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Opinion » Lead

Updated: December 12, 2012 01:35 IST

T20 politics has run its course

Harish Khare
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The Hindu

Just as a few victories in limited overs cricket do not equip a team for Tests, loud-mouthed aggression in politics does not generate governing capacity or trust among citizens

In the build-up to the Championship Trophy T20 cricket series early this year, the sponsor, a soft drinks company, unveiled an interesting advertisement campaign, which showed an ill-mannered Bollywood actor making a virtue of being rude and impertinently ad-libbing the catchline: “Boss, ye T20 cricket hai; na tameez se khela jata hai, na tameez se dheka jata hai (This is T20 cricket; it is neither played nor watched with decorum).” This charming invitation to forget our manners and etiquette is an extraordinary in-your-face celebration of the new cultural mood of loudmouthedness, a deliberate disdain towards obligations of dignity and decency.

Perhaps the clever manipulation of cricket-centric emotions was merely a reflection of the new national rowdy habit of conducting dialogue and conversation. This habit has come to rest on a simple formula: no restraint, no boundaries, no nuance, no subtlety, no time for class or technique, no thought for long-term consequences, just a victory, here and now.

Infectious mood

How infectious this mood has already become was evident in last week’s debate in Parliament on the FDI issue. In the manner of a limited overs contest, the debate degenerated into a raw confrontation between the ruling party and its detractors.

Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, otherwise a mild-mannered leader with a becoming sobriety, gave in to this mood — with totally unintended consequences. Not satisfied with being personal and offensive to the Congress president, she shrilly suggested that the Uttar Pradesh-based parties — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — were obliged to help the government out because the Central Bureau of Investigation had been unleashed on the leaders of these two outfits.

As she saw it, the issue was not the presumed merits or deficiencies in the government’s initiative; rather it was a simple matter of “FDI vs. CBI” — a classic T20 formulation.

But as with the new kind of cricket so in the political arena, aggression and recklessness cannot remain the monopoly of one side; the rules give all other protagonists the same freedom to respond in a manner of their choice.

It was left to Ms Mayawati — habitually denounced by the self-appointed arbiters of good taste and intellectual rationality — to take on the Leader of the Opposition, and reframe the issue. In particular, Ms Mayawati served notice that the BJP’s cultivated T20 bad manners would not go unanswered and would, in fact, invite retaliation in kind. She did more than that. The BSP leader framed her argument in an institutional context: a government defeat would embolden the BJP to continue its two-year-old strategy of parliamentary disruption, a technique that had already eroded parliamentary institutions’ credibility and respect.

Like everyone else, Ms Mayawati knew that a setback on the FDI issue would have been much more than a defeat for the Manmohan Singh government. It would have advertised to every stakeholder at home and abroad that the Indian parliamentary system was no longer able to generate for the executive the requisite legislative sanction behind any kind of policy coherence. She unwittingly ended up providing a much-needed refurbishing to the basic scheme of our constitutional arrangements.

Last week’s debate underscored a larger purpose: the inherent fairness of our constitutional design. The BSP leader indicated that her party and its social constituency of the lower castes and classes see merit in making good use of the parliamentary processes to demand and secure their share of the national pie. Unlike the Anna crowd and its political partner, the National Democratic Alliance, the BSP, at least, has every reason to want to abide by the Constitution because it knows that it is only the Constitution of India and its promise of an egalitarian order that would enable the marginal groups to secure a fair deal for themselves.

It is indeed somewhat mystifying as to why Ms Swaraj, who otherwise has the temperament of a one-down batsman in a five-day cricket test match, got seduced into recklessness. Perhaps the only explanation is that the BJP (as also its cheerleaders in the media) has been taken in by the success notched up by the Gujarat Chief Minister in the style of a limited overs-swashbuckler.

In fact, Narendra Modi is the first political leader of some consequence who has built up an aura around himself by rough-talking. His handlers have crafted a macho image for him, which now critically hinges on his perceived ready and uninhibited willingness to bad-mouth anyone; he has been projected as having the ability to “take on” anyone, and that he is unafraid of any holy cow. Mr. Modi is loud and immodest in self-praise and self-promotion; unrestrained in his nasty comments about Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. He tickles our baser instincts, makes us feel good in our small-mindedness. So invidious a toll has the Modi-type aggression taken on our collective sensibilities that a gentle, soft-spoken Manmohan Singh is dismissed in middle class conversations as a namby-pamby.

