Everyone here is human and therefore imperfect. The problem is
that there are ideals of perfection, benchmarks towards which we are all
expected to strive. All of which is right and proper, but the perfect
individual is actually a contradiction in a dynamic world where change is the
only constant, because perfection implies stasis, a state of affairs where no
further progress is possible. But the nature of the world is such that movement
or action is the only option. A stable, perfect self is an unreal proposition
in this context. In other words, we are built to fail; that is the human
condition. We have to keep making decisions, to do this or not do this, to go
there or stay at home, to be vegetarian or be an omnivore, and so forth. After
a while these decisions tend to define us as individuals as we are producing a
history of actions, but that often leads to all sorts of misapprehensions.
Isn’t it possible that who we are is not always a function of what we did at one or more points in time? Perhaps we acted on insufficient or incorrect information and our decisions were thus ill-formed. Or it may be that one act leads inevitably to the next, even if it is on the wrong track. If we wish to change that or backtrack, is that immoral or venal? Should we be defined by our bad decisions or the effort to reverse the effects of those decisions? Moreover, why does everyone assume the worst motives when someone decides they need to change direction?
After all, we are human and our proneness to mistakes is a defining characteristic. Redemption is always possible and it is what prophets and wise men in every culture promise for our sins and omissions. Consider the case of Valmiki, a bandit and murderer, one of our most honoured sages after he repented his crimes. Saul of Tarsus was a citizen of Rome and a persecutor of the early followers of Jesus until he saw the light. He was born well after the crucifixion but became better known as the Apostle Paul, one of the most influential figures in the advancement of Christianity across the Roman Empire. Indeed, the Christian religion promises absolution for the most evil of deeds if your change of heart is sincere and you really want to atone for them.
We see none of that spirit alive in our case. Worse, they call us defectors; traitors and perverse creatures ordered by whimsy and pure self-interest. We are considered to be defective morally, people who can’t be trusted to do anything right. To be fair, it does seem like that at first sight, especially when there’s no explanation. But a second look, after hearing our side, should dispel that notion. But who cares for a second look, even at what actually happens, unless it’s about a movie star backstage or the Indian cricket team’s dressing room? In the second case, of course, even the facts are not important so long as the package is sensational.
The truth is that catchy headlines and sensational reporting aside, they’re not on any inside track but completely off-track.
So the media, every day, every hour, report on our purported movements and inspirations as if they are hearing it first hand from us and as if we are a special category of traitor. The “lost resort” legislators, they call us, or “masks not men”. But we don’t have names or identities. Read the reports and you’ll see for yourself. We exist not as personalities who found acceptance with lakhs of voters but as a collection of base attributes. We have become a byword for treachery and double-dealing. The media present us as an amorphous, anonymous mass whose signature is betrayal, whose every move is dictated by an insatiable appetite for power, cash and office. They never say it in so many words, of course, but the insinuations are clear. The truth is that catchy headlines and sensational reporting aside, they’re not on any inside track but completely off-track.
We should state clearly that we are and always will be public servants, no less than the chief minister or the other so-called loyalists in the ministry. They got their rewards in the form of plum postings, but we don’t begrudge them that. Yes, we would have liked the opportunity to serve the people better but we can do that even out of office. We are conscious that this is why we were elected at all. Our first duty is to the people who voted for us and before we do anything we listen to what they feel then think about our best course of action. We don’t seek publicity (this flap over our change of heart is as unfortunate as it is overblown), we’re not acting out of cupidity, we’re not (as everyone is crudely hinting) looking for a bigger payday. In fact, we risk odium, opprobrium and oblivion.
Actually, our unhappiness with this chief minister is well known because we have made our views clear more than once. We did it quietly, though, without trumpets and heralds, in conversations with party elders and senior ministers. We said we don’t like the way this government is becoming an extension of the family interest. It’s not even the First Family we are talking about. We intended to serve the public, not a ruling family which got there by a freak of chance.
We have reluctantly concluded that our leaders, rejected by the public, hooked up with this joint family outfit even though it meant the tail would be wagging the dog.
