The problem with Indian Politics

A long time ago (almost a decade ago, in fact), I used to write a blog on Politics. I was in New York at the time, and I used to blog ONLY about American Politics. I made a conscious decision to religiously avoid Indian Politics, though at the time I was not sure where my aversion came from. I think I understand it now.

In the US, there are two major political parties – Republicans and Democrats. There are a bunch of others like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, but for the purposes of our discussion, they are irrelevant. Both the major parties have established platforms from which they collectively, or their members individually, do not deviate much. In highly simplistic terms, Republicans believe in lower taxes for all, smaller government and a strong defense. Democrats believe in higher taxes for wealthy people, a larger government role in public and private life of individuals, and a focus on the welfare state. The options in front of the voter are distinct. Politicians usually have to follow their parties ideology to get elected, and then follow it to survive future elections. An example is Republicans signing Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, where they pledge to not increase tax rates. 90-95% of Republicans sign it, and they usually are pretty good about keeping that particular promise. This is what politics guided by ideology looks like.

In India, on the other hand, I fail to find any political party that will do what it publicly proclaims to be right in the face of what is politically convenient. We have people changing parties at the drop of the hat (doing so is very uncommon and thus front page news in US), changing policies to whatever the public opinion polls show is popular, and in general having no deep seated guiding philosophy. Please note that the distaste I have for parties extends to regional parties as well along with national parties. In fact, regional parties are even worse in their disregard for any concrete policy proposals they champion before the elections. No policy is sacrosanct, no election promise so essential that it cannot be sacrificed at the altar of remaining in power. This utter disregard to fealty to any philosophy just rubs me the wrong way.

In the US, the purpose of power is not only to remain in power but also to move the country in the direction you want. In India, it seems the purpose of power is to remain in power… and to do whatever is necessary to maintain that status quo.

This leads to comical situations like Aam Aadmi Party campaigning against Congress corruption, then joining hands with them to form the Government in Delhi. I dont put much stock in the “They did it for the greater good” argument. Either you believe that Congress is corrupt, in which case you should not align with them in any shape or form on general principles, or you dont believe that Congress is corrupt, in which case what is the basis of your parties existence in the first place? Similarly, Didi liked BJP first, then threw them away for Congress, then broke up with them too. I dont see what had changed so drastically in those parties, except that it was politically inconvenient to carry on with them. There are many, MANY such examples in India. (I’m not even gonna go into the quagmire that is Sharad Pawar’s track record.)

If I dont trust them, its only because they dont trust themselves enough to know if they will be able to fulfill the promises they make before elections. When looking at Indian politicians, why waste time wondering what color you see when what you are looking at are chameleons?

So yeah, if I do write about Indian politics, please expect a heavy dose of cynicism and general dislike.