Every time election results are announced in India, I watch the news and laugh about the very same pattern – winning political parties mocking others and showing off their superiority, losing political parties blaming EVM or foul play by their rivals for their loss and never accepting their own “uselessness” that led to the loss. They keep taking turns in this, based on whether the results are for states which are their strongholds or those where they have screwed up completely. Graciousness in winning or losing is not something I expect from any of the political parties here. Since that is now the norm of politics, I would normally ignore it. What spurred this write-up though is a series of tweets from Mr.Shashi Tharoor, a politician who is hailed for being sensible, post the elections this time. A series of tweets celebrating the loss of BJP in Kerala and West Bengal, congratulating Kerala CPM for fighting COVID and communalism, citing Modi’s “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow” quote as a mockery of their loss in West Bengal and some about how Modi and BJP are losing.
Trust me, if these posts had come from anyone belonging to CPM in Kerala or TMC in West Bengal, I wouldn’t even have thought twice about it. It would simply belong to the category of post-election mockery that is a normal part of our politics, something which BJP themselves have done quite a lot after their wins. But Mr. Tharoor’s posts irked me because he is a top leader of the biggest opposition party of our country, a party that has failed to win even a single state in this election on their own and has consistently been losing its foothold in the past few years. And even to mock his rivals, he has to use the victories of other political rivals, because his own party hasn’t given him a chance! You know why that is a problem? I need only one example to say why! Look at how the country is struggling to survive in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19.
I have never been the kind of person who sits behind a screen and constantly criticizes the governments for everything bad that happens. Our governments – states and Centre – sure do mess up a lot. But I also try to understand the role citizens play in a lot of that mess as well as the constraints of governance, alongside appreciating the good that they do. I have always felt that we did tackle the first wave pretty well, considering how very new the crisis was. However, the present situation certainly invites criticism, even from the most understanding citizens. Yes, the mutated virus is deadlier. Yes, a huge section of citizens has been absolutely careless and brought this upon themselves and others to a great extent. But we had one whole year to prepare for this – one whole year! And when the second wave finally hit us, where do we stand with respect to our preparation? No beds in hospitals, no oxygen for the ones who are struggling to stay alive, not enough medical staff. How did this happen? Of course, no government can ensure fool-proof preparation amidst an unprecedented crisis like this, especially in a country as big and as highly populated as ours. But there is no denying that there definitely was a complacency that set in after the first wave seemed to have subsided, and that complacency is what led to this pathetic state of affairs right now.
I won’t put the blame on just the Centre or just the state governments for this although they keep blaming each other – all the governments have an equal role in this mess. But being the ones who run the country, I will any day hold the Central government more responsible for this. It was up to them to see that the state governments were doing their part in the one year that led to this point and arranging whatever would be required, it was up to them to tighten their grip in the states which were taking the COVID protocols lightly and doing poorly, it was their responsibility to act as the big boss to make sure that we as a country were prepared for the worst, it was up to them to demonstrate what was preached when the last lockdown was scrapped – “The end is nowhere near; so please continue all safety measures.” From top leaders including the Prime Minister of the country addressing huge election rallies, thereby giving an unsaid license to our already senseless people to take things more for granted, bending protocols or ignoring them to conduct countless unnecessary gatherings – religious, political, social – all of it culminating in a super-spread. Yes, it definitely was up to the Centre primarily to stay accountable and responsible. They didn’t, so the states didn’t, and so the citizens didn’t – and where did that leave us?
Now the big question is – why do you think the Centre felt this sense of complacency, especially in something as serious as this? If they had even the remotest fear that they would lose the reins in the next election, do you think they could afford to let these lapses happen? Time and again their belief and confidence in the incompetence of the opposition has been cemented by none other than their biggest national rival, Mr.Tharoor’s own party. Even in these state elections following which he posted these celebratory tweets, his party had a miserable loss, considering their manpower and history. And instead of worrying at least now about the dwindling status of his own party, the reason for its continued pathetic performance and figuring out a (new) plan to push the “top management” to somehow get the party back on its foot, he took the time out to mock one party by celebrating the victories of other parties. How desperate is that! While congratulating CPM for fighting COVID and communalism, he never bothered to think why his own party failed to do that in Kerala. While using the “What Bengal thinks today…” quote to mock BJP for a loss in West Bengal, where they actually managed to bring up their numbers considerably, he didn’t bother to worry about what Bengal thinks of his own party and what India would think of it tomorrow.
This attitude of focusing more on someone else’s loss and less on their own need to win has been the major reason for this party’s downfall. I had once before written about how that affects us as a nation, when the biggest opposition party that should be doing its job of keeping the ruling party on its toes fails to even project itself as rightful competition, how that will eventually lead to a sense of complacency in the ruling party and how that isn’t good for a democracy like ours. That is exactly what is happening now. For their political rivals, it would be a matter of joy. But for citizens who believe in the power of democracy, this party’s failure to acknowledge their responsibility and instead dwell on their false sense of security is a danger – a danger that would lead to more situations like what we see now. What with leaders like Mr.Tharoor, who I once used to believe would make a difference in that party (I no longer do), engaging in what can only be termed “self-troll” like this, I wonder if this party would ever step up and play their role with sincerity. Only if they do, can we expect the same from the ruling party, because no matter how ideologically apart they are as political parties, for the country, their roles are intertwined.
Ultimately, it is a loss only for the ones like you and me, whose priority isn’t petty politics, but having a decent life in the country we love. For others, it is simply a “who gets to troll who” competition on social media. :-/
Also published on Medium.