Friday, October 13, 2006

Contemporary British – Indian politics: and a lesson for us

In the span of 45days British politics has seen a yearly gala of political conventions. Starting from leadership race of fringe right wing conservatives (euro sceptics) in the form of UKIP, moving onto the liberal movement (Liberal Democrats) of British politics synonyms to third front of Indian politics, to the ruling Labour party where we saw the incumbent Prime Minister giving his farewell speech and would be PMs making a pitch for leadership race and finally Tory party convention which saw their leader firmly seated to bring back Tories to power.

Now, you may ask what is so special about these political party conventions, as the same happens in India and that too in plenty and great pomp and glory both in terms of people attending the conventions and also in terms of grandeur.
The answer is there is a fundamental differences on two accounts one being the conventions are attended by those die hard party loyalists and members right from the block level upwards and the other is of even greater importance for us to take note of is these party conventions primarily discuss not just the leadership issue, but also in thread bare on different issues and policies that needs to be addressed and has impact on the country at large.

Let’s take an analogy to extrapolate on the differences between Indian and British polity.
Ruling party: Labour party in govt in UK = UPA in India
Main Opposition: Tory party in main opposition = NDA
Third front: Lib Democrats = SP+ other parties and can include Left front as well

Ruling party:
With the spectacular farewell speech probably Tony Blair made party want to have more of him, but the political die had been cast, he was explicitly made to say when he would be bowing out of office by deft political mechanisations. But this was just one piece of the convention, where the majority of time was spent on explaining govt policies, just to list education reforms, foreign policy, home and security (all ministers addressed the conventions as per their ministerial duties).
On the contrary in India, ruling party skirts controversies day in and day out an need to be bailed out by PM or the party president . Policy decisions are made without any logic and sometimes even the cabinet gets to know at it in the nth minute. No say of party cadres in terms of decision making. Though Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have duties cut out, there still seems to be lack of co-ordination between party and govt, and there are a huge ignorance levels and communication gap between party cadres and party leaders and that to govt ministers on all major issues.
The lesson we should learn here is party conventions are not meant for pomp and glorification of party leadership by sycophants, rather it should be meant to put it across to the party workers govt policies as these are the foot soldiers who shall garner votes for the party leadership (charisma works once or twice, but ground level workers are needed for party to make a impact).

Main Opposition:
Probably here I can draw more similarities and you can conclude if there are worth being applauded, but there are precise lessons our main opposition needs to take note and act upon.
Similarities being, “Less or No policy talk”, quick to jump on hypes and sensational news to give out sound bytes (to keep oneself in news rather than any thing significant), new leadership, skirt issues of significance by playing to public mood. Party heavy weights are consigned to backroom role.
Difference being: democracy is not held to ransom inside parliament, no walk outs or abstinence, discuss issues thread bare according to the parliamentary norms. Have strong performers in the parliament in terms of shadowing the govt, which is missing in Indian political system

Third front: have their fair share of problems, probably in India, the 3rs front is more politically potent not with new ideas but based on opportunistic alliances and by making use of all possible trick to get to power.

If India in the century wants to make its present felt in the world order there needs to be improvements not just in the economy and infrastructure, but also political leadership of the country needs to take a step back and make the necessary reforms.
Here the famed Indian middle class can play a pivotal role to shape up the India polity, to make it more transparent, accountable and visionary.

To reiterate, India needs a political environment where policies are made my politicians with them representing the pulse of the Indian public and keeping Indian interests at large. Making use of parliament to make and debate policies thread bare and not to indulge in petty media sound bytes. Only with mature and dynamic political leadership can we build a brighter India.

Thus “Need of the hour = Mature Political leadership + change in attitude of public towards polity”

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