Everyone we spoke to said, we hear what you’re saying, but
let it be for now, don’t rock the boat, we don’t have a choice. But we do have
principles, don’t we, so why this obsession with survival at any cost? We could
always choose principle over expediency. Sadly, to these seniors, who are
mostly reasonable people, it doesn’t seem to matter if every day brings a fresh
humiliation, if every minute is a living contradiction, if more and more people
laugh at our grotesque contortions. They don’t ask why we should constantly
debase ourselves to keep a nasty, thoroughly corrupt, casteist sectarian in a
place he doesn’t deserve. They just do it. This can’t only be a love of public
service. There are better ways of keeping the loyalty of our supporters.
Over the months we have reluctantly concluded that our leaders, rejected by the public, hooked up with this joint family outfit even though it meant the tail would be wagging the dog. Holding office was obviously more important than finding out why people dumped us and making an attempt to regain their support. Electoral arithmetic has become the centre of our political lives. We no longer even pretend to try and learn from our reverses. The result is plain to see. Our stock in trade (if political ideals can be so described) seems these days to be that we’re everyone’s laughing stock.
All this hyperventilation over defections is nothing more than a ruse to distract attention from the curious hybrid that they created .
So we too became an unwitting, unwilling part of a
long-running comedy act, which would have continued to play if we had not
interrupted it. Like the march of the lemmings, farce precedes the tragedy as
everyone laughs at the plight of those hardy souls who try to make the marchers
reverse course but are willy nilly swept forward by the horde, kicking and
screaming. No one really knows what’s
going on in the scrum up ahead until they reach the cliff edge, and that’s when
tragedy strikes. It’s too late to go anywhere but down. That is what we tried
to prevent when we resigned, as a warning that our present course could only
lead to extinction. In a cruel twist of irony we find ourselves painted in the
colours of treason. The real traitors are out there, desperately trying to keep
the delusion alive.
All this hyperventilation over defections is nothing more than a ruse to distract attention from the curious hybrid that they created simply in order to deny the other side. The ancient Greeks had a word for this phenomenon, the chimera, a beast with many progenitors, a lion, a goat and a serpent. In this instance, if a rat and a hyena were conjoined, the rat would be at the head. What’s the chance of such an unnatural creature surviving?
We know that the late, revered king of floor walkers, Chaudhary Charan Singh, cobbled a government in the largest state, Uttar Pradesh, with just 17 MLAs in a house of over 400. He, too, was acting on principle, in protest against the state which he felt was treating farmers like stepchildren. How long did his government last? Well, he did make it last a little over a year, but a lot of his support was ideological. And, of course, that was then and this is now. This one was based purely on the principle of holding on to office and power. How long did they think the patient would survive?
We have kept out of the limelight on purpose to avoid the media’s loudest idiots. We’re thankful to our party elders for keeping us incommunicado.
Anyway, we now see that we did them a favour without ever meaning to when we pulled out. We gave them the mother and father of an excuse. When their government goes down they’ll grow angel’s wings and start to talk principle and morality, blaming their failure on the opposition’s dastardly deviousness in engineering defections. We know better. This animal had short lifespan written all across its DNA.
Ever since this trouble started there have been wild rumours about how we would be crossing over to BJP, joining the party, supporting it from outside, and heaven knows what else. The estimated price of our alleged treachery has also gone through several rounds of breathless speculation, from beautiful women to ministries to head of statutory bodies to tens of crores of rupees for lining up at the starting gate. We’ve been “holed up” in this resort or that, “sequestered” to keep us from the enemy, “closely guarded” by senior ministers, whatever phrase sounds best for the day’s headline, in short.
We admit that there is some truth to this feverish “countdown to zero hour” chorus. We have kept out of the limelight on purpose to avoid the media’s loudest idiots and keep them from putting words in our mouths or quoting us to add substance to their fictions. We’re thankful to our party elders for keeping us incommunicado, an offer we accepted gratefully. Needless to say, none of the nightly analysis by hyperventilating talking heads and anchors has any basis in a single word that we said, directly or indirectly.
We must, however, concede that some things have changed since we began our revolt. Our insurrection had nothing to do with BJP, desire for a ministry, or power. We were simply disgusted with the way our leaders were expected to indulge every whim of the chief minister’s party. We do have a mandate and it has nothing to do with pleasing the chief minister. That is what motivated a few of the more public-spirited among us but we are not part of a cabal or a coven. Some of our motivations were similar but there are many differences.
