I remember talking to a friend of mine about voters’ ID’s a few weeks back. He laughed and said, “Why do you want a V.I. when you have a PAN card? I mean, you have a government ID already.” Worst yet, I remember him almost falling off the chair with laughter when I told him that I actually wanted to vote. “For those jokers?” For once, I had no comment ready as a comeback because honestly, what does one do when one is given a choice between a murderer and a thief as your next representative to the central government? Who does one turn to when the very people who swore to uphold your rights, turn around and attack you?
While doing the research for this article, I happened to visit Wikipedia so I could find out exactly how many political parties there were in India. I copied the whole list and pasted it onto a blank Microsoft Word 2007 document only to gape in wonder that the list spread over 23 pages. While there are only seven truly national parties (the Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bhujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India and the Rashtriya Janata Dal); there are over 40 parties represented in the Lok Sabha; well over 150 parties that are registered but unrecognized (for example, the Religion of Man Revolving Political Party of India) and over 30 other parties that do not fall into the above mentioned categories. So really, they aren’t mistaken when they say India is the world’s largest democracy. The interesting thing about democracy, however, is that the people get to elect their own government. They are the most instrumental part of the polysyllabic word that pretty much decides the fate of where the country is headed. But are we ready for such an absolute power?
It’s true what they say, India’s bureaucracy is one that is riddled with murky layers of red tape, backstabbing, party hopping and hypocrisy. Who can forget the cash for votes issue that made the Parliament look like a circus last year? It becomes easiest to just give it all up and blame the system. The floods in Bihar, a lack of water elsewhere, the potholes on the street that you stay in and the lack of places to go to on Valentine’s Day should the moral police come out; it’s all the system’s fault. The more serious the issue gets, the more the system is to be blamed.
The truth is a very bitter pill to swallow and people would rather forget how they invariably help in committing some of the gravest errors by electing that system in the first place. People forget that if you want to clean something up; you have to be ready to get your hands dirty. People forget that the system answers to us and us alone because we put them there in the first place. America figured it out when they elected Obama their new President.
The one time we came close to changing the political will of the citizens themselves was with 26/11. The fact that the terrorists had the audacity to enter India through the Gateway of India in Mumbai and manage to hold the nation hostage for 62 hours, attacking the Taj, a symbol of Indian hospitality and culture had us thinking “The sheer cheek of these buggers!” (Well not quite, but anything else would be unprintable, I’m sure.) The fact that the government had intelligence and did next to nothing about it, while some made comments about how such things happened in big cities and that women shouldn’t be out cursing the government, but Pakistan instead had us cringing in horror and bewilderment.
26/11 became bigger than any other terrorist attack on the country because for once, it wasn’t you and I on a public train that got hit. It was the elite, the crème of the society, who thought they lived in a bulletproof glass palace. Sure, we pitched in with all the peace marches and emotionally charged slogans, but don’t kid yourselves that it happened because we had had enough. The Taj might be a symbol of Indian hospitality, but how many of “us” actually get to experience it? We marched, rallied and yelled because if those elite aren’t safe, who really is? But January has come to a close and just over two months later, the anger seems to have fizzled out.
Why didn’t the anger demand that the ex-Home Minister not be allowed to resign quietly, but instead be tried in court because he aided and abetted the terrorists by not actually doing anything about the intelligence received? Where was this self-righteous anger when a narcissist who unveiled her own statue (and then said that it wasn’t big enough) and an octogenarian well past his prime declare that they will become the next Prime Minister of our country? Isn’t this the same anger and public opinion that led to the fall of the Congress after the Emergency and more recently, the reopening of the Jessica Lal murder case?
After the 26/11, there was a wave doing the rounds about the “no-vote” option for the voting citizens in the country, which had the politicians clucking in alarm. Can you imagine what they would do if they knew we were all going to come out and vote? Make no mistake, they want the power. But it is only us who can give it to them. We need to be ruthless now. We can’t afford to let the shackles of religion, caste and elitist politics get the better of us. If the candidate is too old, cut him out. If the candidate hasn’t delivered his promises, don’t vote for him a second time. Let it be known that there will be no second chances if they mess it up.
Understand that when you go out and vote, these people sit up and pay notice. They will be forced to field better candidates. If an issue has gone unaddressed, ours is the most media-hyped generation there is. If you have an opinion, do your best to air it through the internet and the media. Organize youth rallies or just participate; educate those around you about their rights and duties. Let the people who run this country as the “top bosses” know that this is a public enterprise where we matter the most. Mobilize, sensitize and verbalize because the state of Indian politics today is a joke. The saddest thing is it really isn’t a laughing matter at all.