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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2555

Lawmakers Behaving Unlawfully Becoming Common

Lawmakers Behaving Unlawfully Becoming Common

Delhi Police have registered a case against Ravindra Vishwanath Gaikwad, the 56-year-old Shiv Sena Member of Parliament from Osmanabad, Maharashtra, after a video that showed him assaulting a 60-year-old Air India staffer led to a country-wide uproar.

That an elected representative appeared defiant, if not ‘proud’, after he had rained blows with his slippers on a hapless airline staffer, Sukumar, for no fault of his was hardly surprising even as we may deplore it vociferously. Similar incidents, involving elected representatives or ‘activists’ of various political parties have been occurring fairly regularly for several years. What was known as ‘moral force’ has been shortened to ‘force’ in today’s political life.

In a broad sense, violence by politicians or their supporters can be seen as another form of corruption. It is used for dubious political dealings and exploitation and subjugation of people to establish a person’s power and hegemony. Violence may not be part of everyday life of most politicians but it certainly has found more acceptance than ever before. No thought is given to the fact that violence in public life, if not checked, can affect the country’s society and its economy.

People known to be close to certain political parties (not just one party) have been quite open in using ‘force’ in many ways, through verbal threats and coercion as also physical violence. Of late, there has been a sharp rise in threats being issued by the self-appointed custodians of Indian ‘culture’. Vigilante groups seem to think they have the license to resort to violence. The influence of their political patrons saves them away from trouble.

When the ‘new Maharajas’, as the breed of post-Independence politicians is sometimes referred to, travel they expect utmost deference, defining their own rules and conduct. It is the politicians or people backed by them who are behind threats to many Indians to go to a certain country in the neighbourhood if they do not accept their diktats on certain personal choices.

A man was lynched by mob that was reportedly led by a member of the ruling party, on suspicion of storing ‘beef’ in his fridge. There was no remorse from the attackers when the suspicion was found to be wrong. Young men and women, if seen together, are liable to be beaten because that is supposed to be against Indian ‘culture’. There is stout defence of this kind of vigilantism.

It has become common to be questioned about one’s patriotism and failing to pass the ‘test’, prescribed by blue-blooded ‘patriots’, is invitation to trouble. Many of our politicians have led groups to beat up men at highway toll plazas because the politicians will not pay the obligatory toll.

Gaikwad represents the Shiv Sena whose leaders and followers alike are not known to be shy of behaving abusively or violently and seldom, if ever, express regret over it. To no one’s surprise, the top leadership of the party has supported Gaikwad’s conduct. In fact, they have demanded an apology from the victims and his employer, Air India, a public sector undertaking.

It was amusing to find that many leaders of the ruling party in Maharashtra and at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party, joined those who condemned Gaikwad’s conduct. It is amusing because the BJP, the oldest political ally of the Shiv Sena, has never actually felt embarrassed by the style of Shiv Sena politics which includes outbursts of violence against its rivals and critics and also outpouring of vitriol against religious and other minorities in Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai.

As the ruling party with bigger political clout, the BJP ought to have been more forthright in condemning Shiv Sena threats to the minorities. It has willingly accepted Shiv Sena’s trademark violent brand of politics. The Shiv Sena has only felt emboldened as a result. It frequently criticises the BJP, daring it to quit the alliance in Maharashtra and at the Centre.

It was a bit surprising that the Delhi police did register a case against the MP because in most of such cases the police are known to be reluctant to act. Reports have appeared regularly about politicians getting involved in altercation with public servants. The question is why has that become so common?

Only a person who understands and studies human behaviour and professionally analyses the reasons for irrational acts can give a ‘politically correct’ answer to this query—with a lengthy explanation that the layman might interpret as endorsing the perceived misconduct. But the layman, not bothered about ‘political correctness’, might be willing to talk in a sweeping, generalised way while adducing the reasons.

While there will always be exceptions to the rule, the prevailing political milieu in the country does not work in favour of ‘good qualities’ among our elected representatives. As a result, the ‘quality’ of people who enter public life and become active politicians has gone down. People with old memories will recall that politicians and public figures during the freedom struggle and some years after Independence commanded the kind of respect and affection that has slowly but surely ebbed away over the past few years.

From officially released records one thing that cannot be disputed is that there has been a sharp fall in the number of ‘clean’ politicians in our public life. Take any state legislature or parliament, the number of people who have criminal cases registered against them is alarming, even after making allowances for the ‘politically motivated’ or ‘false’ cases.

One cannot recall many names of ‘tainted’ elected representatives who entered public life till about the end of the 1960s or so. Another notable feature of the bygone era was the preponderance of educationally sound elected representatives in the elected bodies of the states and parliament. Some rich and ‘controversial’ figures did manage to make it to the elected bodies but not as a rule.

Today’s ‘who is who’ list of elected members, whether at the state level or in parliament, has a large number of entries of members who are facing criminal charges. The consideration of the winning potential of a candidate far outweighs other factors. A ‘controversial’ past does not matter when winning elections is the most important consideration. But it will be wrong to concentrate on one political party when talking of the ‘poor quality’ of politicians.

All political parties sound hollow when they try to show that all of their elected members are men and women of high morals. In any case, the ‘morality’ of a candidate is never an issue in any election. When morals and ethics no longer matter, politicians or elected representatives do not have to put their best foot forward or think twice before beating anyone in full public view.

- Asian Tribune -

Ravindra Vishwanath Gaikwad -  56-year-old Shiv Sena Member of Parliament from Osmanabad, Maharashtra
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