New media

That aggression has been exponentially facilitated by the new media. The electronic news channels have done their own bit in promoting this itch to be boorish. The shouting and bad manners that passes for “discussion” and “debate” on television has bred a culture of low tolerance and baser prejudices. The middle classes who otherwise take pride in their refinement in taste and cultural immersions find themselves addicted to the display of bad manners, hectoring and scolding night after night. It was this T20 culture that provided the perfect background for the India Against Corruption “movement.”

Carnivals of accusation

Anna and his gang mesmerised us with their own version of loudmouthed righteous denunciation. They staged vastly entertaining carnivals of accusation, where a handful of honest deshbhakts gave the appearance of taking on a whole legion of the corrupt and venal. For a while it seemed that name calling had become our national pastime. But they lost the plot when Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan went overboard and accused even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being corrupt. Anna’s so-called team melted away when the corporate sponsors tightened the purse-strings, and its warriors got entangled in their internal acrimonious contradictions. But the nation — particularly the middle classes — have got addicted to the daily dose of name calling. It is this addiction that periodically goads Kejriwal & Co. to make a nuisance of itself outside this or that VIP’s residence, hoping that the Delhi Police will get provoked into acting ham-handedly.

Violence in our daily political discourse is bound to breed violent proclivities in political society. The very fact that anchors can no longer talk softly in front of television cameras prompts everyone else to raise their voices and shout down others with unreasonableness, anger and acrimony. Political rivals are increasingly finding it difficult to communicate across lines of hardening polarisation. Political parties first find themselves having to field a few Rottweilers on the nightly name-calling contests, and then get trapped in the studio-generated bad vibes and bad blood. A take-no-prisoners attitude has come to dominate even routine political exchanges.

This approach to public life has distracted political parties from their basic mandate: to initiate their cadres into ideas and ideology, and then empower them to take the case to the citizens at large. Today, leaders in the public sphere get defined not by their ideas but by their antics. Their T20 orientation does not equip political leaders for the time-consuming, painstaking, unglamorous chores of governance. The polity is losing its capacity to serve both society and the state.

(Harish Khare is a senior journalist and public commentator.)

More In: Lead | Opinion

The author conveniently forgets to mention the "tamasha" of Mr. Rahul
Gandhi sneaking into UP amid prohibitive orders or him tearing up the
SP's manifesto during elections. What about the "Maut ka Saudagar" kind
of loudness and shrillness? Or the violent protests by Congress MLAs in
Odhisha against the BJD government?
And does Mr. Khare really want us to believe that parties that have
publicly said that they oppose FDI have supported the UPA out of
"considerations of showing a functioning democracy in India"? It is the same Ms. Mayawati, who shouted at the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha yesterday. And it was the MPs from the SP that tore up the Women's Reservation Bill in parliament. So much for democratic considerations. It is very unfortunate indeed that a newspaper like The Hindu allows Mr. Khare's Congress propoganda under the guise of an independent political analyst.

from:  Vaibhav
Posted on: Dec 13, 2012 at 10:28 IST

Prefer harsh truth to eloquent lies.
Dear Sir, the state of the nation is such, that the truth will put any one to shame and will hurt also. There is no reason why a spade should not be called a spade.

from:  Abhinav
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 18:54 IST

Maybe the writer is a former Press advise to the PM, but what he states is so true of the present tendency to avoid meaning full debate and only indulge in either personal attacks, or have no constructive debate or arguments against any Govt move. For this the BJP is even willing to join hands with the Left parties wth him they have no ideological common ground. Not a single speaker from the BJP were able to give any proven argument against FDI. Their main strategy has be to try and topple the Govt by any means. They are equally guilty of finding incompatible partners as they accuse the UPA. The most recent instance of creating a furore on the Walmart's disclosures according to US laws unconnected with India is another case in point. The BJP is led by lawyers who can argue on both sides of any question as they are used to do in Court of law. They have yet to prove that they have any economic strategy to India's problems if they come to power.

from:  S.N.Iyer
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 18:47 IST

It is only appropriate that "The Hindu" clearly disclose that the author was earlier a former Media Advisor of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
(read: "Congress spokesperson").
His recent articles consistently reflect this affiliation and stead-fast
loyalty to the Congress party.

from:  Indira Singh
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 18:15 IST

