Author : Deepak Sinha

Originally Published 2016-03-21 08:54:34 Published on Mar 21, 2016
Politics on everything. Period

Decades ago, well-known German author Thomas Mann famously remarked, “Everything is politics.” We are still getting to grips with the import of his statement, given that it has universal application as every aspect of our lives is impacted by politics, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat and the water we drink. However, a few years ago, Alan W Silberberg, an American entrepreneur and columnist, turned it on its head, by suggesting, “Politics is everything, period”.

Granted, he was talking about the United States and the Republican Party’s antipathy towards US President Barack Obama, but oddly enough, his words appear to be completely relevant in our context as well. Today, politics seems to occupy the mind space of each and every individual in this country, and what is worse; it seems that only the pettiest and most irrelevant issues occupy Parliament, media and the citizens at large.

So, we have ‘scholar’ activist Kanhaiya Kumar, ostensibly enrolled as a PhD student at the Centre for African Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and standard-bearer of our very own little revolution demanding Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité. I am not quite sure what he knows about Africa, but in his new avatar, while addressing the students at the university on women’s day, he had little hesitation in accusing the Indian Army of rape and mayhem in Kashmir.

The matter of specifics and proof, of course, was not offered as he probably considers that irrelevant, just as he does about the consequences of his accusations on morale of serving soldiers, who are trying to do their best in a bad situation.

Ironically, such accusations are a bit thick, especially coming from someone who has been previously disciplined after allegedly being “found guilty of misbehaving with an ex-student (female) of JNU and threatening her on June 10, 2015… an act of serious nature, unbecoming of a student” by the office of the chief proctor, JNU.

The reason for his angst is the fact that the complainant objected to his openly urinating on the road next to the hostel in daytime. Whatever the truth is, there is no reason to doubt the complainant, and the student leader’s foray into politics only goes to prove George Bernard Shaw correct, when he said that “Politics is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

Shaw was not the only one to harbour such views. Samuel Johnson, well-known essayist, had written in 1774 that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, while critiquing not patriotism, but the false use of that term by William Pitt, Earl of Chatham PC, and his supporters. As some may recall, ‘Pitt, the Elder’ served two terms as the Prime Minister of Great Britain and was well-known for his advocacy of British greatness, expansionism and colonialism.

Coincidentally, British historian PDG Thomas suggests Pitt’s power was based not on his family connections, but the extraordinary parliamentary skills by which he dominated the House of Commons.

You would not be wrong to draw a parallel and to feel that it really is an odd case of history repeating itself, albeit in India, as we debate nationalism in all its manifestations, just as we debated ‘intolerance’ a few months ago, in effect much hullabaloo about nothing. Talking about politics and scoundrels, one cannot but help focus on the political finger pointing over industrialist Vijay Mallya’s ‘unexpected’ disappearance, permanent or otherwise.

Leaving aside the blame-game and crocodile tears being shed by Mallya for his employees who were thrown to the wolves’ years ago, the real question that needed to be answered has been meticulously avoided by politicians, media and bureaucrats alike. A question that GR Gopinath, the founder of Air Deccan, and a minority shareholder in Kingfisher Airlines, raised at a recent discussion on a news channel; why was foreign direct investment only permitted in airlines a few months after Kingfisher had collapsed, thereby benefiting competitors on the brink of insolvency? The answer to this puzzle is a no-brainer just as is the motivation to keep Mallya in focus while details of bigger defaulters are kept under wraps.

In this entire deluge of malfeasance, corruption and politics, there are two issues of consequence that give some reason for optimism. The first that Flight Cadets Bhawana Kanth, Mohana Singh and Avani Chaturvedi are on the course to be commissioned in the fighter stream after it was thrown open to women in October 2015. They will soon head for Air Force Station Bidar to complete the final phase of the advanced fighter training before becoming fully fledged operational fighter pilots next year and joining the ranks of the best and brightest of the service.

Apart from closing the gender gap in no uncertain manner, the full import of this decision may well be felt three decades from now. There has only been one Air Chief from the helicopter stream while all others have been from the fighter stream. There is now a real possibility that we may actually have a Woman Air Chief in the not too distant future

Even more heart warming is the historic news of the commissioning of Lt Priya Semwal as a short service commissioned officer in the electrical and mechanical corps. She is the widow of a non-commissioned officer, Naik Amit Sharma, who was martyred during counter insurgency operations in the North-East four years ago. With encouragement from her husbands’ colleagues, she completed her graduation and post-graduation and applied and qualified for the Officer Training Academy.

It is an unequivocal display of courage, grit and determination and the will power to fight against all odds and succeed. Both these examples are certainly far removed from the fat cats of the corporate world or the poster boys and girls  of moral outrage, all with one thing in common, the ability to feed off the charity of tax payers.

This commentary originally appeared in The Pioneer.

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Deepak Sinha

Deepak Sinha

Brig. Deepak Sinha (Retd.) was Visiting Fellow at ORF. Brig. Sinha is a second-generation paratrooper. During his service, he held varied command, staff and instructional appointments, ...

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