Sunday 22 July 2012

Politics can be fun

I am on holiday in India and although this blog is not usually a diary you can read what I am up to in this previous post. Regular readers will know that I write mainly about politics. Politics in India is interesting. (This older blogpost gives an overview). I am not going to write extensively about corruption, other than to say that it also exists outside of India; the global interest rate was not fiddled by Indian politicians. I draw no distinction between dubious financial practices, expenses fiddling and taking a bribe or backhander, all are wrong and all should be dealt with by the judiciary of the country in question.

Tony Blair could be described as the first politician in the UK who then became a celebrity, Seb Coe, Arnold Swarzenegger and Ronald Reagan were celebrities who became politicians. In India it works both ways. Posters in memory of the Bollywood superstar turned MP Rajesh Khanna greeted me in Delhi's Indira Gandhi airport. Indira Gandhi herself was born into a political dynasty which is still alive in India today. I read in the Deccan Chronicle (South Indian English language newspaper) that Rahul Ghandi after eight years in Parliament is going to start taking a more active policy role in the Congress Party which his mother, Sonia Gandhi leads. The entire family is not involved in politics, but they are certainly celebrities.  What was also surprising is that what is going on in the Lok Sabha is reported in the same pull-out section as the Bollywood news.

The lines between celebrity and politician are more blurred here and the faces of politicians will be more familiar in India than they are to the average person in the UK, mainly because the political parties put billboards with candidates faces on in towns and on busy road signs. The politicians look pretty cool, many are pictured wearing sunglasses (although this might just be because it is sunny rather than as a fashion statement)

Politics is also louder here. At election time jeeps with multiple external megaphones blast music and political slogans to the masses. Rallies are not held in stuffy conference rooms but on the streets on soap boxes (or tea cases) under hastily erected sun shades. Supporters chant like football fans, often cars can be seen with the flag of a political party on the front.

The way politics is conducted in a country reflects its culture so it is unsurprising that politics in India is louder and more colourful than in the UK. The British system of government and opposition still remains in India. If we could take a lesson from the World's biggest democracy it would be that occasionally, politics can be fun.


Anonymous said...
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Brett Manning said...

I think there is also something in the fact that politics in India can have a much more obvious effect on people lives. We talk about the impoverished in the UK, and rightly so, but it doesn't really compare to impoverished in India. So a policy that provides housing, food and good education in India can seriously improve the lives of millions of people- rather than a much less tangible outcome in the UK.
I also think there is something of a national optimism that we have lost over here. Politics is naturally forward looking and at it's best believes you can effect change for the better. All to often I feel western political discourse has become backward looking and cynical. So I agree, there are many lessons we can learn from younger democracies.
I'm now very jealous you're in India and so I'm off to cook a breakfast dosa to make myself feel better.
PS loving the guy who has tried to correct the spelling of a transliterated word. LOL

Anonymous said...

"Tonight every Duchess in England will want to kiss my hand" goes back a year or two earlier than TB.

Politics is fun when you are trying to change something or stop something, too much of British politics has become about maintaining the status quo and continuing the non policies of the civil service. Andy Plant

Unknown said...

Excellent post !
Brilliant and well deserved!
When we talk of corruption in public life, it covers corruption in politics, state governments, central governments, "business, industry and so on.
Political corruption in India is a major concern.ministers make fun using his power. and make money for self.