GK Chesterton was asked by somebody to comment on civilization and he responded: “I think it’s a great idea; why doesn’t somebody start one?”
The more I look at our political scene in our supposedly civilized society, the more I admire his brilliant observation. Nothing is so vastly related to the civilizational progress of the contemporary human society and yet nothing has been so irresponsibly handled. No human institution can accommodate as many unprincipled people and can so generously justify low-mindedness as politics does.
O politics, how low canst thou go? Why breakest thou all boundaries of morality? Among other things, what makes our politics so contemptible is the unrepressed side-switching which is unparalleled anywhere else on the face of the planet.
When did we become so shockingly flexible in terms of politics? I was talking to a friend from Nepal recently. I have not been able to stop thinking about what he said. “I always thought that Sikkim had a much stronger hold over political principles. But I was wrong. Nepalese people generally die in the same party that they first choose. The only massive switch was in 2008 when people from across the political spectrum voted for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Now people have come back to their traditional parties.”
How outlandish is it to imagine a future Sikkim government within the next ten years with the Chief Minister from SKM, the deputy CM and prominent Ministers from the BJP and some advisors and chairpersons from the SDF and HSP. You can juggle these alternatives whatever way you like. But in our staggeringly flexible Sikkim politics, no outrageous imagination is outlandish enough. Call them Bikuwa or Imandar – they are ready to forge a team that will be strong enough to help them survive politically. This is precisely how ‘principle’ is exchanged with ‘pragmatism’ in Sikkim politics. And before we get on our high horse, let’s remember that there is no point in squarely blaming everything on politicians. Their nervy moves are more or less the mirror image of people’s moves. Is it any wonder then how close supporters are following their motional leaders in droves! Some may want to cling to a particular political ideology but the chances of other supporters shifting their allegiance to the incumbent leadership are severely high. Ideologies can wait but supporters won’t – such is the line of thinking out there in politics in our land.
“It is pointless to get too serious about politics. We must go where it is profitable.” This is typically the argument from those who have no issue with party-hopping. Fair enough! However, this self-positioning, albeit temporarily and personally beneficial, comes with a massive cost otherwise. Here are my top four problems with such a political culture.
The Mockery of Ideology: The act of party-hopping betrays how little importance our politicians give to political ideologies. Remember, ideology is to politics what foundation is to a structure. Political leaders are expected to commit themselves to their preferred ideology and even die for their postures so that they can resolutely contribute to the strengthening of the shared fate of a society. The fate of a society that treats political ideologies as seasonal fashion garments is only predictable. How strong can our society be when the leaders who pretend to spearhead its construction hold a posture that is shakier than the flimsy flags they keep changing? How careless we must be to ignore these ideological fluctuations. They jump from one extreme to the other and expect us to clap for them. One moment a particular mission is the lifeline of Sikkim and the next moment the same mission is the recipe for destruction. The brilliant ideas of yesterday become trash today and the most destructive principles of yesterday become the cornerstone of political goals today. Yesterday’s heroism becomes today’s villainy.
Now the graver problem is that we are not only forgiving such leaders but we are also following them – blindly lavishing our devotion on them. The questions come thick and fast – what can we expect from ourselves when we are so blindly dependant on wavering leaders? What makes us so vulnerable that we are ready to call white black if so demanded by our leaders? When did we mortgage our right to be what we are? Why do we have to celebrate and mourn at their command? Why should they decide what is right or wrong for us?
The angst of people who live in a society where the betrayal of ideology cannot be vindicated is dangerous.
The Blatant Justification of the Power Game:
Even the dullest fool in the universe knows that politics is all about power. However, such unrestrained party-hopping on the part of leaders which is immediately followed by their supporters stepping in line behind them betrays an underlying problem in our society. Power is such a tantalizing temptation that we cannot imagine life outside of it. The determination and intention to swim against the tide is striking by its absence. It may not look terribly dangerous at first glance but such a societal attitude can be self-destructive. Our bargaining points are too open for anyone to see. We have not only allowed politics to be hijacked by brute power but we are also unashamedly celebrating the hijacking with gusto. This is an extremely materialistic response and have we not realized that overtly materialistic politics can eventually destroy everything that we would like to be proud of?
The Flawed Concept of Political Heroism:
How can we expect the future generation to celebrate the legacy of our political heroes when they themselves didn’t know what their political beliefs and stance were? What kind of future political leadership do we expect to beget? What kind of Sikkim are we hoping to leave behind for our progeny, riding on the wings of such shaky politics? Seriously, when political leaders become heroes by party-hopping, we have to redefine ‘heroism’ for ourselves. What greater delusion can there be when defeatism is celebrated as a victory?
Instant Gratification and Survival Outdo a Long-Term Agenda:
Through the political lens of some of our politicians, what is seen prominently are what matters now, what gratifies their instant hankerings and what secures their survival and promotion. That’s the limitation of their vision for many of them. The concept of vision has been ruthlessly constricted.
Every Sikkimese must realize that even those who are truly apolitical are more than extraneous spectators. What we see will eventually affect us. We may choose to keep quiet thinking that it has nothing to do with us. But we better think again. For those who are blissfully silent, nothing may convince them to utter a word. But for those who are involved in reasoned discourse, it is high time that our discourse is taken to a higher level than the routine murmurings within the bounds of social media.
“How can we expect the future generation to celebrate the legacy of our political heroes when they themselves didn’t know what their political beliefs and stance were? What kind of future political leadership do we expect to beget? What kind of Sikkim are we hoping to leave behind for our progeny, riding on the wings of such shaky politics? Seriously, when political leaders become heroes by party-hopping, we have to redefine ‘heroism’ for ourselves. What greater delusion can there be when defeatism is celebrated as a victory?”
By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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