Politics of bonhomie in tribal huts

Updated: Dec 28, 2010, 16:49 PM IST

DN Singh

It is a fact that enthusiastic political actions do not touch the hearts of people if there is no deep involvement of emotion; either a make-believe one or an honest one. It seems Rahul Gandhi has perhaps become the first to locate the nerve of the masses. His actions like sneaking into the tribal villages for a change and taking food in the huts can be viewed as a short-cut to the hearts of the downtrodden. For Rahul, who has taken resort in the politics of assurance more than doing politics of promises, has surely taken it as an assured means of political warming up before every electoral bout.

Subsequently, this eye-catching political mirage, though dubbed as moral politiking, has somehow made a few more easy victims to this charitable deception. The problem is, just before and soon after stepping into the field of politics, any leader finds politics as the only means to serve the society and the media adds to such problems by describing every tinpot operator as leader.

Politics being inextricably linked to governance, most people suffer from colossal ignorance of issues; thus they choose short-cuts to get nearer to the masses. For example, leaders getting into tribal huts and sharing the food (often pre-arranged and prepared) can be a palliative but not the cure. And they know it. Using or misusing national wealth to purchase people`s loyalty is, of course, a game as old as humanity itself. Yet it is glorified.

Such political manipulations, ethically wrong or right, never ensure political longevity, yet they hold water amidst a population where illiteracy and poverty are all pervasive. What can be best described as a political para-trooping of sort, such leaders never know the pitiable condition of the roads that lead to such areas, are unaware of the dingy class-rooms in which our posterity is being reared, and they do not have any interest also to see the conditions of hospitals a patient fears to tread.

Reportedly, the former chief of the Bhartiya Janta Party Rajnath Singh tried to relish some food in one such village, which was soon aired on TV channels. Every leader has his own way of informing the people that they are one amongst them; they pander to the bleeding hearts in the woods but without being intimately exposed to the contagions of the sufferings of those areas.

All said and done, it always remains an opportunity when a leader comes closer to the embarrassing realities we normally read about in newspapers. Such pre-arranged visits may serve little purpose but let’s not dismiss them off-hand since they always have a message to give. But the underlying pretensions the leaders try to hide behind the bonhomie fail to escape the water-tight vigil of the media; hence slightest assaults on such pretensions are often treated with contempt, more so when the descriptions are bitter and accurate.

The trend, in fact, is no more restricted to the ones like Rahul but, such misplaced idealism has already come to the backwaters of the political regime. The blue-eyed boy of Naveen Patnaik, Jay Panda, a Rajya Sabha MP from Orissa, is on the job for last one year almost. This flamboyant young leader in Biju Janta Dal has a penchant for flying and for him, it comes in handy to land in some pocket burrows of his constituency, take a ride on a bike and strut into a thatched house relishing the traditional Oriyan delicacy like `Pakhal` (watered rice) with brinjal fry and smashed potato. Whether the food is pre-arranged or not, but people from his channel will always be there to capture the live acts.

Even Panda`s one such rendezvous landed him in a kind of trouble. There are allegations that Panda was flying at a very low altitude over a Wildlife Sanctuary in Orissa recently, along with a political colleague from Haryana, who is also a high-profile young MP. It has not augured well with the Union MoEF and Jairam Ramesh has shot a letter to the state`s chief minister for quick intervention. May be Panda`s alleged pleasure sortie over the eco-sensitive sanctuary had little to do with politics but, there was no need, if at all he had flown, to cross a moral territory even for pleasure’s sake.

Such visits are usually preceded by a lecture when the leaders hold the people`s interest as paramount and offer their grandiose visions for the area or paving the path for social democracy within minutes. At the end, such activities tend to provide a kind of entertainment to the television viewers - both the privileged ones in the cities and the subservient ones in the villages. But what happens to the sunken masses living in the backwaters after the leaders fly back home leaving behind the dust of despondency? Nothing.

Such visits, either by Rahul Gandhi or any other leader, can be viewed as passing searchlights those play upon the lone villages or the hamlets that never move ahead of the obscurities once the lights are switched off. Be it in Orissa or anywhere in India, the masses living in such backwardness suffer from a hunger for sustainable livelihood, not bonhomie.

If the leaders need to have the ability to feel, identify with and express in their politically passionate terms the deepest needs and sentiments of average Indians, they can do without such visits.