But the reaction to our decision started a chain of thought that may be converging. What if we did join them? Would it matter? Not everyone is looking at it seriously but some undoubtedly are. It is not that they are intrinsically better, more principled or fit for office (after all, they have started fires in every legislature where they are in opposition) but maybe they deserve it more. They missed an absolute majority by a hair. Objectively considered, they have a better right to form a government and maybe they should have been given enough time. But the honourable Supreme Court thought otherwise, so the result was this unnatural alliance.
It’s a kind of no-man’s land, where we’re surrounded by fog. And as the drama keeps getting stretched out, the prevailing fear among all of us is that we’ll end up in a place we never intended to be.
Well, they will probably get their chance now, and some of
us rebels might well be in the mix. But so far none of us have reported any
overtures. When we said we were quitting, we also made an informal agreement to
keep each other informed of any “offers”, as they are politely worded. So far,
no one has said a word on this but it would be optimistic to say categorically
that no one is in tune with the saffron spirit. Of course, total independence
cannot be ruled out but let’s say it seems unlikely.
The most striking change in the last few years is that the new masters of the universe have been enthusiastically diluting their rather insular brand by welcoming all shades and colours, prompting the thought that this is an opportunity to suborn them through sheer mass of displacement. Indeed, a couple of the more flighty souls among us have tentatively floated the idea of “termiting” or destruction by internal sabotage. We would be in the position of sleeper cells, waiting for the right moment to strike. Just wishful thinking, but what a coup that would be if it succeeded.
The thing is that when we acted we had no idea of what next? It was not a hasty decision but there was no plan for the future that involved joining another party, or setting up a new one. We were simply protesting, but after taking the step things have changed. This was not about personal ambition or advancement but having jumped, we get the feeling we still haven’t landed. It’s a curious sensation, like Alice falling slowly down the rabbit hole, I imagine. It’s a kind of no-man’s land, where we’re surrounded by fog that makes it impossible to see. And as the drama keeps getting stretched out, the prevailing fear among all of us is that we’ll end up in a place we never intended to be.
You can prepare all you want and act from the purest of motives but there is no guarantee that you won’t crash and burn.
Ideally, we should be in the position of an independent
power centre whose force is moral rather than political. We should be providing
the benchmark for principled conduct, acting only in the public interest,
serving only the people regardless of where we are sent or go. But we know how
slippery a slope that is. Just look at Jaya Prakash Narayan or Chandra Shekhar;
both were greatly respected and had the power to move politics to a new level.
Both died virtually powerless and left a questionable legacy. At his best
Sharad Pawar was a man of potential. Now he’s shrunk to a sub-regional satrap
with the reputation of a turncoat for hire. Oh yes, he’s also known as a master
of the dark arts. Or Nitish Kumar, whose special power seems to be the
somersault, from one side to the other. Even his “vikassheel” brand is
taking a beating these days.
On the other hand, there’s Didi and, even more spectacularly, Jagan Reddy. Both are writing a new chapter in regional politics. So there are possibilities for us if we stick together and stick it out but only if we abide by the motto of the three musketeers without question. It’s a hard road, though.
At this particular moment it’s a moot point because we haven’t hit bottom, but these thoughts must be racing through everyone’s brain. The truth is, you can prepare all you want and act from the purest of motives but there is no guarantee that you won’t crash and burn. The world has grown cynical, so only the basest motives seem to be reasonable or believable. As the poet said,
“The best laid plans, Of mice and men, Gang aft agley”.
Not that we laid any plans, we acted on impulse. That should be amply clear by now. As we wait for the denouement, we can but hope that our actions are recognised for what they are, an attempt to cleanse politics of its dynastic and sectarian debris. The way things are going now, however, we fear it will look more like we have muddied the waters in order to hide our true intentions.
As for ourselves, we devoutly hope that our rebellion will be seen for what it is, a demand for principles not patrimony as the guiding force of politics. Principles that demand only a humble price in the end: Just a change of seat in the house of the people.