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Saturday, October 2, 2010


Watching prime time TV during the run up to elections is a valuable experience. To find one self – humble, anonymous, powerless citizen- being courted  by those who would rule us for the next five years, forces one to reflect on the whole electoral enterprise. “ ‘Free elections’’, says the maverick thinker, commentator and polemicist Slavoj Zizek,” involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them.” The model code of conduct enforced during elections in our country, only serves to reinforce the illusion. The contestants are at their most “politically correct” behaviour. After the verdict, of course, they show their true colours.Is it given to the citizen to enforce a reversal of their behaviour pattern; they could be their natural selves before they were elected but an epitome of correctness after they had won the trust of their constituents?

Apart from the tired old generation, there are a host of younger “leaders” in the electoral fray now, who owe their rise to prominence exclusively by inheritance or political maneuvering or daring acts of criminality, begging us to allow them to be our masters. But their way of doing politics is the same as that of their precursors. The absence of greater variety by way of “new people” seriously impedes the possibility of political change and evolution. As if inbreeding in politics had not muddied the waters enough, retired bureaucrats and police officers, who could be described at best as closet politicians, reveal their true colours by seeking a role in active politics.

Reverting to the issue of voter participation and their freedom of choice. By what criteria would they decide that one or the other is more worthy of their votes and better suited to hold public office? Between hordes and hordes of people charged with various crimes, political charlatans and serial defectors which one is the least venal, which one is the most trustworthy, who can tell? How do they choose the kindliest of oppressors?  Is it a privilege to be forced to choose, one or the other from the available lot, against their innermost convictions? Should it not be within their rights to reject  them all?

It is perhaps axiomatic to say, that only those with lots of disposable cash can seriously contest elections Thus money- largely the ill gotten wealth of the contenders -makes a mockery of the  right to equal opportunity and equal protection that democracy offers by way of equal voting rights and equal right to seek votes for an elected office.In a situation like this the ordinary citizens with just enough to keep body and soul together can only make a symbolic fight. So what are they doing here on this table, where the stakes are so high that only the rich can play and win?

There is a deep narrative structure to the staged contestations and phony debates conducted by the seekers of office in “code language.” When in power they are wonderfully understanding of each other’s crimes and corrupt practices. When out of power they seek every opportunity to disrupt normal life by demanding that those guilty of self same charges be punished. The everyday spectacle of demonstrations and bunds which affect the life of the common citizen exemplifies this “strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance.”

All this is made possible by Television, which is the most ill suited medium for debating serious issues because its primary concern is to deliver audiences to its advertisers. If corruption is the issue why should party A be made to answer the charges of party B or why should party C get away by accusing party D of greater misdemeanors? It is the honest tax payer who is the aggrieved party. The political actors are past masters at feigning conviction and the television is an accessory to their deception. Instead of the seekers of political power ,collectively, being made to account for the situation in detail, the TV manages to stage a fixed political reality show and we are reduced to be mere voyeurs of the antics of the participants in political arena .

But I still love elections. Howsoever illusory the nature of the experience- seated on the make believe throne in all ones phony majesty, playing king and granting ruling rights to all and sundry- is exhilarating while it lasts.