Judging by Mr Khare's opinions, we are living in utopia led by
epitomes of virtue and exemplary leadership. The truth, as everyone is
aware, is that the whole system is so rotten that it thrives feeding on
its confidence in getting away with anything. I am yet to see any party
debar politicians with criminal or corruption charges standing for
elections or voluntarily demitting office.
The system needs cleansing and the time will surely come for this to
happen - and it may not be peaceful like it has been till now.

from:  K.Chandrasekharan
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 15:53 IST

Author appears to be too generous for some one who has thrown abuses even at Father of the nation at some point in the carrier. His arguement of the decision by BSP being based on noble motives is misplaced. Between Congress, SP & BSP relation is more of a you scratch my back and I scratch yours. There is definate smell of biase in the article towards one side and hatred towards the other. Aad Aadmi realing under misrule of the current dispensation will not buy these stories. We must wait till May 2014 to get Aam Aadmi's final opinion.

from:  P G Makhija
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 15:30 IST

Author looks to be biased . Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jetali both have made sensible points but author is thinking only about remarks related to CBI and BSP. Quite surprising. Hindu should not promote such biased articles.

from:  Peter
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 15:05 IST

Whether it is in parliament or in TV studios or in the Aam Aadmi movements, one thing stands out loud and clear - no one comes off with flying colours. It is as if there is a competition to determine how low we can get. Panelists scream at each other, allegations flow thick and thin without a shred of evidence, conjecture is confused for evidence and substance, and the ordinary citizen is left wondering what the circus is all about. Does anyone care for the nation? In a democracy the most important person is supposed to be the ordinary citizen. What we have is an excuse for a democracy in which the ordinary citizen means absolutely nothing. Almost every day, we are proving that those with money and / or muscle power can get away with anything. One wonders when this charade will end, if at all.

from:  profbvk
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 13:17 IST

Whenever I feel like watching some news in TV I first try in some our
English news channels and soon get disgusted with the way the anchors
behave as rightly pointed out by Mr. Khare. Then I change to BBC and do
not feel like turning off the TV. Their anchors present news with such
grace and dignity I wish some of our anchors learn from them the way
they have to do it here also.

from:  Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 12:37 IST

It is very disheartning to see that The Hindu publishing such a biased article. I have been reading reading Hindu for quite some time now, and has seen a number of artcles biased towards the ruling party.
Even if we talk about this article, the BJP and AAP is blamed for puttinf up a protest. But the author has completly failed to muster a single instance where Congress leaders have been brash in their talks. He has failed to notice the loud-mouthed Kapil Sibal, ill-mouthed Digvijay Singh and short-tempered Salman Khurshid.
I thus, request The Hindu to publish some unbiased and meaningful articles.

from:  Swapnil
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 12:31 IST

That is an important point made by Mr. Arun Visvanathan. Even without it, the article looked a bit biased (though well-intentioned), with that information one can understand the sentiments. The Hindu should have disclosed that fact. As for the article: Mr. Khare seems to be making the same mistake that he decries in others. That of painting things black and white. He keeps coming back to this T20 theory often. The other things: 1. Mr. Khare says - "accused even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being corrupt," As a leader of the team, Mr. Manmohan is indeed responsible for the actions of his team. So, when his team makes a mistake he should be held morally responsible. (Recently in Chennai the CEO of a educational institute and CEO of an entertainment park were sought to be arrested because of death of people in their premises. Did law say, no they are not responsible as they were not directly involved?)

from:  Venkat
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 12:28 IST

The author is right in calling for our politicians to help develop
better ideas and ideologies and work for a good governance which comes
with only painstaking hardwork behind the curtains than being involved
in a mud slinging contest putting our democracy in bad light .
But the author also seems biased in views of the ruling government which
even with its non corrupt mild mannered prime minister has failed to
deliver the goods due to reasons that are not so hard to find .

from:  Aakash
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 12:25 IST

Parliamentary processes are to be conducted with much indulgence and
sobriety.The speaker should play an active role to contribute to
this.Apart from the speakers ,the parliamentarians have the
responsibility to discuss and debate the issue to the point instead of
focussing on the weaknesses of the opposition.Disrupting the
parliament with walkouts and creating commotion to forestall the
smooth functioning will only result in an indefinite impasse with no
resolution to the problem in hand.Rather we all hope that the ruling
party as well as the opposition stick to the decorum and maintain the
sanctity of the parliament as a place where national issues are
addressed.

from:  Shaik Rizwan Ahmed
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 12:21 IST

The author might as well become the spokesperson of the UPA which has been stumbling from one fiasco to another whether it be financial or verbal.his love for Congress and BSP seems to have gotten the best of him.

