Sunday, December 16, 2012

How the Grinch Stole Your Democracy

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

One of the perks of modern life is the convenience of being able to order things online. For someone who hates shopping and goes to buy things two times a year, it’s a godsend. The best of both worlds! You mean I can get what I want without any human contact and with enough pretence of a bargain to satiate my ancient Indian urge to always seek the best deal? Shut up and take my money! However, this sweet, blissful utopia is interrupted by the constant emails one receives from every online retailer once you make a purchase on their website. Indian or foreign, they go after you with the zeal of a crazy person with whom you once went on a disastrous date and who hasn’t stopped trying to get in touch with you ever since. And yet, you can’t punish them for this. What are you going to do? Go shopping to an actual shopping place (plazas? bazaars? junctions? I don’t even know what people call them anymore!) and be forced to explain to a real person what you want and then pay in cash? Ugh. You will take away my online fix from my cold, bankrupt hands.

And I’m probably not the only one who is addicted to the instant gratification of the purchase button. The UPA seems to be suffering from the same ailment. Seems like everytime they have to win a vote in parliament, they ‘add’ SP and BSP MPs to their ‘shopping cart’ and click ‘purchase.’ I hope they’re at least getting a ‘frequent buyer’ discount.

Like the vote on FDI, which became a farce even before the debate was to begin. The BJP wanted a discussion which would allow both the houses to vote on the policy. The UPA dithered on holding the discussion until it could ‘convince’ enough ‘allies’ to vote in its favour. Or at least walk out before the vote giving it a majority by default. While the BJP disrupted the Lok Sabha session to get it adjourned, the Congress got its fair weather friends to interrupt proceedings in the Rajya Sabha under silly pretences. Synergy! Bipartisanship! Strategery!

The discussion in the Lok Sabha was held under the watchful eyes of the speaker, Meira Kumar, who reflected the calm demeanour of a serial killer. Even a government school substitute teacher monitoring a class in which half the students get serious injuries and the other half jump from a ledge has more control over her class than Ms. Kumar has over her MPs. Once her term as the speaker ends, she will go back to her original job - being the voice of a much maligned cellular network who, for some reason, seems quite delighted to inform you that the number you’re trying to call is not available at the moment. The speeches in the house were filled with so much jargon that our MPs were instantly invited to be the featured speakers at the next TED conference. Our sanctimonious parliamentarians even managed to sully the good reputation of the Indian potato. Allegedly, they make for small fries. The last we heard, the Indian potato was being cheered up by his girlfriend, who told him that it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you eat the fries.

The discussion in the Rajya Sabha was even worse. Which is expected because most of these ‘elders’ are rejects from the Lok Sabha. They are so unelectable, even their families voted for the other candidate. But since both sides needed all the votes they could gather, it was all hands on deck. Everyone, except Sachin Tendulkar showed up. He wasn’t able to because he was busy protecting India from another foreign entity. And unlike his large fleet of planes, Vijay Mallya decided to make himself useful and was also present to cast his vote. I think he’s not yet familiar with how Parliament works because he was overheard ordering a drink to whoever looked like a waiter to him. The proceedings of the Rajya Sabha were being handled by the most nondescript man in India, Vice-President Hamid Ansari. The only reason he shows up for work everyday is because no one has told him yet that he’s in a coma.

In the end, the government’s investment paid off and the opposition’s motion was defeated in both the houses of Parliament, making the CEO of Wal-Mart India’s Governor-General for life. Seems like certain former chief ministers of UP will get a lot of ‘clean chits’ in their Christmas stocking this year. That’s probably what the framers of our constitution intended. Letting the fate of the country’s major policy decisions rest on the whims and fancies of two of the most opportunistic, vile, corrupt and self-serving politicians this country has ever seen.

If only politicians also came with a money-back guarantee.

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