Dr Javed Jamil
The state is run both by politicians and bureaucrats. The question “who is more powerful of the two?” can always trigger an intense debate. Then what is the difference between the two? The difference is obvious unless the two players did not act the way they are expected to.
Bureaucrats are chosen by the state institutions and their role is to maintain the system. They are therefore answerable only to the system. Politicians are chosen by the people and are answerable to the people. Politicians are supposed to always maintain a direct and of course cordial relationship with the people.
If the people are angry, it spells doom for the system as well as the politicians. But even if they are not angry, their lack of belongingness to the politicians or the political parties they represent is sure to have a negative impact. If we judge the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government by this yardstick, they have certainly not cleared the exams with distinction.
By normal standards, the performance of UPA has not been exactly bad. They have taken many revolutionary steps: The Right to Information, Right to Education, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Act, to name a few. Several other welfare schemes have been announced. The growth, with all the ups and downs, has mainly been on the higher side. There has been relative peace in the country compared to 1990s. There have been no dissentions in the main political party that runs it. Congress has been as solidly united as no other party in recent decades. Then what is the reason that the perception of the people, at least in some areas of the country, has become so poor about this government.
It can be argued that a smear campaign against it by the Opposition and the media has caused this slide in the perception. But if the opposition has succeeded on this front, there have to be reasons for this. Propaganda succeeds only when the counterpropaganda is weak.
What seems to have been failing the UPA government has been its failure to act politically. At best, UPA government, right from the Prime Minister to ministers, has acted in a bureaucratic mold. They have not cared at all to strengthen or maintain a cordial relationship with the people. They do not seem to care for the support or the perception of the people. They do not try to reach the people.
This is true of the Prime Minister, ministers, and members of parliament of the ruling coalition belonging to any community or caste or region. This in my view is the major reason why people are casting doubts about their emerging victorious in the coming elections.
Take for example the recent case of Food Security Bill. This was in truth a revolutionary step that was enough to bring almost the whole nation behind the UPA. But there was little effort to cash in on this in political terms. It was announced without any buildup at the national level. Its announcement was not followed by any celebrations organized by UPA, a kind of “People’s Day” to galvanism the masses.
This was despite the fact that it was announced in the election year. Then there was Land Acquisition Act. It was again a revolutionary step that could have generated a big political momentum in the rural areas. But again the UPA parties were not asked to celebrate it.
In politics, the perceptions often are more important than the truths, and this is what UPA government has failed to realize. The cabinet is duty bound not only to act but to make people believe that they are acting. In the UPA, there is hardly any minister who enjoys a popular support.
This is despite the fact that many of them are honest, competent and devoted persons and have done their job with considerable success. But they preferred to sit in their offices and attend meetings, conferences and seminars. Hardly anyone of them has traveled to the people to inform and convince them what they have been doing.
An effective political step is one which is hard-hitting and still not look political. If one truly political step has been witnessed in recent times, it has been Rahul Gandhi’s outburst on the Ordinance. It triggered huge debate. Gandhi might have been blamed for using harsh words, for doing it in a hasty way, for bad timing.
But the truth remains that for the first time a clear message has gone to the people that the next probable Prime Minister of the country has hard, even harsh views about corruption who can hit even his own government without caring for the subtleties of politics for the sake of his vision. It is the correctness of the vision that matters.
People want their leaders to be correct and want to see them doing all the correct things with open eyes. If politicians act without the knowledge of the people, they are not going to be on their side at the time of voting. The earlier the UPA government and its ministers, now and if they come back to power, understand this, the better it is for them and the country.