There is a primary energy that drives politics. It emerges from a belief that you can help improve things around you. It could be a neighbourhood, a community, a state or a country. Perhaps even the world.
It cannot be that the consumers of politics, we the voters, are routinely tasked with rescuing the vendors of politics, the political parties. This distorts the relationship between parties and people. Confusion dawns and harms everyone it touches.
Eleven parties in India say they are working to offer a viable non-Congress, non-BJP option in the 2014 General Election. They seek to be disarming but they are disingenuous.
All the parties involved have headed governments in states. The four Left parties [CPM, CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc] in West Bengal and Kerala, the
Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the Janata Dal [U] in Bihar, the Janata Dal [S] in Karnataka, the BJD in Odisha, the AGP in Assam and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha[JVM] head Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand when he was in the BJP.
The states they governed are the equivalent of countries elsewhere in terms of population, intensity of work and impact of policy. These 11 parties ought to,therefore, have developed a sense of India and the world by now.
Yet, nothing about them suggests that they have learned. The Left parties, for instance, cannot even agree on Telangana. The CPM and the RSP are against the formation of a Telangana state; the CPI and the Forward Bloc are for it. How are we to rely on them for cogent policy on statehood?
The Samajwadi Party comes from a different space on ethics and corruption than, say, the JD[U]. The only thing common to them is that they administer states that have been sick for 50 years. This is bordering on chronic illness but these parties have no fixes.
The AGP and the AIADMK have core border issues that impact relations with other countries. This is of no concern to the JVM. We don't even know what Marandi thinks of India's planned land swap with Bangladesh or what he thinks India should do about Sri Lanka and the Tamils there.
What do these 11 parties think India should do about mining? Allow it? Not allow it? What do they think about our energy plans? Do we stick with fossil fuel? How do we make solar energy policy? Should we link our rivers?
How should we deal with corruption? Will a Lokpal be the last word? The JD[U] seizes assets of officials convicted of corruption and turns them into public utilities like schools. But key people in the Samajwadi Party, the AIADMK and the JD[S] have a corruption cloud over them.
The only thing we know is that these 11 parties are opposed to the Congress and the BJP currently. But all of them have had substantial working relationships with the Congress and the BJP in the past, in some cases by turn.
We may thus deduce that these 11 parties do not like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. These two are the only thing different in the BJP and the Congress now. Modi and Rahul Gandhi are midwifing their parties into a possible rebirth.
You cannot seek to govern India merely because you dislike Modi and Rahul Gandhi. The narrative of India demands far more. The Left parties had an opportunity to galvanise themselves after they were voted out in West Bengal. But they have been in a state of stasis for close to three years.
All this generates melancholy. There is space for non-Congress non-BJP politics but it can't be only on the grounds of being against something or someone. You need to be for something as well.
It would cripple us if we were required to watch over a wobbly grouping. We elect governments so they can get along with matters of the state while we go about matters of the self. No one can handle both.
Even if these 11 parties were to win a large chunk of seats, we would in effect have three possible prime ministerial aspirants: Jayalalithaa, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Nitish Kumar. Yadav would be tragedy; the other two have some positives.
None of them, however, can make us cross our hearts and hope to die in the belief that we finally have the best person at the top. It could be a case of once bitten, twice shy, thrice amazed.
Non-Congress non-BJP governments have died fast in the past: VP Singh and Chandra Shekhar in 1990 and 1991; HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral in 1997 and 1998. Let's keep Morarji Desai out of this because he was the first non-Congress prime minister [after a lifetime in the party] at a time of special circumstances not in play since.
As voters, we have a responsibility to those who passed before us and those who shall come after us. What shall we tell them? That we left India in motley hands? That we were naive? They deserve better.
This much we know: we cannot let a front become an affront.
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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com.
He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.