Indian politics has enough to turn one cynical about the world. And cynicism is what you find everywhere — on the streets, on television channels, in cosy drawing rooms and amid the most innocuous of talk among neighbours.
It has enough to make one angry. Feel the air around. It is saturated
with anger. Watch people moving out of their homes to join protests, prepared to take on the mite of the powerful state. The state vs people — it’s an unequal fight, but anger is a great leveller.
Politicians have spread enough unhappiness around. They have failed
to measure up to the expectations of people. They have been too busy playing self-serving power games, in Parliament, in public and in every available space, and using people as pawns in them. It’s payback time.
In many ways 2012 was an extension of 2011. Politics remained dirty, confused and listless. Parties and leaders indulged in their machinations, striving to outdo each other. Popular fury played out in the public domain. It was Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade in 2011. It fizzled out fast but the mood lingered. In 2012, it manifested in the massive protest against the apathy of the government towards the sexual harassment of women.
For a change, politicians were bystanders in a people’s show. It was heartening. In 2011, politicians ran scared of people. They appeared more scared in 2012. Last year, people asserted their relevance in the democracy. This year they proved their hitting the streets was not a one-off, off-routine happening. The simmering popular cynicism, anger and unhappiness had found a vent in 2011. Now people look in no mood to close it.
That ensures that 2013 will be a continuation of 2012. People will continue to hold the centre stage, trying hard to make politicians marginal players. It’s an intense tussle going on out there. The former are out to wrest more power from the politicians, their due in the democracy. Beyond all the visible bitterness, these are the best of times for the country. Forget the doomsayers, the democracy is truly alive and kicking.
Have the politicians got the message from the streets? Sadly, no. There were elections this year, in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and elsewhere. None reflected that the leaders were aware of the rising aspirations of people and the growing combativeness around. They were being ostrich-like, head in the sand, waiting for the storm to pass over. They spoke the same staid language, made the same old gestures and peddled the same old ideas everywhere.
They pretended to be unruffled by the drama unfolding before them. They seemed to believe that the explosion of popular anger is one those temporary affairs and people will eventually go back home and busy themselves with their everyday preoccupations. India never had the tradition of sustained agitations. It’s time someone drilled into them that the popular agitations have lasted close to two years already and show no sign of losing momentum. Something has changed drastically somewhere.
There are too many force-multipliers around — the media has discovered a new role for itself and the online space has turned a parallel universe. The explosion of information technology has reduced distances and made India a smaller place. The civil society has made people aware of the power of unity and organisation. There are other catalytic agents turning people into a fighting force. The political class does not seem to comprehend the change.
However, not all is hunky-dory with the trend of street agitations. It’s guided too much by emotions, not so much by practical intelligence. There’s too much anger around and too less sober thinking. There’s just too much show of power and no pragmatic solution to problems on offer. Street protests without an aim serve little purpose. The situation does not speak highly of the participants, more so when they are young and educated. This has to change. Hope 2013 brings that change.
For now, let’s celebrate the anger, the cynicism and the unhappiness. They might lead us to something exciting. Negativity has its uses too.