Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Mental Fatigue of these Elections

The last time around I was not in India and had to only suffer internet chatter.  Reading up online I made some random predictions and accidentally got the broad thrust of the story correct.  Like many, I wanted Manmohan Singh to remain PM and was hopeful that good would come of it.  Alas, we all were wrong, and more on that below.  Suffice it to say that Manmohan Singh’s second term as PM has cast an immense shadow upon this entire election - the umbra and penumbra of years of silence.

The response, of course, has been tremendous noise - there is a “we are like that only” joke here that I do not wish to crack right now.

“The media, as expected, has been weak, shameful, shrill, excessive and unwilling and unable to mediate a grand national debate. More money has been spent on this election then ever before, and I'm not sure if the issues could have been more ill-served than they were. One thing is for sure: nobody, not the politicians, not the parties, not the media, nor (heck, I'll say it) the electorate have lived up to the grandness of the occasion.”

Well…  Just writing this is getting me depressed.

The empty, vacuous and mind-numbingly silent nature of governance during the last five years – from recession and terrorism to corruption and nepotism – has given space to the shrillest, loudest and most cynical voices in the land to vent and spout fury.

There was a flutter of hope that civil society and activism could show the way.  But imperfect men are involved – evolved into heroes in the eyes of other women and men, those heroes then made gods – we are like that only.  The men fail and the gods are slain.

And so we turn to a (old) new god – the redeemer.  Flow like the Ganga and rid this sinful world of its depredation!!

A man – artful, effective, evocative, dangerous and sly – is being presented as a hero.  His supposed attributes make him sound god-like.  His is the blowhard air that is forcefully occupying the vacuum of Indian civic conversation.

And that is where the blame lies.  No matter how this election turns out (and I write this during the later phases of voting and before the results), one thing is inescapably true.  The heirs to the Congress Party claim to stay reluctantly relevant in order to remain a bulwark against the baser tendencies of Indian politics.  Yet, the unintended consequence of their blinkered ineptitude has been the ceding of the middle ground to the very same forces they say they abhor.

About any of the things that actually matter – poverty, health, education, sanitation, infrastructure, jobs, access and opportunity – it would be criminal to support this corrupt cabal.

So, what then?

Will we see the coronation of a new demon?  How will the old ones remain relevant?  And is chaos really a ladder?

Frankly, I don’t find it fun to make predictions anymore.