people for granted.

The talk of leading the nation to the 21st century has been in the air for quite sometime now with everybody who is somebody claiming to offer the best routes. But in poll-time now it has attained a crescendo with everyone, from Laloo to Lakshmi Parvati, Advani to Arunachalam and Kalmadi to Karunanidhi flaunting their credentials to walk the country into the next century.

They cry themselves hoarse from the campaign daises, and it is there in all their manifestos. They tell you that if their party is not voted to power, the rest of the world would leave India behind when they enter the next century. They tell the youth that the next century is going to be fun under them. They tell the farmer that the year after the next would be one of bumper harvests if they are chosen to lead. They assure the intellectuals and the educated that, come year 2000, India would be in the forefront of the comity of nations and for that to happen they just need your vote. And they even tell the hapless beggar on the roadside, who is unsure of his next meal that the twenty first century holds happy tidings for him. And like the pied piper, they seek to hypnotise the pack only to lead it to certain doom.

The next century is already a major election issue as they reel out promises on what all they have in store for the country at the stroke of midnight, 31 December 1999. The millennium has to just dawn and then it is going to be great times for India, they say. And they call it vision though we know it is pure kite-flying. Of course it is their fond hope that this poll would be the last in this century and those elected could be in positions of power to herald the new century and the new millennium.

All the hype makes one wonder what is it that makes the next century so important. There is reason for a Priyanka or Rahul to feel elated, given the trends in the Congress but what is there in it for the man in the pot-holed street or the stinking slums? The politicians of the land can continue their sordid history into the new era, but what about the voter? Is he going to have any better choice, now that all the present politicians have threatened to give him company in the new century too? Will the new century replace the old order with the new or bring in its wake even more disorder? Nothing, and yet the dream-sellers in politics would go about dishing out promises meant to be broken and assurances fated to be ignored once in power.

We all know that the routine rotation and revolution of the earth will take us to the next century, despite the politicians’ claims to the contrary. If they think of themselves as the axis around which the earth revolves and whose services are essential to usher in a new era they are certainly entitled to their delusions.

But the moot question is do we really have to take them along?

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Jawahar T R