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A dreary Independence Day

Usually around Independence Day, you start to feel a bit uplifted, a bit happy even. A sort of sense of ineffable freedom fills your mind as August 15 approaches. But not this year, somehow, joy is in short supply in 2013. It’s doom and gloom time and it’s not just because of a very¬†successful monsoon blocking the sun out for months.


Low expectations: A sort of sense of ineffable freedom fills your mind as August 15 approaches. But not this year, somehow, joy is in short supply in 2013

Instead, you’re forced to worry about a lot of disconnected but random events and realities. Like why do onions cost Rs 60 a kg? What really happened in Kishtwar in Jammu & Kashmir? Why do we sometimes get upset about incursions at the Line of Control but not at all times? Do we really want another war with Pakistan? And why do we have a Parliament if it will not function?

There is little doubt that this UPA government has been one of the worst in recent memory, made even more inexplicable considering how well it
did before it was re-elected.

Ever since the 2G spectrum scam broke, the government and the political parties in the ruling coalition have been sliding backwards, taking the country with them. Everyday living has got tougher from bottom to top. The economy is stuttering. The neighbourhood is still unfriendly.

But the most discouraging has been the behaviour of politicians in general. The DMK has been defiant. The Trinamool Congress is self-obsessed to the extent of paranoia. The Nationalist Congress Party has been caught up in its internal family fights. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are blatantly opportunistic. The Left is still to recover from its various self-goals starting with pulling out of UPA I to losing West Bengal.

The Congress remains its odd mix of arrogance and incompetence. Neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor party president Sonia Gandhi says enough in public to inspire any confidence in them. Instead we have a cacophony of voices speaking at odds with each other and many of whose owners specialise in sticking their feet in their mouth. Ineffective crisis management meets a string of largely self-created disasters. Allegations of corruption against individuals within the party, its allies and its associates have been met with brazen defiance as well as sudden capitulation. The Congress behaves like there is no connection between its head, its torso and its limbs.

And then we have the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is well within its rights to obstruct the government at every turn. But, this is a party also filled with inner turmoil and intrigue. No matter what inexcusable mistake the government makes, you can be certain that the BJP will manage to create some internal catastrophe of its own. Meanwhile, high decibel levels cannot be an adequate substitute for solid policy plans or a blueprint for the future.

The BJP’s track record as an inclusive party which respects all the communities who live in India is another matter and makes the party anathema to anyone who does not have a narrow one-community view. This adds to its problems. The elevation of controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has caused it as many problems as it has accrued benefits. Hindutva or not is a question which half the BJP doesn’t want to answer. As a result, its role as an effective and credible opposition, even to a third-grade government, is suspect.

The parties which are in opposition to the ruling coalition are either too regional or too equally incomprehensible or irrelevant.

But all together, these parties help to make Independence Day even worse. All of them feel that the Supreme Court is wrong in taking away a convicted person’s right to contest elections. This is in spite of the general disgust among voters for corrupt criminals getting into legislatures using caste or intimidation or both. And then there’s the general political opposition to political parties being answerable under the Right to Information.

It’s not just the price of onions then. There are enough reasons to weep this Independence Day.¬†

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

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