from:  Srinath
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 12:11 IST

Very well put. It has become the zeitgeist in India.

from:  Sachin Ghagare
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 11:35 IST

While the frequent parliament disruptions are certainly something of a concern, the
author's biased views towards the ruling party shifts the focus away from that. Most
of us would agree that BJP has failed to capitalize on the political mileage that it
could have but it is difficult to believe that congress leaders have been saints as
projected by the author. Per author, the principle opposition has done all wrong and
doesn't have any right to protest - although it has people's mandate. He has ridiculed AAP, who seems to be the only one fighting for common man, and treated
general public as fools, in the end showcasing the snobby attitude of a former
bureaucrat.

from:  Siddharth Pandit
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 11:12 IST

A very thoughful Op-Ed and absolutely spot on. We need to get back to parliamentary basics and courtesy and not let down the country's image as a good democracy. BJP and Modi have made India a divisive polity and country, which is dangerous to our unity. Its time the media, instead of being loud mouthed became sober in conducting discussions. Media must learn from BBC, rather than behave as a slanging gladiators match.

from:  Anil
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 10:55 IST

A fantastic read. A very well written article that captures the mood of
the nation. I have always maintained that democracy is the truest
representation of the people of a country. The current state of politics
in our country is a perfect reflection of the attitude of our people -
impatient, short-sighted and rude.

from:  Ashwini Dubey
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 10:45 IST

So, according to the author, people who does every bit of dirty act to hang on to power and to fill their coffers with stolen black money is not wrong. Rather mistake is on the part of those people who dares to do the job of exposing the people looting this country.

Its strange how people like this author can bring out some utopian logic to support corrupt and spineless government whose sole aim is to invent innovative ways to make the common people suffer more.

from:  Aravind
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 10:30 IST

It is a pity educated persons in the Parliament have descended to such
low levels of discourse. You have rightly pointed out that the media
anchors acting as cheerleaders have contributed in no small measure to
the present degradation. I do not see much hope that the trend will be
reversed in near future. Of course we must draw consolation from the
fact that Our PM and a few others like AK Anthony who have kept a high
standard of public utterances.

from:  R.Sundaram
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 10:14 IST

Justice katju may not be right in saying 90% indians are idiots but definetly he is not wrong entirely.people dont choose party or a person on their ideas and values of doing good to common man rather they just go for the heck of it and vote for those irrational bad mouthed people

from:  Aarkay
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 08:25 IST

For whatever reason, The Hindu has not declared that Harish Khare wa
senior media adviser to Mr man Mohan Singh until a few months ago.
This is important information being witheld from the readers who could
then form their opinion of the views expressed.

For what its worth, Sushma Swaraj in describing the frequent flip
flops of the BSP and SP on every issue depending on the status of
cases registered by the CBI is only articulating what most people
outside those two parties believe.

from:  Arun Visvanathan
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 08:00 IST

BJP’s opposition to FDI in retail is just a farce. BJP is known to
have no permanent or principled views on such matters. In 1998, it had
decided to allow FDI in retail.
Further, I believe that after the reported involvement of Mr. Nitin
Gadkari in the Purti Sugar & Power Ltd. case, BJP has lost all moral
authority as also its credibility. It cannot now demand any action
against any one who is alleged to be corrupt, as BJP's president
himself is not above board. Of course, leaders like Ms Sushama Swaraj
are free to express their views, but more and more people are
convinced that BJP is no different party. Citizens lo longer regard
BJP as able alternative to the Congress party.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 07:47 IST

Another piece of paean for Congress Party written by so called "public commentator". He defends MMS and gang under whose 'democratic rule', India saw biggest scams. He bad mouths middle-class as if he is the holy cow. He does not see that Indian middle class wants a change and the only hope being offered is not from Congress party.
The Hindu editorial stands for quality and propriety. Lately it is being observed that most editorials are either supporting a cause or vehemently against it. It's ok write criticize a person but Mr Khare's weird affection for Congress does seem to cross limits. If only he could look and realise that this is T20 article. Editors, are you listening??

from:  SHASHI
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 07:21 IST

The T-20 outburst in Political and civil society is normal because of
the disjointed defective system with gaps in various ministries that
cannot deliver legal justice to a common man even in next 20 years.

It is very unfair to use the word T-20 only to echo the loud mouthed
cribbing in day to day governance. In T-20 the speed of the skill
delivery system is faster than the normal cricket matches.

