WHILE the UP Chief Minister, Mayawati’s recent outrageously expensive political felicitation in Lucknow is justifiably raising eyebrows and drawing criticism from all the sections of the society, those living in the glasshouses would be well-advised to pause and ponder before they decide to throw stones on her. There are a few questions for them to answer. Who, in the first place, is the architect, perpetuator, guardian-angel, high priest -all rolled in one- of this political culture of extravagantly vulgar living and life-style? Yes, you guessed it right: none else but our first Prime Minster-Jawaharlal Nehru. For seventeen years he ruled the country, he promoted this cult of extravagance, looking down , with disdain and contempt, on the Lohias of the day, who voiced their concern for the poor and the downtrodden of the country in the wake of this wasteful culture. Post haste, he went ahead to occupy the palatial Lord Kitchener’s bungalow at the first available opportunity – instead of getting it readied for housing a national museum in it.
The poor and deprieved of India was saddled with the costliest (in relation to India’s per capita average income vis-a-vis that of other democracies) democracy in the world- complete with its most expensive institutions, such as, President of India- a ceremonial, titular head of the state. He, his fellow politicians, and successors in the Congress Party and other political outfits, soon rubbished all the sermons about fugal living and observance of austerity in public-life, particularly in a poor country like India, the father of the nation gave.
Now the pro-establishment national media, both print and electronic, discretely avoids talking about this culture of ostentatious spending and its progenitor, lest it should annoy the ruling political class and the politicians, across the board, who, over the years, have got so addicted to it that they can never tolerate any objective observation, howsoever valid it may be, about it- let alone shedding it in the larger national interests. So, if the Zarina of UP and her fellow Dalit leaders have pushed it a little bit forward by organising an over 300 crore extravaganza to celebrate all-important, silver jubilee of her party and 76th birth anniversary of its founder, where is the reason for grouse and resentment? If not she now, somebody else would be doing something like that, possibly at a much larger scale, at some other point in time in future, for celebrating something else. In this game of political one-upmanship, nobody would ever like to be left behind. And when it is a part of a very much established culture, the sky could be the limit for the extravagant expenditure on all sorts of political shows and tamashas one or the other politician would love to organise, of course, on different points in time, on bewilderingly wide range of occasions. The nation should brace itself for many such shows and activities in the future.
It was an open show, and in the backdrop of the already prevalent culture, it should not and in all probabilities, would not attract any controversy except, of course, if the rival parties and politicians want to draw some political mileage out of it.
Have we not already been splurging this much of amount on daily basis for the last more than six decades in maintaining so many white elephants – dispensable institutions such as President of India, Rajya Sabha at the Centre and Vidhan Parishads in several states. They come complete with plethora of hugely expensive activities and ceremonies associated with them.
Wasteful expenditure by the ruling political class, on one pretext or the other, or even without any pretext, is a matter of plus ca change for the common citizenry of the country and as such the pro-establishment media or the politicians have little reason to pretend concerned about it.
(The writer can be contacted at C-1-A-42 B M.I.G. Flats, Janakpuri, New Delhi-110 058.)