Monday, July 28, 2014

Politics Stuck in Rerun Season

The political space is hosting a rerun, again; playing out the same contest of allegations, counter-allegations, mud-slinging and condemnations. The nature of the allegations, and the quality of repartees have remained underdeveloped ever since Sikkim made space for political disagreements. Allegations of corruption, dilution of Sikkim’s special status, ‘victimisation’ of supporters and well-wishers and denial of local protection make up the grist of all attacks from the Opposition camp, and reminders of the people’s mandate and pointers to go over its track-record form the basis of all retorts from the ruling front. While reiterations of the same allegations and counters might draw applause and sniggers from supporters and detractors respectively, for an unattached receiver of these exchanges, the content and approach arrive as examples of lazy politics. The same issues have been endlessly regurgitated, repackaged and redeployed, and while political game-plans are for the respective players to chart out, having appropriated a public life for themselves, politicians owe more to the people by way of the quality of debate they bring to the public space. Corruption, protection of local laws and local people are not non-issues, and because they are important, they deserve stronger homework and more convincing arguments. The ongoing exchange on these issues, it is obvious, is playing out to a bored audience since neither side has been able to excite passionate support among the people. The endorsement of supporters is automatic for each side, but as far as the general masses are concerned, they read, some even follow developments, many get confused, and none are really “informed” well enough to take a public stand on these issues. That is thefailure of both, the ruling as well as the Opposition camps, because the lack of public engagement on these matters is not a manifestation of an informed choice, but a disinterest imposed by muddled polemics.
The argument that people in Sikkim do not get excited into participation easily is too superficial and one needs to only recall the thousands who poured into the streets on the call of a certain ‘27 Nov Committee’ some years back and more recently in the support received by the protesting students from the lay people [until the more violently inclined hijacked everything and destroyed it], to realise how, with the right approach, public participation can become overwhelming in Sikkim. Where the people might be failing though is in their active involvement to take democracy further by demanding more accountability, transparency and decency [accept it, language is turning increasingly unparliamentary], all virtues one would expect from people in public life, from their leaders. Politics is universally dismissed as “dirty”, and this is primarily because the “virtues” mentioned earlier have become almost alien to political culture at the national level and its influence is rubbing off strong on Sikkim as well. But when was the last time one heard of an electorate standing its leaders against the wall and demanding accountability? Mudslinging, unrestrained criticism of opponents and the total lack of accountability for what one does or says, not just in private but also in public, have become routine. Rhetoric is entertaining and rehashing attracts fewer risks than deploying creativity to introduce something new to the public political discourse, but that demands complete immersion in ideology and a clear idea on how to promote it. Such commitment, unfortunately, is now seen as a distraction from the pursuits which have made politics “dirty” in the people’s eyes.

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