MOHINDER Amarnath once, famously, called the selectors a "bunch of jokers". A majority of India's population would use the same description for our present rulers, adding the word 'destructive' before 'bunch'. That politicians live in a hermetically sealed world in which only 'news you can use' gets through is a truism turned fact. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if these self-styled leaders have any idea of the sense of revulsion, loathing and disgust they cause in the electorate.
Talk to a politician from any party and he will dismiss the 'useless and corrupt' charge. They are, they claim, public servants working for the public good and at the receiving end of middle-class anger and cynicism. It seems the alleged disgust and loathing are merely a media, especially English media, creation. Living in a fool's paradise is nothing new for people like Jayalalitha, Vajpayee, Advani, Sonia, Deve Gowda, George Fernandes, Surjeet and the Yadav kinsmen, to name just a few. If you keep denying reality perhaps it will go away. If it were only that simple.
The feeling that all politicians are self-seeking and corrupt has always existed in our country. The last two to three weeks, however, have taken this mood to a new high. The overwhelming majority of the electorate perceives politicians as hostile adversaries undermining the foundations of the republic. The low esteem in which the so-called public servants are held (opinion polls regularly show that they vie for last place with smugglers) is not merely a discussion subject for some rarefied seminar; it is a disaster for what little is left of Indian democracy.
Increasingly, voters see public life as a contest between the incompetent and the corrupt, both having not the slightest concern for the national interest. Ask our leaders "but what about the national interest?" They break into a wry smile suggesting that such questions can come only from the simple-minded. Make no mistake, what we have at present is the total collapse of trust between the electors and the elected. Alas, in the long and short run this is more harmful for the former.
In our cover story we have taken some of the main players—unfortunately, they cut across party lines—and examined their conduct in the past of couple of weeks. It is a sorry tale of personal ambitions and personal agendas running riot.
One is not naive enough to believe that ambitions and agendas will vanish. But there is a Lakshmanrekha, a point at which even the incorrigibly narrow-minded leader examines his behaviour and its effect on the nation. The tragedy of India today is that the already blurred Lakshmanrekha has completely disappeared.
The aphorism, a country gets the politicians it deserves, is generally true. However, I would like to know what bad karma the people of India have committed to deserve this lot.