In Indian politics, people succeed not because they are successful and worthy, but because their adversary failed; anti-incumbency is the challenger's greatest weapon; and mine is NOTA
Asking a NOTA advocate to vote for a political party is like asking an atheist to choose between two religions.
In a recent freewheeling interview with filmmaker and ex-Urban Naxal Vivek Agnihotri, this author reiterated what he has said openly on numerous previous occasions — that whenever he has voted in an Indian election, he has always opted for NOTA, or 'None of the Above' option.
That did it. Both, Vivek's provocative ripostes on the subject of Urban Naxals as well as the exasperating Poltergeist background hum were set aside quickly; what followed was tender trolling and chastisement, from close friends and acquaintances alike. "How can you even think of opting for NOTA? It is a waste of your vote. The country is going through a critical phase and people like you seem unconcerned. Typical idealistic fool."
The supporters of political parties despise the NOTA option, if not also those who press it. This is quite understandable and must not be taken to heart. This author is an atheist, but not a militant atheist. One understands that this world is run by believers who are constantly asking others to choose one religion or a cult over another. The very same principle applies to politics. The Congress supporters counsel NOTA votaries of an impending doom if the BJP returns to power while the BJP supporters warn of a full-fledged Armageddon if the Congress were to win. Look, my friend, they say: if ours isn’t the best party it is the least worst party; or as the 3 Idiots meme goes: "Neeche se dekh, neeche se."
Darwinian atheists (the real atheists as opposed to the fake Marxist ones) constitute a tiny minority, and the same is true for NOTA advocates. Ever since NOTA came into force in 2013, only 13 million voters have ever opted for it, compared to well over 2 billion who have chosen to vote for a political party — in State or General elections. There is a strong case for enhancing the power of NOTA — disbarring for a set period those candidates who receive lesser voters than NOTA is a suggestion worth considering. That said, atheists have lost the battle and so have NOTA supporters. The people of the grey inherit the world, and if one needs to understand the reasons why some opt for NOTA, one needs to understand the reasons why some opt for the grey.
This author is not a fan of the grey. He prefers the black and white. It is not that he absolutely hates the grey — no one should absolutely hate anything unless it is a vegetable belonging to the gourd family — but because he finds that this grey, and venturing into it, and believing in it, has given mankind only and only misery.
It is because of the grey that there are people who still believe in religious books, or in Mao and Stalin and Tipu and Churchill and Rhodes and Aurangzeb and Sir Syed and Allama Iqbal and King Leopold and Guevara, and hundreds if not thousands of other men and women who have done or said terrible things, committed awful crimes, but the believers of grey have forgiven them because in their eyes these men and women have also done some good. Mao was responsible for the murder of 60 million of his own men and women. He smiles from Chinese currency notes. Churchill murdered 4 million Indians through a contrived famine, besides pioneering chemical warfare and establishing Social Darwinism as the standard social model. He was voted as the Greatest Briton in a nationwide BBC poll.
Grey has birthed cruel empires and believers of the grey have feted them, forgetting conveniently that a benevolent dictator is still a dictator; a kind criminal is still a criminal; a religious book that preaches hate in addition to kindness is still a hateful religious book.
A believer in grey is a purveyor of Hypocrisy. It comes naturally to him because it stems from the fundamental principle of the grey — that your truthful or brighter half be remembered and your lying and darker half be forgotten. In one sense you are static if you believe in the grey, because your intent always is to show your brighter side. And so you stop revolving. You don’t beget seasons. You are always, and proudly so, the same. Fixed, like Mercury, by the dark pull.
And that is why one would much rather believe in the black and white than the grey. One understands of course that this isn’t always possible, because at the end of the day we are all humans and we all make mistakes and commit crimes for which we are punished or escape punishment. But somewhere along life's journey one has to make a choice — where from does one get the vision, the drive, the inspiration; and not whom does one venerate, revere, or worship. We live and prosper in a society, we gain from it, we have our children gain from it, and so it makes sense that we contribute to its growth and wellbeing. And for that to happen, all of us need inspiration, either from God or from man, and it is primarily for this reason that we install our fellow men and women as leaders of our destiny, the keepers of our trust.
