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The Bizarre World Of Realpolitik

BY N C Gundu Rao

20 April, 2004
Deccan Herald

If there is an eerie touch to the poll campaign that has drawn to a close in the first phase of the general elections there seems to be more than one reason for that. The electioneering ended on a poignant note in view of the tragic plane crash on the penultimate day of the campaign in Bangalore. The shattering tragedy in the air has smothered the lives of multilingual film star Soundarya and three others and what is quite heart-rending is all the four victims were in the prime of their life, hoping that they would have the time to see their dreams bloom but these dreams have been crushed in no time along with the aeroplane crash on that black Saturday. Considering the fact that the act of reviving the dead is still beyond the ken of human endeavour and an unconquered challenge to science and medicine, there is no option for the near and dear ones of those killed but to come to terms with the harsh reality of life fraught with unpredictable twists and turns.

This unmitigated human tragedy should not, however, overshadow the other disturbing traits of the electioneering and one such disconcerting feature was the ominous sign manifest that the shades of fascism may turn quite heavy in the days ahead. This apprehension is based on the complaints heard that there were intimidating attempts to force cine artiste Jayanti to retreat from the electoral arena of the Bangalore South Parliamentary Constituency and to silence Jnanapeetha awardee U R Anantha Murthy who had raised his voice against the sectarian and divisive politics pursued by the BJP and its affiliates. If these accusations were to bear scrutiny that would militate against the very grain and spirit of the democratic contest and would be totally alien to any liberal democratic order worth its salt. While Anantha Murthy has dropped enough hints on the identity of the forces that were trying to browbeat him into submission, an enigma surrounds the identity of those who had ventured to threaten Jayanti from continuing in the electoral race. This evergreen and luscious heroine of the silver screen who has stepped out of reel life into real life politics, may probably find the affairs of the tinsel world less bizarre than those that revolve round the realpolitik realm.

Familiar tactics
Meanwhile, such intimidatory tactics may not be totally unfamiliar to Jnanapeetha awardee Anantha Murthy since he was at the receiving end of similar methods when he had campaigned against the late Mrs Indira Gandhi in the famous by-election to the Lok Sabha from the Chikmagalur parliamentary constituency in the late Seventies of the last century. He was then still a teacher of the Mysore University. The other amusing feature of that episode was how Mr Murthy’s traducers in the literary field had tried to snatch a part of the “victimisation” halo that appeared to be within his grasp at that time. Evidence of such crude and ludicrous attempts is fortunately in cold print of the back issues of newspapers of that period.

Be that as it may, the core issue is one pertaining to the seminal instinct of those in office, no matter what kind of political allegiance they might owe, who tend to consider any criticism against them as an act of political heresy and lose no time in striking a vindictive posture against those who dare to do so. Such a tendency to muzzle the voice of dissent and snuff out all criticism is of course the inalienable right and prerogative of tinpot despots and those who reign supreme in banana republics. If this tendency were to spread to parliamentary democracies shaped and based on the pattern of the Westminster system, that would bode ill to the health of democracy and its future. Anyway, the dreadful and daredevil acts of (mis) using the very democratic method and constitutional system as a facade to extinguish the lamp of liberty and the flame of dissent is not totally unfamiliar to India and especially to those who were witness to the dark period of the despotic emergency in 1975. But even that loathsome and tyrannical system had thrown up some dazzling personalities who had been made of different mettle and sterner stuff to stand above the lure of office. One illustrious example for this was Mr Justice H R Khanna who had been pipped at the post of the Chief Justice of India by the then autocratic rulers of the country who could not relish his principled stand on habeas corpus petitions.

But the revered Judge lost no time in demonstrating unmistakably that he valued his own deep conviction and abiding faith in his idealistic stand much more than the chief justiceship, which he would have got as part of the spoils system had he chosen to be meek and timid to the ruling establishment of the day. No wonder, legal luminary N A Palkhivala had borrowed Miltonic phrase to describe Justice Khanna as one of the “tall men, sun-crowned who live above the fog In public duty and private thinking”. The stanza referred to merits to be quoted a little more and it is:
“God give us men! A time like this demands,
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honour;
Men who will not lie
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And dam his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty and private thinking.
In short, there is a lesson in this for many of the cerebral celebrities of the present-day who venture to have the best from both the worlds.