Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
“Why don’t you all join politics,” Sonia Gandhi asked the genteel and educated audience at the Hindustan Times leadership summit. “Politics is not that bad.” The educated middle class certainly does need to join politics, but not join politics to work antiseptically on laptops, use snobbish words like “synergy” and worry about getting their hands dirty. Politicians instead must revel in the political process. They must adore people, jump into crowds, pump hands, kiss babies, travel by train to remotest corners, walk where there are no roads, speak a language that touches hearts, causes tears to flow and raises a million cheers.
I agree with Ghose’s sentiment, and wish that instead of merely writing columns about what’s wrong with India, I could jump into the fray myself, and “adore people, jump into crowds, pump hands etc.” But that isn’t a realistic prospect for someone like me. Why so? Because my first language is English, and I am not proficient enough in any of the Indian languages to make speeches in them, or convince people of whatever my vision is. If my Hindi was as good as my English, I could think of politics seriously, and trust in the power of ideas and my passion for change. But given that I can only find eloquence in the language of the elite, I wouldn’t stand a chance in Indian politics.
Ah, you say, but look at all the urbane young politicians out there in a similar position: Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, et al. My reply: look at their last names. Their political equity comes from the family they were born into. Indeed, Sonia Gandhi may say that politics “is not that bad,” but had she married a Chopra and not a Gandhi, she wouldn’t even consider it as an option.
Of course, most Indians are bilingual, at least, and much of the “educated middle class” Ghose exhorts to join politics is probably not as handicapped as I am. To them I say: Jump in if you want to make a difference. Our politicians may be venal, but politics itself need not be so, and is the surest route to changing the world.
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