House of opportunity

There is little doubt anymore that the continuing political logjam in India has discredited not just any one party or coalition, but politics as a whole. At the root of this are both the many corruption scandals and a dysfunctional Parliament. A quick scan of the print and electronic media, or comments on social media, or even just eavesdropping on the conversations of ordinary people, leads to the indubitable conclusion that most people think the system is broken. This has led to palpable anger among citizens against politicians as a class.

It is not as though politicians have not sensed this. There is, in fact, a buzz of disenchantment cutting across the political spectrum, and a sense of foreboding about what might lie ahead. And yet, the only introspection that this seems to have triggered, so far, is murmurs among politicians that there is too much mudslinging going around for our own good, that we all need to tone it down if we want to regain a semblance of respectability in the public eye.

That response is not just inadequate, it is wrong. It is in fact an ostrich-like burying of heads in the sand, in the hope that if we politicians don't point out each other's flaws, if we stick to a cosy consensus of live and let live, everything will return to normal. The reality is different. Democracy is a slow process, but in 65 years it has struck deep roots and emboldened millions to demand better of us. And modern media and communications have enabled them to do so, destroying the system's earlier ability to restrict the details of unscrupulousness to mere gossip among a privileged few.

In an earlier era, scandals and uproars in Parliament used to mean that the party in power got egg on its face, and the opposition's political prospects brightened. But now, several parties, both in the government and the opposition, are tainted in the eyes of the public. Moreover, tongues have started wagging that politicians of all hues, feeling the heat en masse, have begun circling the wagons. The near collapse of the law-making process has raised anger and scepticism, and is increasingly seen as proof of collusion, as an orchestrated drama against the public interest. That is why disruptions in Parliament are now greeted with knowing smirks as much as with dismay.

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