PORTRAIT OF THE INDIAN POLITICIAN
Politics is much too complex a phenomenon for anyone to think of it or describe it in straight lines, and since the vast and ever-growing tribe of politicians practices this art; they too seldom act or plan straight. They are not what they seem, and they seem what they are not. Jawaharlal Nehru was himself a politician; apart of course from being a great has statesman, thinker, philosopher and a man of letters. But he was frank enough to concede that politicians usually hide their real reasons and the talk pompously of religion, justice, the truth arid the like. And still the great majority of the people are taken in by the soft, deceptive talk of politicians. No wonder, this tribe generally proves a roaring success in; today’s gullible India, where the vast majority of the masses are illiterate and highly credulous.
The typical Indian politician is a man without principles and without scrapples of any kind; he is an opportunist par excellence. He changes his colours like the chameleon. Loyalty, sincerity and honesty are as far removed from him as the earth is from the sky. It is true that a politician has to deal with human beings and not with stones and steel; even so there is no end to the trickery, the sham and the hypocrisy which the Indian politician symbolizes.
Cartoonists generally present potbellied, Khaddar-clad people as politicians; Khaddar has, of course, nothing to do with real Indian politics. Mahatma Gandhi insisted on Khaddar and the typical cap as symbols of purity and sacrifice; but the age of sacrifice and of principles has apparently gone. Nor is every politician in the country a habitual wearer of Khadi.
The Indian politician is supposed to serve the masses and be their servant. Earnest and devoted service of the masses is, however, rare in this country; instead of selfless service, there is exploitation through deceptive and heart-moving oratory; and instead of promoting social welfare there is promotion of one’s own interests and those of one’s nephews and nieces, and feathering of one’s own nest. Lincoln defined politicians as a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who are generally many steps removed from honest and scrupulous men. Cynics, in fact assert that politicians and scruples are poles apart. A scrupulous person may never become a successful politician, and a politician will never have any—he cannot afford to have—scruples, otherwise he will not generally, be able to practice the subtle art that is politics.
And yet, politics and politicians are indispensable, just as political parties are, whether the type of polity is Capitalist, Socialist or Communist. They are the functionaries, the messengers, the wielders and the self-appointed protectors of the weak and the helpless. We just cannot keep them out of society because almost everything in India today is mixed up, in one way or the other, with politics. There is politics in religion, in education, in culture, in the arts and the cinema, in the home and in offices. Where there is politics, there are inevitably clever practitioners of the complex art. Thomas Jefferson, the great American statesman-politician, advised everyone to shun politics. Politics is such a torment he said would advise everyone love not to mix with it.” But even he must have known that, like pure air and unadulterated truth, politics-free life has become a virtual impossibility.
It would not, however, be fair to paint every Indian politician with the same black brush and condemn him (or her, because there are some women members of the tribe too) squarely. There are black sheep, cheats and dishonest people in every profession, it is said. That may well be, but certainly there are more dishonest men and hypocrites among politicians than among any other class of people. The exceptions are so few (even though they may be outstanding), that they make little difference to the generality. Moreover, truthful, honest and principled politicians cannot last in a society such as India’s where straight forwardness and fair play are at a discount.
In advanced countries, such as the U.S. A. and Britain, politicians do not specialize in dishonesty, falsehood and make-believe. They play fair and accept defeat in the sporting spirit. The people, it is said, get the Government they deserve; perhaps it is correct to say that a country also gets the politicians it deserves. For, after all, politicians are a part of us, our own kith and kin. The profession of politics and the politicians can undeniably be reformed, and perhaps the day is not far off when, with the spread of all-round education and enlightenment, honest and principled politicians would emerge and gradually eliminate the black sheep from society.