Politics of Opportunism and Ethical Conundrums: Myth and Reality
No other profession has lost its credibility and respect in recent times as that of politics and politicians. It may be a bit far to agree with the opinion that ‘politics is the last resort of scoundrels’, but the nadir to which politicians has gone with few honourable exceptions leave very little scope to defend a politician. Needless to add, politicians themselves believe that ‘politics is an art of possibilities’ and journalists often quote, ‘politics make strange bedfellows. Further to it commoners believe politics is essentially a game of opportunities and betrayal. It is in this context; the current article intends to examine the game of exodus that politicians and political parties indulge in especially during elections.
One of the nemesis of democracy in India has been the problem of party hoppers and it reached its zenith during the time of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and overnight change of government in Haryana and the consequent powershift between two Lals was episode in itself. This led to an era of what was popularly called as ‘aya ram, gaya ram’, politics. But the men actually practiced and profited were late Mr. Ajit Singh and Mr. RamvilalPaswan. The enjoyed the perks and privileges of power throughout their life despite being in parties who were insignificant in both state and at the union. The saga of coalition politics suits just to them as much muddy waters suit crocodiles.
The menace of politics of defection reached at an ebb where the trust and stability of a particular government were perpetually on question unless there is ab absolute majority. Realizing the enormity of its cost the late Prime minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi brought the Anti-Defection law which though prevented institutionalization of defection politics could not completely eliminate the same. It only restricted the who were wary of elections or whose chances of winning in event of seeking fresh mandate were remote.
However, of late the ghost of defection has come to haunt all most all parties especially the entry and exist of politicians from one political party to another. The change of government in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, the failed coup in Maharashtra, and the rumblings in the power structurers in Rajasthan and Punjab shows the ugly face of unprincipled and unethical practices of political parties and shenanigans of political machinery albeit no one ever considered them as saints. Granted, that in case of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka there were fresh mandates and winners only strengthened the party in power but no one interested in ethical politics will take it without a pinch of salt.
The entry and exit of Mukul Roy in BJP and the joining of Jitin Prasad in BJP points has now become a major point of political discussion. The in and out migration of leaders and loyalist during and after election is a very common feature of Indian democracy. Though sometimes it brings cheers for a political dispensation but more often than not it leaves a better taste in mouth a la AjitPawar episode. It’s only the short public memory and large heartedness of Indian voters that saves the day for such turn coats. But the larger question is why does it happen? Some of the reasons may be described as follows:
First, one can search answers for this political behaviour in the writings of Chanakya and Machiavelli, though both were writing in the backdrop of monarchy, they were certainly talking about the nature of politics and political characters. They meant that to be in power the king requires both bravery and shrewdness, which incidentally includes treachery and trickery. Needless to add, modern politicians have adopted the Machiavellian model, having little or no qualms about either changing the rules or goal posts even in the middle of the game.
Secondly, we can cite the ‘push and pull factor’ of politics and power. Writing on the nature of politics, German sociologist Max Weber, underlines the mechanism through which politicians access the power and that’s about the determination hold power at any cost, which is to enforce your will over others despite resistance. It is indeed, the ability and desire to control and dominate a large section of society that drives the politicians as a class to acquire it through any means often jettisoning values, ethics and morality.
Thirdly, the elite thorniest like Pareto, Mosca and Mitchels highlight the different shades of political action. They believe that politicians have to behave differently while being in the power and being outside power. The nature of political actors changes according to the place where they are in ‘in the corridors of power’ or ‘behind the barricade of power’. Naturally, the hunger for power overrides the ethics and ideology. See the way politicians of all defend their pay and rules without exception. Needless to add, it made former Union home minister Comrade Indrajit Gupta to lament that this is a strange system where ‘legislators decide their salary, judges recruit themselves’.
Fourthly, in era of competition and where politics has become more of a profession than service, the commitment to ideology and adherence to ethics has become a liability has been discarded without shedding a tear. The modern brigade politicians have come to power not on the basis of their ideological commitment or charisma but through inheritance and political nexus. The son-preference syndrome of Indian politicians and their attempt to keep party and power in family kitty had laid the ethics into the coffin. There has been democracy but no democratization. Consequently, the son -rise in regional politics and the growth of regional satraps which should have strengthened the federalism has become abyss of despair among the thinking voters. It would apt to add that former Singapore’s Prime Minister was astonished when in a visit to India, he could not find the profession of Indian politicians, they neither farmers, not teacher, nor officers or retired army men but only politicians, and they say without qualms that they are doing a service without an employment.
Last but not least, political parties look forward to ‘Vibhisan’s for destroying the citadel of Lanka ie. Party in power without understanding and realizing that Vibhisan was ethical and committed to the cause not for destruction of Lanka which was incidental but for the establishment of truth and justice. Alas! How often we miss the forest for the tree and as Pareto would say try rationalize our unjust action. Without ethics and values the boundary between politics and crime becomes increasingly porous and Vohra Commission report only identified a tip of the iceberg. Sans ideology and belief entry into political parties for pelf and power may serve the self- interest but will never help the party or politics. It is more lamentable than BJP which is a cadre-based organization and promise ‘party with difference’ that will practice value-based politics has succumbed to the chimera of defectors and jeopardized its core values by benefiting the turncoats not just in politics but everywhere else including academics. It may suit for the time being but would be disastrous for future.
By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty
(the writer is Dean, Department of Distance Education, and Professor of Sociology of law at National Law Institute University, Bhopal. The views are personal.)