What the author missed is the the fair cricket systems of an umpire
having rules of rewards and punishments with transparent pressure of
audience supported by technology who make noise by booing or by a
cheer up that creates T-20 environment in the gentleman`s game.

For more details as to how cricket spirit can repair Governance read
my old article published by `Governance Now` A and by `Dialogue
India` with title :Corruption-free society is possible – apply cricket
lessons.

from:  Rakesh Manchanda
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 07:08 IST

I so agree with Mr. Khare's analysis of the T20 syndrome in our political arena.
When I hark back at the past, I remember Smt Gandhi,s speeches in Parliament
declaring that Atalji had lost his mind ( mansic santoolan kho diye hain) and
elsewhere called Narendra Modi as "Maut ka saudagar". This ,to my mind was the
beginning of the trash that is being served to us today as public discourse. This ,
however cannot become an excuse for the mindless intolerance of political
adversaries and lack of decorum in the public space. There is a total disregard to
the sensitivities of the public. The electronic media has singularly contributed to
this malaise, by using language and imagery that is in complete consonance with
the T20 syndrome. Furthering the role of the electronic media in cultivating and
fostering a healthy mindset, especially the youth. I was appalled to see a clip of
Dilip Kumar slapping Bina Rai! Is this the only thing they want us to remember?
Bring civility into society, guys!

from:  Leela krishnaswamy
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 07:00 IST

Very well said Mr.Khare!We all know the problems. What is the solution? Even the promising Anna is now disappointing. Do we have to live with this situation?

from:  T.N.Neelakantan
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 06:45 IST

When there is no need to justify a single utterance this is what happens to journalistic standards.

from:  Arun
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 06:18 IST

Reading through the article I feel that Mr. Harish has adopted a pro-
congress stand. While talking about the BSP supremo it is assumed that
fight for quota in promotions is related to social equality as
enshrined in the Constitution and not to vote bank politics. That to
me sounds a little naive.
Second, I fail to understand the ideological principle behind the idea
that parties like SP/NCP which in principle are opposed to FDI have
adopted a different stand in the Parliament. Equally baffling is their
different stand in the two houses. When members support a legislation
not due to its merits but due to various political compulsions, it is
hardly an affirmation of supremacy of Parliament. It is clear that the
executive got the legislation through due to back door negotiations.
Thirdly, I think it is high time that we look beyond Mr. Manmohan
Singh's clean image. The corruption in the executive is pervasive and
Mr. Singh as the head of executive is fully responsible.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 06:08 IST

Mr.Harish Khre is a lawyer.He defends the client he is now attending to.The essay lacks credibility..

from:  K.Sugavanam
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 05:50 IST

The precursor to the loud mouthing was the sycophant utterings of the political chamchas.
1.DK Barua 'Indira Is India, India is Indira'
2.Das Mushi 'I will be happy to serve as a peon to Rajiv Gandhi'
3.Kalmadi 'Under the great leadership of Sonia Gandhi ' (Commonwealth Games closing ceremony)
4. Digvijay Singh ' Rahul is an international leader'.
the list is too big to fit here.

Rajiv Gandhi's 'Naani Yaad diladenge ....' set the tone of T20 in Indian Politics.
On the issue of FDI or CBI raised by Ms Swaraj, I think she has been very subdued. Every child in the street know that the support of BSP and SP was an arm-twisting act by the Government.
The author aces it when he says 'She (mayawati) unwittingly ended up providing a much-needed refurbishing to the basic scheme of our constitutional arrangements'. It was not by design but by accident all the noble thoughts and actions occurred.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 05:32 IST

An Excellent and well written article on our contemporary political
culture which gave me a taste of journalistic brilliance of the early
80s. However, whatever might be the compulsions and deficiencies of
kejriwal and Anna duo, one can't wish away their cause for elimination
of corruption in the Indian polity. Have we not wasted precious
decades even to recognise in all seriousness the cancer of corruption
eating our body-politic? It is clear that no political party can be
trusted to fight this menace as it strikes at the very root of
existence of our career-minded politicians of all hues whose sole aim
is to loot the country, lock,stock and barrel.

from:  Bala usa
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 02:44 IST

if one happens to notice tone of Harish's articles of last several months, it's too easy to guess that he is working as an agent of congress. Mr. Khare, u seems to have some special problem with Mr. Modi.

from:  Pradeep
Posted on: Dec 12, 2012 at 01:47 IST
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