Last month, the US India Business Council (USIBC) arranged a platform where
spokespersons of the Congress and BJP, namely,
Manish Tewari and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, respectively, met and
spoke on their parties' stand on various issues. Delhi-based think-tank Observer Research Foundation had brought the two leaders together to hear them unveil a vision for the country that the top two parties share. Both leaders spoke good things about India and raised expectation about the latter in the mind of the Americans.
What was even more striking was that the duo, irrespective of the fact that they came from two rival parties, spoke with lot of dignity. The audience were surprised to see Tewari praising the previous NDA government in building strategic relations with the US and said the current UPA government has built on it, culminating in the nuclear deal between the two countries. Rudy said everything was looking good in India and refused to comment on the corruption problem that is regularly making the headlines in the country's media.
An impressed USIBC said that it was proved during the talks that India is indeed a vibrant democracy. The moderator was even heard saying that political players in the USA should learn from the type of harmony the two premier parties in India exhibited.
Advani praised the UPA govt at UN
More recently, we saw senior BJP leader LK Advani praising the rural employment scheme of the UPA government at the UN. Advani said the flagship programme helped in empowering rural people and reviving economic uplift.
Why Indian politicians are hypocrites?
The scenario in the US quite exposes the hypocrisy of Indian politicians. Back home, it is impossible to imagine the arch-rivals ever reaching a consensus on any issue. Be it the Congress and BJP, Trinamool Congress and CPI(M), SP and BSP or DMK and AIADMK. Can we ever expect a positive agreement between these parties on any issue? Yes, there can be times when we see some of these parties indirectly supporting the same issue but that is more of a negative response to a situation created by a third force's action.
Does political compulsion turn them into hypocrites?
It is not that the Indian political parties become aware in front of a foreign audience and try to maintain a good image of the country. Actually, it proves that our politicians today are little different in terms of political ideology and economic orientation.
The problem is: The parties today know very well that to survive in a socio-politically fragmented environment, it is very necessary for them to take a distinct standpoint (like for example, secular or non-secular) but in terms of economic ideology (capitalist or socialist), there is virtually no room to innovate for this is an era of one-way capitalism. Politics is becoming more and more diverse while economics is turning increasingly uniform.
Politics is a subject of the masses (we vote that party which raises feel-good slogans) while economics is largely a domain of the experts (we don't really understand why subsidy economy is bad or why FDI is not so bad as it is presumed to be) and in this situation, it is a common strategy for the political parties to thrive for an 'exclusive' tag by playing cards like caste, minority, dalit uplift, etc.
That golden exclusive tag leads to fierce competition
This is where the BJP tried to prove itself different from the Congress, for given both having a similar pro-west economic orientation, the only way by which it could become a 'party with the difference' was by playing the Hindutva card. For a secular Congress, it is not easy to play the hard communal card.
Politics is community-oriented and still a traditional discourse in India and hence it is very important for the parties to continue with an ideological mass appeal, a high degree of hollowness notwithstanding, if they need to tap political resources to gain power.
The irony is that with deepening of democracy, the socio-political fragmentation has only widened, hence making it important for the parties to keep close to each other despite thriving for that exclusive tag.
Ideology becomes less binding
As a result, ideology has become a less-binding force today for rigid an ideology makes it difficult to integrate different groups to put up a 'coalition', a crucial term in the power politics of today's India. Here again, we see the BJP ending up as a party with the difference for the same communal card that differentiated it from the Congress, has made it 'untouchable' for most other parties, thanks to the prized vote-bank.
Most parties today try to project themselves as secular and hence become anti-BJP. There is no wonder that the BJP, too, is trying today to undergo a change and rediscover itself as a development-oriented party. And to welcome development, none can afford to overlook economic liberalisation, for which the Congress is currently fighting. So the conclusion is: Indian politicians take a O-turn and end up on the same stage despite all differences of colours on the flag.
Balancing between politics and economics exposes parties
The democratic polity in India today is seeing its economy being gradually opened up. The awkward situation that has been created due to this has clearly exposed our politicians. Each political party shout its heart out saying it has an ideological stand and all other parties are wrong. The desperation even leads these parties to a point where they start contradicting their own position. The BJP's opposition to FDI is an example of this.
Regional parties also suffer because of compulsive vote-bank politics and lack of ideology
The same situation can be seen at the regional level also where parties, despite claiming that they never endorse the politics of the arch-rivals, actually repeat each other's feats after coming to power. UP never witnesses a change of fortune whether there is SP or BSP in power, Tamil Nadu's politics hardly changes when the DMK replaces AIADMK and vice-versa and of late, the political scenario in West Bengal has moved little after the Trinamool dethroned its arch-rival, the Left Front. This is because, they don't really have any ideology but a compulsive vote-bank politics to pursue.
The Tewari-Rudy talks showed how a peaceful harmony takes over our politicians when they are not chased by political compulsions. On the soil of the USA, what both the Congress and the BJP needed to exhibit is their penchant for foreign capital and the two representatives rightfully did so. But as soon as they return, these same men will waste little time in donning the contrasting mantles so that they can be identified by voters in the political background.