The irony is that most of the leaders who have occupied prominent positions in our country have been so self- centered that after attaining power they have negated their duties and responsibilities towards the people and instead brazenly minted money for themselves in the guise of contesting elections and grabbing power, in callous disregard of public interest, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey
Abraham Lincoln had famously said that if you want to know a person put him in position of power. This resonates even today, in the current political scenario where netas have become synonymous with craftiness, wheeling dealing and subterfuge to exploit optimally the power they have acquired. There are rare instances where a neta, after attaining power shows integrity, honesty and benevolence towards all. After winning power the neta has a normal predilection to become arrogant, autocratic and selfish to the core. This unfortunate facet of human nature is not only omnipresent but also embodies the prescience of those who have studied human nature and defined the primal characteristics of those who wielded power, throughout history. Human civilization has been struggling in search of a solution to this problem – how to install an ethical ruler who doesn’t suffer from human infirmities of this kind and has the broader vision, compassion, integrity and honesty to lead his people towards happiness and prosperity. Thousands of years ago, Socrates struggled with this question. Later Plato‘s famous book “Republic” tried to answer this. Plato elaborated on the concept of a philosopher king and laid down a detailed scheme to attain this objective. Unfortunately the search for this philosopher king to guide his subjects to attain happiness and live together without conflict, has remained elusive and been dubbed utopian.
We did have a Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD and a stoic philosopher who lived up to this ideal. Though a king, he was more of a philosopher and lived life like a saint, despite being in power and constantly fighting wars to repel invaders. Marcus showed a great deal of respect to the Roman Senate and routinely asked them for permission to spend money even though he did not need to do so as he was the absolute ruler of the Empire. In one of his speeches , Marcus even reminded the Senate that the imperial palace where he lived was not his possession but theirs. In Hindu mythology, there’s the example of King Janaka who is revered as being an ideal example of a king who was Vaidehi- had no attachment to material possessions. He was intensely interested in spiritual discourse and was free from the fatal lure of worldly illusions. While running a huge kingdom , he remained an enlightened person – untouched by greed and falsehoods .
The challenge of our democracy is to elect a person who is selfless in his approach and is governed by truth and honesty. This search is still elusive -at least in India. After attaining independence and the advent of democracy, year after year people have been voting in the hope that someday, someone will occupy power not solely to serve his self-interest but also to look after the interest and the happiness of the masses. The irony is that most of the leaders who have occupied prominent positions in our country have been so self- centered that after attaining power they have negated their duties and responsibilities towards the people and instead brazenly minted money for themselves in the guise of contesting elections and grabbing power, in callous disregard of public interest. This has even led to the politicians adopting divisive culture and politics to win elections. So they work insidiously to spread Hate politics- divide people on caste , religion, language and other sectarian lines. The disastrous result is in front of us .Those who used to propound big philosophies and projected themselves as followers of “this or that leader”- Gandhi,Lohia,Marx/Lenin- after getting power forgot everything and just practiced the art of deceiving people , indulging in blatant corruption of all kinds – unmindful of the calamitous consequences to our polity and society. Our nation has suffered egregiously at the hands of these minions who ascended to power in the name of public interest but acted totally contrary to it.
Another unfortunate aspect of our politics is that most of the leaders are totally ignorant and learn on the job and mess up governance disastrously, not even aware of what they have done. Today our politics is centered around the sole idea of befooling people in every way possible. With the sole objective of grabbing power ,they take recourse to all kinds of stratagems like massive rallies , road shows, yatras, gigantic cutouts ,hoardings, freebies and use the indispensable services of touts and middlemen- by spending billions of rupees regularly . None talk to power-no questions are asked from where the humungous amount of money is coming because all the political parties are immersed in the same culture. This culture of corruption and politics through middlemen has cost our nation dearly. Although people are weary of the current state of politics yet they watch helplessly as they don’t know what to do and how to fight these moneybags and bahubalis. They have begun to believe that politics is the natural domain of the duplicitous and the unprincipled and are resigning themselves to the rule of the immoral. Lack of honest , people centric and transparent political alternative is the tragedy that we the people are facing today and will keep facing till we are able to create honest , truthful and public oriented politics. This is the challenge before all of us. We must rise and confront it.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)