Flogging a Dead Horse

The failure of our rulers – those who wield authority because of occupying public office, as well as the legion of bureaucrats who enjoy boundless power without attendant responsibility – has become a worn out cliché by now. Even writing about it is nauseating, and serves no purpose as in a sham democracy like the one thrust on us accountability has disappeared even from vocabulary.

          In a democratic set-up, it is the people themselves who govern their affairs – which just means that they live their lives according to a set of ‘rules’ (or the more canonized form of ‘laws’!) laid down by general consensus. In this background, it would constitute mere distribution of work, rather than securing privilege, to be involved in the enactment, regulation or implementation of these rules or laws. In the case of work, the issue of performance crops up automatically. But when a particular position becomes more associated with its privileges rather than work and responsibility, then performance does not matter.

          On the other hand a ‘ruler,’ in a conventional sense of the term, evokes the image of a despotic monarch who lords over the less privileged, the less powerful and the less fortunate. It is not hard to determine to which set our politicians belong. The story is not all that different when it comes to our bureaucrats. Instead of behaving like public servants and serving the public as they are supposed to, they too behave like nabobs and nobles of old. No wonder there is a marked difference between executives in the public sector and the private sector. Whereas in the latter case it is all about performance, among the former it is all about privilege.

          In this perspective, castigating authorities for their inertia and inefficiency is like flogging a dead horse. Since accountability features nowhere in the deal, it is understandable that our politicians and bureaucrats respond to criticism with self-righteous indignation even when the results of their ineptitude are glaringly evident. In fact, paradoxically, it is those who point out the faults in the system who are painted as villains rather than those responsible for the faults in the first place.

          While ineptitude, corruption and apathy are characteristic of our system, the outgoing political coalition has shown these traits in especially marked degrees. Crippled by internal bickering and headed by a leader always in complete dissociation with ground realities, this government was doomed to failure from the very beginning. Be it the Shopian tragedy or the turmoil in the succeeding years, or the floods and their aftermath that capped it, the CM came across as someone who did not have an inkling of what it was all  about. Even his supposed candour in admitting failure became such a repetitive feature that rather than sympathy it drew contempt. Being the leader of the coalition, the CM cannot shrug off responsibility by mere confessions. It is true that his coalition partners, in keeping with the traditions of the party they belong to, seemed to be concerned only with how much power and lucre fell to their share, but it was his own immaturity and shortcomings as a leader that made him look like a lost lamb, rather than the leader of the flock, most of the time. The CM even went on record to state that corruption was a compulsion in a coalition government, thus effectively relinquishing all control.

          A claimant to power as inheritance, he ignored the cues of leadership he could have gleaned from his predecessors. If anything, it was his connection with the masses that had made the founder of his political party, his own grandfather, a leader of a population that kept forgiving him for all his gaffes, minor as well as momentous. His father too employed comparatively better communication skills even as he reduced local politics to buffoonery. Inane tweets cannot replace real communication. Instead of connecting with grassroots politics and the public, the CM depended wholly on his close coterie of advisors who, besides lacking any real political moorings, were equally inexperienced and immature. if not more. This reduced the government to a disconnected and clueless oligarchy.

          The resulting dysfunction set the stage for an ignominious run of six years, spelling misery for the local population. It is futile to expect this government to deliver at this late stage when it has failed to do so in its heyday, and equally futile to detail its ineptitude. The only write-up this coalition deserves is an obituary, and a wish that it stays buried for good.