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The price we have to pay

The nationwide shutdown called by various opposition parties against the UPA government raising fuel prices had only one agenda: for opposition parties to stand up and be counted.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2010 00:44 IST

The nationwide shutdown called by various opposition parties against the UPA government raising fuel prices had only one agenda: for opposition parties to stand up and be counted. That’s probably a cruel statement for us to make when there are enough critical issues — including containing fuel prices within the realm of common sense — for the Opposition to latch on to. But the fact of the matter is that by calling for a nationwide bandh, how can anyone make any constructive criticism worth the mention? The main opposition party and the temporary main opposition party (the BJP and the Left respectively) are aware of what’s at stake here. And yet, they see it fit to engage in 80s-style agit-prop in an era when India is bothered by growth rates and the genuine additionals that come with it for all. This isn’t a government that believes in the ‘trickle down’ effect, thus policy decisions that involve the uplift of the proverbial ‘aam aadmi’. What the oppositional space engaged in yesterday was to take advantage of generalised disgruntlement and play it as action against a specific grouse.

Let’s take the daily wage labourer, for starters. Without sounding like a theoretical Marxist, one can assume that many in the working class — the majority of which would be part of the unorganised sector — would be forced to forego a day’s wages in states where the ‘Bharat bandh’ was enforced. The BJP, ostensibly the nation’s ‘trader’s party’, and the Left, similarly the self-styled flag-bearer of the worker, saw it fit to desire a clampdown on professional life. The disagreement over fuel price could have been thrashed out in Parliament — both parties having representation in that democratic forum. Instead, it chose the more disruptive, more voluble platform of street agitation. Coming from parties that know the ‘system’, this is nothing short of deplorable.

There will be number-crunchers who will work out how much money was lost because of the ‘bandh’. But more than politics subsuming the ‘polis’ — the people who make up the nation — what is worrisome is the idea of a certain kind of political churlishness that sees it fit to put the people in a corner in the name of the people. If the BJP or the Left was in power, one wonders how either party or ideology would have acted. The politics of reaction, alas, is easier, and even more unfortunately turns the ruling establishment, with its many genuine faults, into a martyr with the people of India having to deal with being collateral damage.