All That Matters Is Politics, Stupid!

Bhubaneswar: In an electoral democracy, can governance be ever bereft of politics? Well, for those well-versed with the goings on in the most populous democracy, the answer is a BIG NO. And that being the case why this hullabaloo over party X or party Y heading this government or that practising the art of realpolitik during a widespread pandemic?

We all know what to expect from the governments of our country; or to put it conversely what not to expect. We certainly cannot expect our governments to be overly sensitive to the needs of the poor and the distressed, to be fair to all, to dispense justice without being biased in favour of the high and mighty…well we certainly cannot and the list simply can go on. And there are examples (that need no amplification) galore all around us to justifiably understand why we should not.

So, what if a natural calamity or a pandemic like we are currently experiencing gets worse due to inept handling by the powers-that-be? What if people are dying for want of oxygen? What if the public health infrastructure is on its knees? What if there is underreporting of cases? What if the aam aadmi stands helpless beyond his own comprehension and prays for a miracle to keep him and his family safe? Politics, after all, has to play its part. As such, when was human life dear in India?

Indeed, the political intent behind policy making has never been lost on a significant chunk of the populace, at least not on those who understand some rules of the game. Yet, more often than not, they vote for the very politicians who play politics at their cost. Who then is to blame? The system, the process, the rulers or the ruled….Perhaps someone rightly said people get the government they deserve.

Otherwise, how do you explain a popularly elected leader like Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose strength lay as much in his stage presence as in his digital connect losing out on his key constituency: His internet fan club? So much so that calls for his resignation  trended on Twitter ostensibly because while all his decisions had political undertones, he is perceived to have betrayed his own political capital, his most loyal and vocal constituents. However, trust experience to tell us that come elections and the very people seeking his ouster on social media might again turn into ‘blind bhakts’ and press the button in his favour as enthusiastically as ever.

Closer home, things seem a little different. Naveen Patnaik, the man reigning over Odisha for over two decades has conveniently and quite effectively changed the public narrative. While the deficiencies in the healthcare apparatus and, by extension, the administration are up for public scrutiny, a well-calibrated announcement recently for free COVID vaccines for those between 18 and 45 years as well as his statesman-like posturing of “supplying oxygen” to worst-hit states has helped him successfully play to the gallery.

Undoubtedly, both Modi and Naveen are masters at making Machiavellian manoeuvres and their records speak for themselves. For them, understandably, perception management is critical to ensure they survive and thrive. And their spin doctors work overtime to do just that. For the first time in his nearly seven-year tenure as premier, however, Modi’s incredibly efficient publicity machinery is looking defensive and proving inadequate at providing a positive twist to his apparent missteps. Clever words can neither bridge the chasm between tall claims and delivery nor assuage the feelings of the victims in this pandemic situation. Naveen, as has been his wont, has proved much smarter, at least for the time being. The game surely is far from over. Whichever way the scales tilt, in a democracy vote’s truly the last word. So, what if governance per se becomes a casualty? At the end of the day, all that matters is politics, stupid!

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