For many years now a big farce is being played like a never ending drama on the national stage. The plots and characters do change often but then there are some characters, including their kith and kin, which appear to be more popular and get casted repeatedly. Illustrious family names, mammoth bank accounts, ability to twist and turn the law on its head, breaking rules with impunity, misappropriating public funds, numbered accounts in foreign banks and making an ass of public at large are some of the essential traits that stand out for most central characters in nearly all the episodes that cover a wide variety of national activities. The lead characters include politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats, administrators, journalists and that special breed of power brokers who act as baiters and facilitators.
This farce has been going on for over a decade now. It keeps the nation glued to television and keeps employees of many government agencies like police, CBI, RAW and various tax departments busy. Since country’s law is invariably a casualty in these episodes, the courts too take centre stage from time to time but without any intention to bring any episode to its logical end. There are episodes that are running for years and beat any Saas Bahu serial in terms of longevity on channels like Star and Zee. It is interesting to note that media houses have developed their own investigative arms who uncover morsels of inside information from time to time on the episode of their interest. One often wonders about the capabilities of nation’s premier investigative agencies since media seems to unearth gems of new information at the drop of a hat that had eluded these worthy agencies for years. Documents, voice clips, phone records, e mails, bank records and even witnesses are flashed with a glee by journalists as trophies to the apparent discomfort of characters of the episodes and their political parties. Somewhere there is a lurking suspicion that these evidences are more in the form of plants by vested parties than by any diligent investigative journalism.
This farce has another special trait. Some episodes are put on a backburner but they resurface from time to time depending on the needs of the interested political party. 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 Sikh riots are prime examples of these now on now off episodes that keep resurfacing. Files relating to episodes like Bofors Gate, 2G and Chopper Gate suddenly come on top of the heap on the basis of some fresh evidence that no one knew for years. Of course the ruling party has an edge on the content and at regular intervals the nation’s purported first political family is shaken up with new leads on various episodes that include Bofors Gate, Vadra Gate and National Herald case. Spokespersons from the grand old party sit on national television to defend the charges with lack of conviction and discomfort written all over their faces. The ruling party representatives sit smugly on the same show with a holier than thou attitude based on the knowledge that last three years of their rule have been nearly scam free. Episodes relating to Uniform Civil Code, reservation policies, cow slaughter, Ram Mandir, Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Naxal problem and farmer suicides send the national pulse racing. These are evergreen episodes that can be relied on to attract a lot of eye balls on television. Despite a decade of discussions on these issues, their status remains unchanged. Some state centric episodes like Fodder Scam in Bihar, disproportionate cases against Mulayam Sing Yadav in UP and late Jaylalitha in Tamil Nadu, Chit fund scams in West Bengal and Vyappam in Madhya Pradesh act as good fillers to be aired when nothing else is happening at national level.
Of late there has been a shift in the content of the episodes. Corruption, money laundering, political funding, minority issues have to now vie with the subject of reinterpreting history and culture. There is a mad race to usurp historical leaders, at times centuries old, to either make them larger than life or to belittle them in public eye. Frankly one can make a case that there is nothing wrong in doing so – after all perceptions can change or wrongly recorded history corrected. This would even be welcome if objectivity and honesty took centre stage. Unfortunately vested interests ensure that objectivity remains just a word in the dictionary and honesty a trait that is only to be preached but not followed. So a Nehru becomes a villain responsible for most major ills facing the nation today. Gandhi Ji is possibly to blame for all problems that exist between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Sardar Patel becomes the sole icon and architect of modern India. Aurangzeb and Tippu Sultan are to be remembered only for their atrocities on Hindus and nothing else. Taj Mahal suddenly goes missing from state tourism brochures. Ambedkar becomes the most respected leader during elections and then forgotten by most. Depending on time, place and the audience past leaders to be denounced or facilitated are chosen. Luckily Indian history, old as it is, does offer a lot of choice in this regard with contradictions and controversies to match.
The question often asked is why these episodes are not taken to their logical end. The answer to this question is obviously very complicated. Politicians needs some ammunition for their verbal guns from time to time that must match the place, time and more importantly the mood of the people being addressed. Therefore the need for a bouquet of episodes to be available to them from which they can select the one to be played on need basis. It does appear as if there is a political understanding between all concerned that no episode will ever be taken to its finality. Based on principle of honour among thieves, the results are there for everyone to see. Congress party has 2002 Gujarat riots, Babri Masjid and role of RSS to fall back upon. BJP of course is lucky since Congress has given it a lot of variety starting from 1947 till date. Nehru’s handling of Kashmir and 1962 debacle, 1984 Sikh riots, Vadra Gate, Bofors gate, Chopper Gate, 2G/3G scams, National Herald case and Common Wealth games scam being their favourites. Imagine how boring election rhetoric would be if these episodes had been done and dusted by now. Majority of political leaders would have nothing to say since nation building is an alien subject for most and they would all be at sea if asked to speak about it.
Can this farce ever end? Under normal course it is unlikely to end in a nation like India. But given the current government’s focus on development, eradication of corruption and instilling a sense of pride in being an Indian there does appear some hope. Without a doubt their delivery on all these counts could have been much better. Still if Mr Modi and his party secure a second term in 2019 chances are that Congress would shrink further and become more insignificant. If that happens BJP will only have to worry about a few regional parties and centre would be theirs for many more years unless a political miracle happens. In that scenario a lot of Congress related episodes are likely to be taken to their final end to make sure Congress is pushed further into oblivion. To achieve this BJP will certainly need to carry forward its clean image and show visible results on all fronts. If not then it may give fillip to a coalition of opposition parties with Congress being one of them but not necessary in the lead role. Politics is full of uncertainties and politicians are known to accept strange bedfellows willingly if it can help their cause. In such a scenario ‘the farce’ will once again become pivotal to Indian politics with focus on unearthing new episodes that could make BJP scurry for cover.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.