Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Mamata, Kejriwal: Personalities first, parties second

The cancer in Indian democracy is no longer in remission. Rather than colonic, it is iconic. After the dynastic decades of father, daughter and son there was a lull in which one thought there would always be alternatives ready to step into the breach and not shoved in like crumbling corks into wine bottles.

Cultism is now spreading its wicked little cells into the body politic with rapid speed.

The death of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is a tragedy that underscores the conflict between democracy and personality politics.

 Jayalalithaa, Mayawati, Mamata, Kejriwal: Personalities first, parties second

Students take part in a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to the late former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. PTI

True governance is now rendering space to the malignancy of idolism and the voter is becoming a docile devotee.

Last week I wrote this: 'The manner in which her successor, the reluctant O Paneerselvam, sycophantically placed her photograph in front of her chair in the Cabinet Room and conducted business in a 'deer in the headlight fashion' for 75 days is indicative of exactly how bereft of capability these political cadres are when there is a vacuum.'

With the confrontational course between the incumbent and the surrogacy of Sasikala, here is a party that could implode at any time. Only because the iconic nature of command did not allow for a second line of defence.

The icon becomes more powerful and the minions simply bask in his or her shadow; if you can bask in shadows, prostrating their intellect along with their bodies, unable to take a decision in case the wrath of their leader falls upon them.

We are now seeing it at all levels. Whether it is Mayawati or Mamata Bannerjee, the Yadav clan or Kejriwal, the parties they represent have become secondary. It is only their personal opinion which counts.

Their level of intolerance slips past the line of paranoia and into a full-grown neurosis, and running a state becomes a personal fiefdom. Either you are with them or you are the enemy.

As a result we have lost our checks and balances. To hurry along the cancer, the electorate that should have provided some sort of radiation brake has discovered that adulation is integral to their DNA.

They have stopped asking questions and the political entity is worshipped.

In a talk I gave the other day I said: We see this syndrome reflected even in the Modi juggernaut which is now more a single seat chariot and puts 1.2 billion people in the unenviable position of being witness to a one man show. Indeed, a couple of henchmen and hatchetmen are seen trying to get into the snapshot but it is more a selfie now than a group photograph.

The building of an individual by media, both traditional and social, is an overnight affair and so consuming that like a flash flood it washes the public away and it cannot resist the current.

The most worrying element in this trend that has now strongly manifested itself in the world’s largest democracy is that mediocrity becomes the key word with ministers genuflecting towards the summit and compensating for their lack of spine by being arrogant to cover their ineptitude towards those below them.

Decisions are unilateral and whimsical.

The lack of political acumen or at least its volunteered drying up is further eroded (if that is at all possible) by time spent in taking on the Opposition and attempting to eliminate it while sifting any attack on their beloved leader as an attack on the state and the country and a concrete evidence of treason.

Wriggling there in the dust like a crushed worm is the democratic process.

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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2016 11:08:13 IST