Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Criminalisation of politics

Looks like Shaibal Gupta is the person one should listen to, if one wants to know more about Bihar. He has spent more than twenty years trying to understand this state. In a Rediff interview, he talks about Bihar, with a clarity that comes from a deep understanding of one's subject. Read it!

One of the things that he says in this interview struck me very much. This is regarding the politician-criminal nexus. Gupta says:

    This in a sense can be traced back to the JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) Movement (1973 to 1975). JP urged an end to all ideology and for the people to participate in politics sans ideology. At that time the socialists were very strong in Bihar but after JP's call, many people joined politics even if they did not believe in the party's ideology. What this did was destroy the party structure and prevent the party from having an organisation that could mobilise support. So after the JP Movement ended and politicians needed to mobilise support, they turned to local criminals who invariably had some kind of an organisation and the money and muscle power to mobilise support. Thus it was that the criminals became a part and parcel of Bihar's political set-up.
Advocating "politics sans ideology" is pretty popular these days. Even many mainstream politicians buy that argument. I guess it's easier to stick to your ministerial chairs when you tread this line as this easily appeases the corporates, media and other opinion makers. For example, when Gurcharan Das exhorts us to distrust all ideologies, he becomes a hero, his books become bestsellers, he frequents TV shows. One reason why Bill Clinton is a darling of many of us in India -- for Americans there could be "real" reasons -- is that he seemed to symbolise a kind of pragmatism that wasn't bound by any ideological concerns.

Interestingly, among my friends, it's precisely the Gurcharan Das admirers who invariably talk about the criminalisation of politics. Next time perhaps I should direct them to Shaibal Gupta's analysis!


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