Wednesday, January 19, 2017

Drain the swamp

“Drain the swamp” and “Make America great again”, ­became the election slogans that propelled Donald Trump to an unprecedented victory in the US presidential election.

06 Jan, 2017, 12:01AM IST

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 They fit the candidate because he was an outsider, that is, not part of the political establishment. In fact, Donald Trump’s win is historic precisely because he is not a career politician. The “Drain the swamp” saying reflected the hopes and aspirations of those people so tried of “the old boys club”, they sought a change, even if the change Trump offered might have some negative consequence. Barack Hussain Obama was also somewhat of a political outsider when he became president in the 2008 election. Obama campaigned on “Hope and Change” and mesmerised voters who gave him clear-cut mandate to move forward with his agenda to change US politics. Trump and Obama won similarly, in that each won because he managed to captivate the imagination of the masses. And both in the 2008 and 2016 campaigns, the masses continued to imagine a new leader could deliver a better tomorrow. 
With a golden tongue, Narendra Modi enthralled the Indian masses with the slogan “Ache din aane wale hai”. He promised people that he would drain the swamp of “black money” and fill the accounts of every Indian with Rs 15 to 20 lakh in the process.  The previous UPA government led by Congress Party, was rife with scandals and corruption. In fact, steered by Anna Hazare, whole India rose to campaign against corruption. The nation was ready for someone new to lead them to a better place. The campaign against corruption was systematically and masterfully employed by the BJP to its advantage, playing on the nation’s hope for better days. The result? BJP came to power with a full majority. Ironically, since his ascendancy over two years ago, Modi has lived his life literally up in the air, flying from one country to another, apparently oblivious to all of the hardship the common man is facing down below. Yet ordinary citizens are still hoping that he will deliver the goods he promised, not realising his insidious plans to suppress the poor, minorities and all those who opposes his faulty vision. 
How can a swamp be drained, when those who created it and are happy to live in it? Rahul Gandhi made a startling announcement: “I have personal information of corruption to expose Narendra Modi – otherwise read my lips.” Next we hear about an Agusta Westland helicopter scam and Robert Vadra, and Rahul is silenced in what could be the only time a predicted man-made earthquake did not take place. Also apparently impossible to investigate are the riots in Gujarat in 2000, during which thousands of innocent people were killed, but no one was held responsible or convicted for the crime. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that when the entire government machinery is under the control of corrupt leadership, justice and truth have no possibility of prevailing. Yes, there are few voices that continue to give hope, including those of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, but India’s swamp is so massive that these voices get stifle. India’s people are afraid to challenge the status quo, and so the swamp keeps growing by leaps and bounds. 
All the policies of the present leadership are connected to nationalism, a dangerous trend, for how can the nation be more important than the lives of its citizens? Man is not made for the nation, but nation is made to serve man. Without humans there would be no nation. Demonetisation, for example, is given a jingoistic flavor, although it is only a token gesture made in the name of cleaning up black money. Nothing is done to uproot the cause of black money; in fact, even legal control already in place to check those taking bribes are being nullified by the present administration. What a travesty? Poor people with high aspiration continue to look for better future, while political leaders and their rich cronies are laughing at the plight of the helpless masses. While politically connected host lavish weddings, fathers of poor brides are hanging themselves in shame. 
The swamp was created by the political parties, but Modi’s government would rather destroy NGOs and dismantle non-profit organisations than drain the swamp. NGOs and non-profit organisations have been the backbone of masses and protectors of the constitution. Unlike the political parties that are founts of black money, these organisations are mostly transparent and honest. Yogendra Yadav challenged the government to address the sources of black money. He suggested that the  limit of Rs 20,000 for political parties should be eliminated and replaced with a rule that every penny should be accounted for. He said each party should declare the number of demonetised notes it has deposited as of December 30, and those figures should be made public. Yadav also called for a special audit this year of all the political parties and all the MPs and MLAs, and said that the results should not be submitted to their own party boss, but to the public of India. And finally Yadav says accounting guidelines sought for several years now by the Election Commission should be made mandatory. 
Accountability is a fundamental requirement of good governance. A community’s well-being results when all of its members feel their interests have been considered by council in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process.  The US election has a lesson to teach us. The Democratic Party lost this year’s election, because Obama’s policy to promote his vision of ‘Change and Hope’ was not compatible with capitalism, and instead help infest the swamp with more alligators. Hence, his polices were rejected by the people of the US. 
All or most political parties in India are dwelling in the swamp of black money, corruption, extortion, faulty vision of communalism, but all astutely work to galvanise the masses on their particular sides by encouraging in word if not deed their hopes for a better future. Can a blind person lead another blind person? Certainly not! Both will fall in a ditch. Therefore, can the political swamp of India ever be drain? With the present leaders, it is most unlikely. When there is a log is one’s eye, how can one see a splinter in somebody else’s eye? Who will drain the swamp!