Monday, August 13, 2007

Symbolism ahoy!

Thanks to the UPA government, India now provides, equal status to men and women. And to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. And to Caucasians and (South) Asians. To converts, agnostics and believers. To people who believe in ghosts to people who have worked with nobel laureates. And to dalits and rajputs and the all other castes our political elite belong to. To pseudo-secularists and to the emergency-enforcers. And I could go on and on.
India now has 2 women and 2 men at the top of the political spectrum and it would have made a great statement of what the current government is doing for the sake of gender equality, religious and racial equality in India if there was even a grain of truth in it at the ground-level.
  1. Pratibha Patil is a Hindu, and the first woman president of India. She was the 'surprise' UPA candidate and won from the presidential collegiate.
  2. Hamid Ansari is a Muslim, and won the vice-presidential election from a field of 3 muslim candidates, including a muslim-woman candidate. This election is again not a popular vote - just people's representatives in the parliament vote (amazingly, almost always in line with party 'suggestions')
  3. Manmohan Singh is a Sikh, and the first Sikh prime minister of India. He has never been popularly elected and is a political light-weight even in his own party. He was nominated by the Congress Working Committee (a forum that the Congress party president traditionally controls)
  4. Sonia Gandhi is (was) a caucasian Christian, and chairs the ruling coalition. She is immensely popular, politically powerful but is neither well educated nor understands India intuitively. Incidentally, all three of the above have been hand-picked by her (though Hamid's case was more of a quid pro quo arrangement with the Left).

If you look at it, it makes a picture-perfect pattern - especially since it has all been made happen by one person - Sonia herself. It is a great tool to take to the next elections - see, 'I made it happen'. She has played the sacrifice card twice, which already gives her a demigod status in the minds of many ordinary Indian voters. The political calculations are clear - forget minor irritants like governance, foreign policy, terrorism, corruption, infrastructure - as long as she can make people believe that she is engineering a social revolution by bringing the 'down-trodden' to the fore. And if this is enough to go by for development and bring the Congress back to power then who cares about the 'minor irritants'.

Her 'symbolic social reform' falls beautifully in the political space carved out by the Left, Lalu's RJD and to a smaller extent, DMK. Of course, it makes sense for them to stick together. And that is why the Left would not pull the plug on UPA, even if it strongly disagrees on a crucial foreign policy issue. The country and most of its people be damned.