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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014
Do politicians think we’re fools?
Karan Thapar, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 09, 2014
First Published: 00:19 IST(9/3/2014)
Last Updated: 16:23 IST(9/3/2014)

‘Do politicians think we’re fools?’ It was an odd question but then I’m used to Pertie springing surprises. This, however, was exceptional.

“What’s prompted that question?” I felt I had to first understand his thinking.

 “Just look at what the government tried to do. Having failed to use Parliament effectively for five years they now want to push ordinances on a range of issues from prevention of corruption, scheduled caste and tribe atrocities, the rights of the disabled and, even, Telangana! They believe this last-minute burst of activity can persuade us they’ve delivered on every front. Doesn’t it follow they think we’re fools?”

Pertie’s point set me thinking. The election speeches we’ve started hearing — and there are a lot more in store for us! — make a very similar assumption. For instance, when Narendra Modi claims Gujarat has electricity “24/7, 365 days of the year” he must be believing that farmers who receive three-phase electricity for only eight  hours, often at night, either can’t hear him or won’t resent this untruth.

Arvind Kejriwal, though new to politics, is no different. He boasts he’s halved electricity rates and provided free water but fails to add that all of this will cease on the 31st of this month. In his haste to resign and claim political martyrdom he either failed or forgot to make provisions beyond that date. Given that he knew he was resigning, what’s his explanation?

The truth, I suspect, is that other concerns took precedence. This wasn’t a priority. Now he must be hoping that come April 1 the good denizens of Delhi won’t notice. That, too, assumes we’re fools.

Come to think of it most of the rally speeches we’re subjected to treat us as driven cattle. They assume rhetoric about 56-inch chests or emotional appeals to caste and religion or the mocking ridicule of opponents can sway our minds. Instead of elaborating their policies in detail and accurately costing their promises, which would assume we care and are intelligent enough to understand, politicians tempt us with vague promises which, like candyfloss, taste sweet but don’t last very long. That’s how you lure children. But if that’s also how they reach out to us aren’t they treating us as fools?

So is Pertie right? The more I think about it the more I fear he is. Let me explain.

When people keep voting for you regardless of your tainted character, pathetic performance and with no credible expectation of change, then you probably do look upon them as fools. At any rate, you take them for granted, which comes to the same thing.

The Association for Democratic Reforms regularly informs us of the percentage of candidates who face criminal charges, lack a credible education or have inexplicably increased their wealth whilst in office and yet we vote for them. In fact, they often win. Won’t such people look upon voters as fools?

Let me give you a final example. In 2011 Parliament passed a resolution promising the nation a Citizen’s Charter and Grievance Redressal Bill. It hasn’t delivered. But do you hear many voices of objection? A few, no doubt, but what impact will they have on the politicians who lied and deceived us? And when we vote for them — I won’t say if — what view will they take of us? That we’re fools?

I don’t want to overdo this analysis. That would be unfair. But Pertie’s point is worth remembering as the elections get underway.

The views expressed by the author are personal


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