Politicians? Try The Apes

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ALMOST THREE months since the Mumbai attacks, which led many citizens to loudly question politicians at a new level, we are still asking if their Teflon coat is damaged beyond repair and a replacement sought. Although people are now much less nervous than in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, it is clear that India has been shaken from the top, instead of the usual bottom. What was unique was that India’s upper classes were aggrieved as the hotels attacked were essentially extensions of their homes.

The demonstrations, marches and peace vigils by middle and upper middle classes were directed primarily against politicians of all colours. This vulnerability brought about not only outrage but started a blame game, a real urban backlash started against politicians.

With Parliamentary elections around the corner, I wonder, as a legislator myself: are politicians really dispensable? When will our most vocal critics start voting? Will those holding placards in Mumbai actually decide to stand in the same line as sweepers, cleaners and washers, sparing their precious time to vote, with the same commitment they demonstrated to the cameras on Marine Drive or Nariman Point? If we do rid ourselves of politicians, what will we miss? High-handedness? Devious schemes? Profitmaking? Political chicanery? The switching of political alliances faster than a chief minister’s convoy can skip traffic lights? But what if we actually get rid of them? Who will we lampoon and hate? Can crooked businessmen, film stars, and Delhi’s blueline buses really satisfy our need to blame someone else for the state of the nation, the crises we face and the pothole that aunty fell into yesterday?

A world without legislators is an undemocratic one, but there are alternatives. We could be managed by bureaucrats selected, posted and transferred by public vote, reality TV style each week. Or a return to princely states and dynastic power. How about a system of elected representatives without political parties, a merit-based democracy of loose and moving alliances based on individual beliefs, not hardened political dogma. Something like your golf club elections? What about warlords and the power of the gun? Why not leave it all to our religious leaders in a theocracy? Surely, a utopian world without discrimination or recrimination? Or perhaps a filmocracy; after Zardari’s reactions to the “beautiful” Sarah Palin, it could be good for cross-border relations!

Most urban dwellers would likely agree that while the rejection of all politicians is appealing, it belongs more to the dinner table. In the bright light of day, the alternatives are more unpalatable. Yes, politicians can be the worst of the worst, and some do need to stop monkeying around. But they can also, if we elect the right ones, be drivers of success, leaders to be proud of. Good politicians are not dispensable, they are crucial to the success of both individuals and our nation. Better still would be for the middle and upper classes to vote this May, increasing numbers at the ballot box, not just the TV phone-ins. Vote for those that will invoke the laws of the land and not the laws of the jungle.

And finally, for those urbanites, guilty of conspicuous consumption and neighbour envy, desperately seeking the abolition of politicians, there’s always that very appealing and appetising alternative featured in that 1968 blockbuster starring Charlton Heston: Planet of the Apes. I kid you not!!

Khangura is a first-time Congress MLA from Qila Raipur, Punjab

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