None Pris­on­ers of Con­science

It’s the turn of Gu­jarat’s politi­cians now to give a new di­men­sion to that main­stay of the novice game-the­o­rist — the Pris­oner’s Dilemma

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - TK ARUN

‘Po­lit­i­cal Re­sort In­mate Some­where, Not Eas­ily Reach­able’, which col­lapses into a handy acro­nym, ‘Pris­oner’, is a sub-species of politi­cian unique to the In­dian sub-con­ti­nent. They are known to sur­face in most states at some point of po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence or the other. If it was Tamil Nadu, whose politi­cians and re­sorts made the news a few months ago, it is the turn of Gu­jarat’s politi­cians now to give a new di­men­sion to that main­stay of the novice game-the­o­rist, the Pris­oner’s Dilemma.

Mem­bers of the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly of that state who be­long to the In­dian Na­tional Congress find them­selves Pris­on­ers in Kar­nataka.Someof the­mar­ere­port­ed­tobe ac­tively danc­ing on the horn of a dilemma: should they tear them­selves away from the earthly plea­sures they are plied with at a re­sort in Kar­nataka, so that they could join in the on­go­ing ef­forts to bring suc­cour to their con­stituents, who lit­er­ally find them­selves up to their ears in wa­ter back home in rain-stricken Gu­jarat, and then pro­ceed, while things are all still wa­tery and fluid, to take, at the flood, the tide held out by the BJP that pre­sum­ably leads on to much for­tune, or should they go against the mer­can­tile tra­di­tions of their state and stay true to the party that got them elected?

This is where their di­as­pora cousins in the Unit­edS­tatescould­of­fer­help­with­anin­spir­ing tip from Se­na­tor John McCain. This wor­thy, a Repub­li­can of im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials, left his hospi­tal bed where his brain can­cer had been de­tected, to reach the Capi­tol and vote against a bill that sought to ma­te­ri­alise a seven-year cam­paign of the Repub­li­cans to scrap the Af­ford­able Care Act,orOba­macare.McCain­votedac­cord­ing to his con­science, that prickly part of the anatomy that no med­i­cal stu­dent has been able to lo­cate in any ca­daver he or she has hadthe­p­lea­sure­todis­sect­but­was­knownto Indira Gandhi, who urged her par­ty­men to vote, in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 1969, ac­cord­ing to their con­science, rather than ac­cord­ing to the party whip. Con­science, in that fate­ful elec­tion, herded votes to Indira Gandhi’s choice, VV Giri, who de­feated the of­fi­cial nom­i­nee, Nee­lam San­jeeva Reddy, and split the Congress.

TheIn­di­an­politi­cian­recog­nised­con­science as a bearer of dis­rup­tion and chaos, and ef­fec­tively­ban­ished­thetrou­ble­mak­er­fromthe po­lit­i­cal arena by en­act­ing the anti-de­fec­tion law. If an elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive votes against the of­fi­cial whip, he would be dis­qual­i­fied from the House, re­gard­less of whether the mo­ti­va­tion for de­fy­ing the whip was con­science or that still no­bler rea­son for go­ing against the pop­u­lar man­date that got him elected, cited most re­cently by Nitish Ku­mar, the de­sire to fur­ther the in­ter­est of the state.

But when the next gen­eral elec­tion is just round the corner, the fear of be­ing dis­qual­i­fied grips no more, and con­science be­gins to grow mus­cle like that man on that jar of whey pro­tein. It is when leg­is­la­tors show signs of turn­ing con­sci­en­tious that their min­ders think of mak­ing Pris­on­ers out of them and re­sorts that see no cus­tom dur­ing the rains sud­denly see a spurt in de­mand.

When con­science, fur­ther­ing the in­ter­est of the state and op­por­tunism all blend into a con­tin­uum in which the av­er­age politi­cian can no longer make out where one ends and the other be­gins, the only re­li­able ar­biter is We, the Peo­ple, as in the Preamble to the Con­sti­tu­tion, not the TV show.

It is far bet­ter to scrap the anti-de­fec­tion law and leave it to the peo­ple to de­cide how they should deal with politi­cians who go against the man­date that got them elected. They could tar them and feather them, in a hoary tra­di­tion that mi­grated to the colonies from Europe, heckle them wher­ever they put in a pub­lic ap­pear­ance or sim­ply de­feat them roundly at the next elec­tions.

If the peo­ple are in­dif­fer­ent to how their rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­duct them­selves, we will have politi­cians with a rov­ing con­science, Pris­on­ers and out-of-sea­son busi­ness for re­sorts. If peo­ple care, their pres­sure will make rep­re­sen­ta­tives stick to po­lit­i­cal moral­ity. Ul­ti­mately, peo­ple get the lead­ers they de­serve.

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