Dr Pravin Togadia
When the veteran cartoonist RK Laxman would draw expressive cartoons of a common man showing the stark contrast with the affluent, every message reached our hearts. It appeared every one of us was related to that common man. Today when in the name of the common man (aam aadmi as they put it) a group of young activists triggered the pain and agony of the common man, the very same common man trusted the group and voted for them. This is very peculiar of all of us as common people. We trust those who touch our paining nerve. Today, it is corruption and increased rates of essential daily needs like milk, vegetables, electricity, water, etc. Common man is simple and naïve. He / She trusts quickly and follows simplistically all those who promise to give him/ her relief of such aching issues that affect daily lives.
There is an apparently convincing logic in the logic of this aam aadmi (Common Man) rhetoric. That is: Many political parties promised many things, they did not deliver. Many political parties distracted aam aadmi with issues unrelated to the daily needs— issues that relate to religion, general economy, science and technology, reforms in economy, etc. This new activists group surely touched the paining nerve of the people who were already irritated with their budget going haywire due to constantly rising prices of daily needs. They attributed it to the corruption, incompetence and ego of the rulers. Natural reaction! What I do not have and you have it (at my cost) then surely I will get angry. The anger was triggered systematically by select media plants, hyped up social media coverage and histrionics such as connecting the cut electricity connections and marching to the current leaders’ houses and making fiery speeches terming all political leaders chor (thieves). Dramatic! But today, this works. It is now for the common man to ensure that the euphoria of discarding all that is established does not lead to anarchy like in Egypt, Syria and now Thailand, etc.
This worked in the past also. When VP Singh took up the issue of corruption of items which were not the daily needs of the common man and resigned, he got extremely high response from the same common man. Every decade it has been happening in Bharat. Governments mostly fail to deliver for one or the other section of the society. Sometimes it is the corporate section, other times it is the students or teachers, women… Some sections of the society are always unhappy about all that is called ‘Systems’. After the historic Emergency, even the mighty Indira Gandhi was defeated. Today Sheila Dikshit has been defeated. Nobody even at that time thought that the issue of curtailing Fundamental Rights of the citizens could have such a cascading impact on the mighty ruling party named Congress. The Congress this time did not think that this little known group of Jholawalas (it is the word used by Congress which I strongly object to) will give them such tremors. Mostly, those who seem to address a pin-pointed issue this way claiming to be the representatives of the common man, have a peculiar style. They harp of how the current systems are all useless and what should NOT be there. There should not be corruption, inflation, inequality, etc. Today it appealed more because after 66 years, many people do not have electricity, water; money even to pay for kids’ milk, fees, food or to pay for medical treatment. Obviously the public is irritated and angry.
Now that the euphoria is over, there are more serious issues here. They are not who will rule some State or at the Centre. The stark reality is that it is a myth that the common man is the middle and lower middle class only. It is a lose term now. There is an aam aadmi in every strata of the society, be it a chawl or a slum or a sophisticated housing colony or a row of houses or any professional community including doctors, lawyers, CAs, IAS / IPS / IRS / Army officers, industrialists or homemaker women or students.
Everyone is irritated with the injustice meted out to them one way or the other. It was easy to hold the politicians for each problem of all. The time was ripe and the strategy perfect. Aam Aadmi Party filled the vacuum and gained.
Nothing succeeds like success. Especially in an electoral democracy with the teenage TV media around, electoral success is all that matters for the typical hero worship. Regionally, on the local issues, many first timers have won even before. Chiranjeevi, Chandrababu Naidu, TRS Rao, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and even MNS Raj Thackeray! But AAP is different in the sense they have addressed a national issue using local strengths in Delhi and today’s medium—social media and TV. Smart. A lot to learn from their methods.
Now that they have gained, they have a lot to answer and do. In a country where electoral success is the parameter of right and wrong (very wrongly so!) they have a lot to do. So to say, for many decades, Congress won Centrally and in many states. Communist Parties won Bengal, Muslim League controls Kerala, Owaisi’s MIM won many seats in Andhra and now targeting Maharashtra. Does this mean that because they won, they were right or their ideologies are correct for Bharat? They won because they could gather vote needed for the victory in pockets. It does not make these parties any right for Bharat. Aam Aadmi Party too has to prove themselves. Not only in fulfilling the promises but in addressing all the issues of the complete common man. Common man, yes, is bogged down with the financial problems, inflation and getting deprived of basic needs like water, electricity, good food, etc. The same common man also has a heart. He/ She also has relations and traditions. The common man in Bharat is not an isolated island needing only food and water. Bharat’s common man has beliefs and faiths. The same common man queues up at Vaishnodevi and other places of worship. Despite the high prices the same common man cooks prasadam for the religious festivals and also puts up langar distributing food to others! Bharat’s common man has a religious, warm heart under his pocket!
All political parties take great pride these days in ridiculing all that is religious terming it ‘old fashioned’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘poisonous’ etc. To ‘look’ secular, to add some more vote or simply to look modern and ‘cool’ in the media, all that is Hindu is discredited loosely. The new activist group and so to say all political parties must realise that the common man they refer to has a rich cultural ethos in his / her psyche. They should not do the mistake of ridiculing it as the Left parties did because the common man also forms the majority in Bharat. Today he / she can stand up together against corruption and price rise, then the same common man had stood up for Ram Temple. If the issues like Common Civil Code are not addressed now then the social divide will widen fast and the same common man as a majority will stand up for his / her right of not being treated as a citizen in Bharat despite being a formidable majority. Vote-bank politics will be thrown in the air then.
Appreciate the complete common man and respect him/ her in totality; not just his basic needs. They are important and must be fulfilled. But we must not forget that during Emergency and other movements, the same common man had sacrificed all such needs for the nation. This is a point blank from all those common men like me who wish to see Bharat as a world leader maintain Bharat’s cultural glory too. Delhi elections exposed the low credibility of almost all political parties in Bharat. It shows that nobody should take voters, Hindus and their concerns for granted. When people get disillusioned, they show door to the established or starry, flashy political parties. It is time for introspection for all political parties.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])