Monday, February 07, 2005

Sagarika Ghose's column

Sagarika Ghose has a column in today's Indian Express [link via Amit Varma], where she argues that the young MPs have failed to live up to their promise. There are obvious reasons, of course. For it's not due to their political experience that they are MPs today. "Family has brought them political success, but paradoxically family has trapped them in political stagnation", Ghose writes.

She continues:

    "When political life was ideological, such as for example in the 1970s, with youth activists taking an active role in initiatives like the Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat or in the anti-Emergency movement, a range of young leaders -- whether it was Sitaram Yechury or Arun Jaitley -- rose as the rebellious young men of different ideologies. But when politics is based on dynasty -- and why blame just the Congress, almost every political party, whether it's the RJD or DMK or the National Conference, is run by family coteries -- then youth simply becomes harnessed to feudal family loyalties. Young politicians are thus not allowed to become an alternative energy source, they simply exist to parrot parental views."
It's hard not to agree with Ghose here. But her contrasting our aged ministers with Narain Karthikeyans and Sania Mirzas are naive and wrong. Also the conclusion which she derives, that
    "today for a young bright person inclined towards public service, politics and the party system are no longer attractive. Instead, its increasingly perhaps the NGO movement of different ideologies that provides an opportunity for real public work."
Certainly there are good NGO's out there who do a lot of isolated good work, there's no denying that. But it's also a fact that today many "bright young" people join NGO's only because it's a lucrative career option. Arundhati Roy has said it very well:
    "The NGO-ization of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary."
I remember reading a news report that blood banks usually go dry when elections approach, as political party activists are busy electioneering! Apparently, the NGO's aren't good enough to replace the party workers! There have been extensive reports about the work that DYFI -- youth wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) -- volunteers have done in the tsunami affected areas of Tamil Nadu [see Dilip D'Souza and Amit Varma]. I've witnessed, in my school days, how influential DYFI was in the Kerala literacy movement of the late eighties.

The only antidote to bad politics/ politicians/ political parties is good politics/ politicians/ political parties. Sagarika Ghoses (and TS Krishnamurthys) would probably never realise this. And I would think that in "good" politics, something else matters more than sheer brightness and youngness.

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