Politician-police nexus. Money paid to politicians for appointments to official positions; money that is then connected via ‘subscriptions’ from hapless businesses who are tortured by rules and regulations they can never fully comply with. Money then spent by politicians to buy votes. Politicians who switch parties just before elections. Elected representatives who resign to bring down the government and then defect to another party to contest by-elections to undermine the mandate. MPs and MLAs who are toothless – rubber stamps for the whims of the party bosses. Ministers who are in power to not serve but get served – money and other favours. Sedition and jailing used by the rulers to scare and silence. Politicians in partnership with some business people to hurt competition – Indian or otherwise.
It is not necessary to be in power; even being in Opposition can be profitable – money can be extracted for silence, favourable contracts can still be cleared, cases can be suppressed. After all, today’s Opposition can be tomorrow’s Ruling Party – and vice versa. So, best to milk the system together and continuously. In fact, which party is in Opposition is itself in doubt as former competitors at the time of elections can combine forces for power after the election. Confusion for the voters who also don’t care as long as some goodies and freebies are thrown their way. This is the way it has been and this is how it will be.
At the centre of all this is the political party system and the politicians who control these parties. Thanks to the Indian Constitution which mandates deep government intervention in the economy, their power and ability to extract wealth has risen enormously – not very different from how the British Viceroys and their associates did it when they ruled over India. Everyone else gets the crumbs that the party leaders decide. Nominations for elections are handed out not based on competence and citizen choice but on caste calculus and connections. Discrimination based on religion and every other attribute possible is the norm. Speeches name and shame the opponent – no holds barred. The bigger the slander, the greater is the glory amongst one’s core base. Social media armies, the equivalent of Hitler’s SA (brownshirts), defame at will.
Once in power, hitherto independent institutions have to be tamed and subverted. Power has to be exercised for fear or favour. Money, media and muscle are combined together into a toxic cocktail to divide-and-rule in the exercise of absolute power that would make the British envious.
None of this is of course new. This has been happening in almost every nation since there have been politicians. We are shocked and surprised only because we do not read history or understand human behaviour, and therefore have a romantic view of politicians. Only in the rarest of cases when a country gets its rules right or a noble leader emerges does the grip of corruption, poverty and despair get broken and the nation rises.
For the average person, there is little or no time to think about all this as one goes through the daily motions of life. For the few intellectuals who can pontificate on social media or through op-ed columns, their followers do the customary ‘like’ and move on to others in the echo chamber. The masses are unmoved. Even being forced to walk hundreds of kilometres in the aftermath of lockdowns does not shake their belief in the rulers – because the alternatives are worse and so it simply doesn’t matter; life has been ‘nasty, short and brutish’ anyways.
So, is there any hope for a new dawn? For most of us, the answer would be either a don’t care or a No; what was will continue to be.
I don’t want to yet give up. As an entrepreneur, I constantly think of new ideas with a vivid imagination that constructs new futures. This is what I will do in this series – lay out a vision and roadmap to rid India’s democracy of political parties and their leaders, create a new government of Independents who can in a single-term free Indians who don’t even know they are serfs, and dismantle the anti-prosperity mission so future generations can experience wealth levels that people in developed countries like the US and Singapore have seen. A few of us can indeed change our nation and the world.