THE GREAT INDIAN CIRCUS
The obsession that did them in
The interpretation of a mandate is perhaps the most hazardous exercise in the entire electoral process and can confound even the most learned and balanced political pundits. Though political parties tend to draw conclusions that would suit their conveniences and inconvenience their opponents to the maximum, it is not always prudent, even for them, to rush into inferences that may turn embarrassing or untenable in the future.
When even clear verdicts run the risk of being misinterpreted both by the victors and the losers, trying to make sense out of a fractured verdict is doubtless, a futile exercise. The reason why a verdict gets fractured is because regional and local issues dominate even national elections and the people exercise their franchise based on their immediate perceptions about the parties vying to gain their votes. The situation gets more complicated when national parties whose prime concern is Parliament lose out in the national race owing to an anti-incumbency factor in some of the States ruled by them. Had the people of those States thought in terms of extending their mandate given to them in the State to the national level also there would have been no question of a split verdict. But those days are long over. Just as in corporates, perform or get out is the maxim and people do not hesitate to mete out instant justice at the earliest opportunity if the politicians in power do not rise up to their expectations. There is always an alternative and they have learnt to choose the best among the worst, albeit for the present. The revolving chair is ever rotating, changing the political ins and political outs constantly.
With national and state elections alternating with such frequency, what with governments collapsing by the day for lack of majority or owing to the Art 356 coming into play, parties in power have limited time at their disposal to prove their mettle so that they can go to the people with something they can show. Complacency and illusions of infallibility combined with an absolute lack of a positive agenda can spell doom for any incumbent, whatever his political acumen and his party’s legislative strength.
The verdict of the 1996 Tamilnadu Assembly elections was touted by the media and the victors alike as a landmark verdict that saw the decimation of the corrupt forces represented by the then ruling party. And there started the countdown for their doom, as an abominable and monumental complacency dictated by a firm belief, fueled by the media too, that their enemy was down and out for eternity, gripped the leaders and the ranks. In politics it is as much a crime to over-estimate ones strength as it is to underestimate the opponent’s. The DMK-TMC, under the intoxication (courtesy: CM) of victory made this mistake. Their belief that their’s is ever a winning combination, unmindful of the fact that they were till the other day squabbling with one another and their misplaced confidence that the people would not have forgotten the alleged misdeeds of their opponents and therefore have no alternative, has now landed them in the present mess. They committed the mistake of mis-reading the people’s verdict as a recognition of their combine’s virtues when all along it has only been an expression of anger against the then ruling party.
Theoretically, politicians are voted in to serve the people though in practice they only serve themselves. Any party in power or even an aspirant ought to have a positive agenda about what they intend to offer to the people who reposed faith in them. Though it is quite a time since people have lost interest in the poll time promises of the politicians, there are certain minimum expectations that have to be addressed. But if the victors deem the mandate as a licence to punish their political opponents and do nothing else, it is tantamount to vitiating that very mandate.
Are the victors saints? The DMK and its chief thought so and even expected the people to think so. They thought they have been given the mantle of the judge to preside over the fate of the losers and were so obsessed with the singular objective of baiting their enemy that they had little time for any positive service to the people. Had they devoted just one thousandth of the time spent on targeting their opponents on people’s welfare the State would not have been the social and economic mess that it is today. The DMK’s persistent hounding of its political enemies and its refusal to firmly counter the nation’s enemies, has clearly endangered the State and its populace and exposed them to the wily machinations of hardcore terrorists. if only had the ruling party directed even one hundredth of the attention it paid to its political opponents to the real enemies of the nation who were prospering right under its nose, the State would not have slipped into a zone of fear and terror which is what it is to-day. What else did they have to show to the people other than bombed-out houses, empty pots and mangled corpses? The DMK has only itself to blame for frittering away the mandate given to rule. The party chief’s arguments that the people have not punished him for his inactions and wrong actions only prove that the obsession continues. And we are sure he will also continue to pay a price for it.
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