Indian voters are caught between the devil and the deep sea. In the coming election there will another trouble to these usual troubles – anarchic honesty. The third option claims that it is clean, honesty and corruption free. But they are not fit to govern the vast majority of the Indians. For each and every problem they keep agitating. In fact they are better to be the street protesters than in the government. Chetan Bhagat beautifully and creatively constructs this reality in The Times of India, 22 February 2014.
Let’s say you have a fleet of cars. You hire a driver. He drives reasonably well but starts stealing money. When you give him money to refuel, he puts in less petrol and pockets the rest. When you send the car for servicing, he asks the service centre to inflate the bills and takes a cut.
The system of the house is the driver has the home safe keys. Hence, he can take out whatever money he wants and claim he needs it for the cars. Soon, the stealing becomes excessive. Not a day goes by without you hearing what the driver stole today.
Sick of all this, you change the driver. Over time, the second driver starts stealing too. It is so easy to pilfer after all. Also, the reason the new driver was hired was not because of his honesty but because of his colour, caste or religion. Hence the robberies continue.
The suffering owners switch between the two drivers, but the stealing doesn’t stop. Soon, a third driver emerges and applies for a job. He is extremely honest and passionate, even though he has no experience. Delighted, you hire him to drive one of your small cars.
This new driver doesn’t steal money. However, he breaks the tail-lights while reversing the car on the first day. The next day, he crashes the car at a signal. The third day, he forgets to refuel and you are stranded on the road. The fourth day, he stands in the middle of the road and screams at every other car owner, calling them thieves for not hiring him.
The fifth day, he wants all drivers to come on the road and not follow the red lights. When you confront the new driver about his unruly behaviour and incompetence at the wheel, he screams at you instead. How dare you question an honest driver? It only means you are supporting robbers.
Scared, you become quiet. Next, he wants to change everything, and control every car. You are not sure, and you wonder what to do. Disgusted, he quits.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the first two drivers are Congress and BJP, and the third one is AAP. It is the dilemma we Indians are stuck with.
The earlier drivers cheated us. The new driver is not competent but already arrogant. He assumes a sense of virtuous entitlement, with the right to slander, attack and judge anyone who criticises him.
AAP is honest. Their intentions could be good. However, being as kind as possible to my AAP friends, there are four major flaws in their workings.
One, their policies are downright loony. No matter what they say about embracing capitalism, the mentality seems to be anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-wealth creation and geared towards total government control. These are the exact policies which lead to nepotism and corruption over the long run.
Second, they have a misplaced sense of priorities. There were a hundred good things their Delhi government could have done, without any opposition. They didn’t. They focussed on the most newsworthy events, to gain the maximum applause in the shortest span of time and quit.
They also believe the issues they raise should be top priority for all media, intellectuals, political leaders of the country, else the latter are biased. They took on a sub judice matter about the Ambanis, and wanted the whole world to talk about it. If you didn’t comply, you were obviously on Ambani’s payroll.
Third, AAP is unable to get along with anybody who’s not AAP. They hate all political opponents, police and media if these entities don’t dance to their tune. This makes AAP quite incompetent in building consensus for decisions in a country as diverse as India.
Four, the hypocrisy of AAP is visible already. From going soft on allegations against their own, the very act of using the system to gain political power but not following it when it doesn’t suit them, one sees them as being opportunistic more than do-gooders.
All this can change. The third driver can learn how to drive. Similarly, the first two drivers can learn to stop stealing. Whether the honest have to be made competent, or the competent have to turn honest — all this will require a certain humility, sadly missing on all sides. In such a scenario, what should the Indian voter do?
Of course, there is no one answer. None of the alternatives is perfect yet. Please don’t let them feel that they are. If you choose AAP, you may have a little less corruption (it cannot all go away so fast) but you risk having bizarre policies, failed experiments and more antics than action. You risk a further slowdown in economic growth and a decade of fewer jobs as AAP treats the country like a laboratory.
If you choose the existing alternatives you may have more stability, likely return to growth, more jobs. But corruption may not be as much a priority as you would have liked. Choose wisely. Select those who are humble and willing to change, as everyone needs to. It will take a few iterations before we get leadership that is both honest and competent. Let us hope it happens sooner rather than later.