As this piece is being written, the political class is busy putting up a valiant effort to regain its relevance. In the process of being virtually delegitimised by a people’s movement, the leaders have decided to reassert themselves by reviving the dignity of Parliament. The realisation across the political spectrum is that Anna Hazare’s movement is as much against corruption as a vote for no-confidence in them.
Thank actor Om Puri for that, even if grudgingly. His intemperate speech on Friday was a crude assault on politicians. That it has found some mention in the parliamentary debate is proof that he has hit the leaders where it hurts most.
Ganwaar, nalayak, anpadh and a lot more uncharitable words - that's what Om Puri came up with at Ramlila Maidan. He was wobbly and fumbling for words, say organisers. But his speech was in many ways the inarticulate articulation of what most urban people think about the political class.
Om Puri is certainly a man with great exposure. He has to be highly intelligent given the range of complex roles, including that of a politician, he has essayed convincingly throughout his brilliant career. When a person like him launches into a diatribe of this kind there's something to ponder about.
“I feel ashamed when an IAS or IPS (officer) salutes a ganwaar (villager) who is a neta. We have more than half ganwaar netas. Don't vote for them,” said Puri, and went on to add "Yeh MPs kya karte hain? Paanch saal tak aish karte hain, loot-te hain desh ko… main jaanta hoon inko, inke gharon mein kya hai."(What do these MP's do? For five years they enjoy, rob the country , I know them, I know what's in their homes.)
He may have gone terribly wrong in his selection of words and brought down the public respect for him by several notches, but isn't this the language of the man on the street when he discusses politicians? Is this not how educated people in urban areas react to the mention of politicians?
The public perception of the political class is a bit weird. It is generally perceived as a combination of cantankerous, self-serving people feeding off the public exchequer for no apparent reason. They are generally believed to be lacking in education (anpadh in Om Puri-speak), uncouth (maybe that’s what Puri intended to say when he said ganwaar) and an incompetent lot (nalayaks).
The perception, of course, is deeply flawed. It fails to take into consideration that politics is one of the toughest vocations and also one of the most competitive. The range of responsibilities a politician has to handle is enormous. Contrary to general perception, we have some of the most brilliant brains in their respective fields in politics — Manmohan Singh, Arun Jaitley and Jairam Ramesh are just some of them. Many of the seasoned politicians — Pranab Mukherjee, LK Advani — are well-versed in the art of governance and the nuances of administration. Many of them are highly educated, and some more than their middle class critics.
The blame for the poor image they carry, however, lies squarely with them. Their transition from leaders to political animals has been rather swift. They have allowed political gamesmanship to take over political maturity; they have allowed political intelligence to be overshadowed by crude behaviours and politicking. If they are treated with a lot of disrespect and hatred it has to do with the way they have conducted themselves over the years.
The debate on the Lokpal Bill was an opportunity for them to regain the confidence of people. It is not clear whether they have managed to do that but they certainly have redeemed themselves by talking with a lot of sense of purpose and clarity. The debate on Saturday showcases the intelligence, knowledge and maturity available to us in the form of our politicians.
Anna Hazare's movement will probably end soon. He might even get a good Lokpal Act. But does it mean the message from the movement to politicians will hold good for long? Given the nature of politics one cannot be too sure. But they should keep in mind that the next big movement could be directly against them.
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Updated Date: Aug 27, 2011 15:57:37 IST