If there is one area where the hope for something new involves all sections of people across the country, it is political culture. As it is being practiced at the Centre and in many states, politics is leaving a bad taste in the mouth. There has to be popular expectation that things should change for the better; nothing can be more dangerous for our democracy than a pessimistic or cynical mindset here. The goings-on in Aruchal Pradesh in the past year may seem a theatre of the absurd, but it is also a caricature of political culture sinking to ever new lows. The frontier state has been witness to three chief ministers along with a brief period of President’s Rule, parallel assembly sessions with one in makeshift venue, competing disqualifications and impeachments, and constitutiol impropriety involving the office of the Governor which took the Supreme Court to untangle. A chunk of dissidents led by Kalikho Pul broke away from the Congress, then returned under threat of anti-defection law, followed by the Pema Khandu-led group leaving Congress to join PPA and now BJP. In between, Kalikho Pul after being dethroned as chief minister committed suicide at the CM’s bungalow; his suicide note was promptly put under wraps, but it is reportedly an explosive indictment of political betrayal for mere love of lucre. The sooner Aruchal is rid of this bizarre political ‘culture’, the better for its hapless people. Further across to the largest state in the country, the soap opera in UP’s ruling Samajwadi Party is resembling more and more the intrigues in the courts of Lucknow wabs of yore. The machitions of Mulayam Yadav, brother Shivpal, Amar Singh and Mulayam’s politically ambitious second wife reportedly lurking in the wings — are being met with all-out show of strength by son Akhilesh seconded by Mulayam’s cousin Ramgopal Yadav. It is all about power grabbing, so the common people have to decide where they stand with their votes.
Meanwhile in Tamil du, the power vacuum after Jayalalitha’s sudden demise clearly illustrates the danger of persolity-driven politics. ‘Amma’ was a banyan tree casting a shade so dark, it allowed no other leader to grow (something that Jawaharlal Nehru was accused of in his heyday). With no credible line of succession left open for lower rung leaders, Jayalalitha’s exit has allowed her persol aide ‘Chinmma’ VK Sasikala to don the mantle as AIADMK general secretary (and likely CM), but not before her supporters worsted the other Sasikala (Pushpa) in a sty power struggle. The developments should be of interest to main opposition party DMK, itself emerging from the throes of dystic power struggle with patriarch Karunidhi anointing younger son MK Stalin as successor over elder son Alagiri. When it comes to a supreme leader with dysty in tow, grand old party Congress is still keeping the suspense on about going whole hog under Rahul Gandhi. How soon this issue is settled remains to be seen, but the delay in putting forward a credible altertive vision of governce has left the Gandhi scion with only Modi-bashing as a much overused weapon. The failure of the Congress in winning any major state elections after the drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has diminished its stature to the extent that it could not even get other opposition parties aboard in protests against demonetization and other issues. This opposition disunity in the runup to five assembly elections in 2017 has allowed Prime Minister rendra Modi to dictate the political rrative. After arguing that his demonetization move is a fight to unearth black money, and then as a push to digital economy, he has on New Year’s eve announced a slew of sops to cushion farmers, small traders and poor people from cash ban fallout. JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar and Biju Jata Dal’s veen Patik have come out in support of demonetization, showing clearly confidence in their own agendas. In changing times, voters will be keenly watching whether political parties are willing to rise above crass power and money politics, that a powerful leader does not get away with emasculation of his own party and undermining of democratic practices.