Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dude, Where’s My Patron?

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

As the festival of lights screeched its way into the calendar like a rogue firecracker, the city of Delhi got ready to say goodbye to the scorching summer and welcome the wavering winter by decking up its houses in different shades of lights. The ones belonging to minimalists were decorated like they were being prepared for a showroom opening, the dreamers had decorated their houses like they were characters out of a YashRaj movie and the large dwellings housing the extra enthusiastic were decorated with enough lights to power an entire solar system.

Of course, winter in Delhi also means another seasonal session of Parliament. Our MPs get together for a few days next month for another epic wastage of taxpayer money. Recently, we were provided with a preview of things to come when the leader of the opposition and potential prime ministerial candidate (pro tip: if a member of the BJP is able to breathe, then they’re a Prime Ministerial candidate) gave a speech specifying her legislative priorities. If on any day of the session her party sticks around for more than ten minutes before rushing to the ‘well of the house',’ she plans to introduce bills penalising those who dare to defy her religion by referencing names of mythological characters in movies and on teevee. She also talked about protecting cows from being slaughtered. The last time she was in the news for strongly advocating a policy position, she had demanded that the Bhagavad Gita be made the national book, after a small court in Siberia was entertaining a petition to ban it. Seems like she really has her pulse on the important issues of the day!

Now, Mrs. Swaraj is neither joining PETA nor appearing on the cover of Vogue wearing a saffron fedora anytime soon. These are the issues she talks about because she knows that these are the sort of issues that are going to get people to talk about her. She has to be seen doing something! You think talking about child malnutrition or illiteracy is going to get her on prime-time? She knows her constituency well. They’re going to be quite happy that she’s pissing off the asshole secularists by trying to legislate a belief that exists solely because some dude said something hundreds of years ago. Holy foolproof argument, batman!

Anyway, we don’t elect our politicians to lead. We elect them to be patrons. We want extra gas connections, free colour teevees and subsidised prices. Get your 'sound economic policies’ off my lawn.

We don’t need a government run by professionals who know what they’re talking about. That is why we ended up with an environment minister who thought global warming was a hoax and a health minister who thought that late night teevee was the best method of birth control. We’re happy enough if the government is being run by someone with whom we can establish some sort of kinship. Like in UP, where the two main parties spend all their time in government avenging “their people.” One of the first thing Mayawati does after taking office is to transfer anyone with the last name ‘Yadav’ holding positions of consequence in the police or the bureaucracy to posts which are considered as ‘punishments,’ replacing them with her people. Then whenever Mulayam wins back power, one of the first things he does is to transfer those people back. 

Elected officials - whether they are in the ruling party or the opposition, whether they are an MP, MLA ,a member of the municipal corporation or local panchayat - can do a lot to change the lives of their constituents. But most of our elected officials are not there to do real things. They have favours to payback and coffers to fill. If they spend their time in office learning about the issues that actually affect people, when will they find time to earn enough kickbacks to be able to pay for the next election campaign?

And no one really bothers to burden our ‘lawmakers’ by asking them questions about policy. The latest ‘comeback kid’ of Indian politics, amateur comedian Laloo Prasad Yadav has been getting lots of coverage lately. Most of the articles focus on the fact that he’s making jokes at his rallies again, which, for some reason, translates into him becoming a strong contender to win back the state! Having lost a number of elections doesn’t mean that Prasad has to now offer specific solutions to people’s problem. That would be silly thing to do! Instead, he has generously offered to award the chief ministerial post to a member of any caste, should he win the next election. Who wouldn’t like to elect such a progressive leader?

Now please excuse me while I courier my local MP my proposed thousand page draft bill that bans the use of the word “chillax.”

Let’s just hope he can read?

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