B S Raghavan

India’s repulsive political culture

| Updated on April 28, 2013 Published on April 28, 2013


Just picture in your mind’s eye a function organised by the concerned parties to inaugurate a Library and Research Centre housing references and memorabilia pertaining to, say, the period in office of M. Karunanidhi, Buddhadeb Bhatacharya or Atal Behari Vajpayee. Can you see even in your wildest dreams Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee or any of Vajpayee’s successors, and the leading lights of the various political parties on the opposite side of the political spectrum, attending it, and showering copious encomia on the qualities of head and heart of the persons after whom the Centre is named?

Do you remember any prominent political personality of India visiting an ailing political opponent or placing wreaths on his body when he passes away?

How many projects have been stalled; how many worthwhile schemes undertaken by a predecessor head of government belonging to a rival party thwarted and how many thousands of crores of rupees have gone down the drain, simply because of the unshakeable personal antipathy of the successor who did not want any credit to accrue to the predecessor?

Over to Texas

Now let me pan the camera to what’s happening at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in the US as on April 25.

Do you see US President Barack Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton with their wives seated on the dais? Since all of them are from the Democratic Party, you think it is some Democratic Party get-together?

But then, you also see a beaming Obama, to the cheering of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter and Bill and Hillary Clinton, joyously hugging a former US President, and a blue-blooded Republican to boot, George W. Bush, watched happily by his father, and another former President, the senior George H. W. Bush, of the same Republican Party?

Won’t any Indian condemn it to be unpardonable sacrilege were he to be told that Obama has not only specially flown to Dallas with wife Michelle to participate in the ceremony to dedicate the George W. Bush presidential library but paid high tributes to his predecessor’s stewardship?

Nobility in politics

Even though the words Obama uses to praise Bush are bound to turn the stomach of Indian politicos and seriously affect their health if they were to be applied to any of their political adversaries, I can’t simply resist drawing attention to a few quotes from his deeply moving speech just in order that our petty, narrow-minded and vengeful politicians might know the real meaning of nobility and graciousness in politics.

Calling it a ‘historic occasion’ and the invitation to be present ‘an honour’, Obama says: “….to know the man (Bush) is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretences. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man. “But we also know something about George Bush the leader.

As we walk through this library, obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life….

“Mr President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor, and, most of all, for your love of country, thank you very much. From all the citizens of the United States of America, God bless you.”

In fact, Obama had been even more effusive speaking at various forums and TV shows and interviews from the time he landed in Texas.

At one place, he describes Bush as “concerned about all people in America, not just those who voted Republican.”

At a Democratic Party fund-raising dinner, an unlikely place to laud a Republican President, he goes out of his way to say: “One of the things I will insist upon is, whatever our political differences, President Bush loves this country and loves its people.”

Another noteworthy feature of the political culture of mature and genuine democracies is that once they demit office, predecessors never try to hog the limelight constantly needling and denigrating their successors and the policies they pursue. Bush himself has repeatedly and firmly declined to even comment on, leave alone criticise, Obama’s policies and the way he is handling the job.

Politicians and political parties in such democracies believe that the successors, by virtue of the political mandate they have secured at the hustings, have the right to carry it out in the manner they think best.

That is why their representative bodies function smoothly and purposefully.

Political parties there do not take to the streets and go on a rampage causing loss of life and destruction of property every time they differ from the policies of the parties in power.

When will our politicians learn to behave in an equally decent fashion?

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Published on April 28, 2013
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