And what should happen when our leaders betray this trust? Those in the grey corner are of the opinion that principles don't matter, that it is entirely appropriate for the word promise to be hidden in the word compromise, and so betrayal of trust and promises are secondary to making a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.
For this very reason, maniacal investment in politics and political outcomes by the voters is futile. The fact remains that India has progressed at her own pace, irrespective of who has been elected to force her pace. Most of the positives that one can add up in favour of the current regime would have happened anyway — all those millions of toilets, light bulbs, gas cylinders, roads, hospitals, schools — they are, broadly speaking, ideology-agnostic. All governments promote it, just that the pace of achieving these aims might differ, but then again not by much.
What differentiates one political party from the next is not the extent to which the promises are fulfilled but, rather, the speed with which they are discarded altogether.
Take the present Modi sarkar. Doubtless it has performed commendably on many of its development goals. But then that was a given. It is a socialist government and its policies are socialist in nature. This is bound to win it elections, as Congress and all other parties have shown time and time again. That said, Prime minister Narendra Modi also knows that Socialism destroys a nation, eats it from within. "Minimum Government" and "Government has no business to be in business" were his mantras in 2014.
And yet, State control has boomed and entered almost every aspect of our lives. Not one prominent public sector unit has been privatised. Air India, Hotel Ashok, banks, and thousands of sick PSUs glug down our money every waking day. Everyone knows this and still we revel in repeating failed experiments. True, there isn’t the kind of big-ticket corruption that was the hallmark of the UPA government, but that is only because the voters have been lulled into believing that big-ticket corruption is the only kind of corruption there is. Wrong.
Socialism, of the type practised in our country, is the root of all corruption. Couple it with investigating agencies still under government control, despite a promise by the BJP that this wouldn't be the case if it came to power; throw in the connivance of political parties like the BJP and the Congress to retrospectively change laws like the FCRA thereby allowing them to circumvent a court conviction; sprinkle a dash of resort politics and MLA-poaching after every hung electoral verdict; garnish the welcoming of tainted politicians into one's fold, remain as resolutely against freedom of speech and expression as the Congress, in spirit if not entirely in deed; and what do you get — a casserole steaming and simmering with corruption.
The BJP is not the exception; every political party is borne out of the grey, every political party preys on your mind to forgive or overlook its crimes and focus only on its good deeds.
Tough. The believers in the Black & White refuse to do so.
On the development work that this government has done these past four years — and it is commendable, the extent and the effort — it might return to power next year. Or it might not and we might get an alternative — of what sturdiness and mileage we aren’t sure. Either way, development will carry on at its own pace — toilets and schools and bridges and satellites and PSUs will continue to be built irrespective. Corruption will carry on and so will appeasement and socialism and state control and anti-freedom of expression laws and a million other things that forever yank India by her wrist and pull her down just as she is about to take flight.
This government is running not only companies but also temples. This government is partnering with anti-India forces (in Bengal panchayat elections and until a few weeks ago, in Jammu and Kashmir). This government is pardoning tens of thousands of criminal stone-pelters whose only aim in life is to kill and maim our security forces. This government refuses to decriminalise homosexuality. This government is silent on Article 370 and 35A. This government is tongue-tied on the Uniform Civil Code. This government has spent three-quarters of a billion dollars on publicity and propaganda. This government has not rehabilitated the Kashmiri Pandits. This government has not undertaken any substantial police reforms. This government has not increased budgetary allocation for Science and Technology. But you know what makes all this worse? This government has a majority.
There is more, much more, of what this government should have done but has not. The believers of the grey want the NOTA advocates to be content at judging India till after the universe has expanded to its highest limits and there isn't a twinkling company to be had anywhere you look. When there is nothing to compare you with, you begin to believe that you are incomparable.
This author has said this before but it begs repeating that India is a river made immune to changing its course because of her politicians. The first and the last objective of an Indian politician is to be in power and keep it, and to make sure the bush doesn't start to creep and take over the newly laid road. In Indian politics, people succeed not because they are successful and worthy, but because their adversary failed. Anti-incumbency is the challenger's greatest weapon. And mine is NOTA.
Anand Ranganathan is an author and a scientist based out of Delhi
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Last Updated Jul 6, 2018, 8:25 PM IST