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Just say sorry, as simple as that

Why do politicians find it so difficult to apologise for mistakes made by them? I am still puzzled by the complete silence over the charges made by our young wrestlers against a man who has a lot of explaining to do

Just say sorry, as simple as that


Ira Pande

By the time this column appears, the Karnataka election results will have been declared and the din and hysteria that have enveloped our lives for the last many weeks will have settled down. I usually avoid writing on political issues as there is already a surfeit of commentators, analysts and other such worthies who are far more qualified to do so. So I will talk of certain issues that bother me about our obsession with treating elections like a do-or-die cricket match. Since the IPL matches and the Karnataka elections were running side by side, at some point they merged into a collective national obsession and took on each other’s roles. For some time now, we have made both into spectacles dominated by personalities and taken sides according to the bets that are placed upon one side or the other. The damage this is doing to the sober process of electing our governments is for all to see. Yatras, roadshows, low demagoguery — all these have completely sidelined what ought to be the primary focus of the electorate. Caste and religious affiliations — that our Constitution forbids for stirring public passions — have now become the primary focus of political parties. Few of us had even heard of groupings called Lingayats and Vokkalingas (I still don’t know what they actually denote), yet every discussion on the final outcome of the result spoke of little else.

As for religion and the shameless wooing of communities by name, let’s not even talk of the harm this has done to our polity and social relations. Time was when even reports on communal clashes desisted from naming religious groupings or miscreants by individual names that clearly revealed their religious identities. No more. There is a determined purpose in spelling out such details in black and white, as if we are expected to take sides based only on religious groupings. Neither our Editors Guild nor the official agencies take note or bother to haul up such offenders. Politicians going to temples and mosques, exhorting public recitations are nauseating spectacles even by the low standards of our public behaviour. Eventually, this will lead to a social polarisation that will forever tear apart the fabric so carefully stitched by an earlier generation of political leaders and convert us into a nation of warring tribes. If you don’t believe me, look west to Pakistan and the Middle East where minorities have either been flushed out or reduced to terror-stricken groups that huddle together for safety. Always remember that what takes decades to build can be destroyed in just a few years. I dread to think of what will happen next year when frenzied mobs will be stirred to declare their loyalty to political parties as we head towards our next General Elections.

Why do politicians find it so difficult to apologise for mistakes made by them? I am still puzzled by the complete silence over the charges made by our young wrestlers against a man who has a lot of explaining to do. How can we promote ‘woman power’ and yet ignore the pleas of these young girls when they accuse this monster of sexual harassment? Where are our sports icons and the woke feminists who are so vocal otherwise? There are nominated Rajya Sabha members from the sports world who have been given the highest awards and even a Bharat Ratna. I hear nothing but silence from that lot. When old grannies and khap panchayats enter to fill this vacuum, one can imagine how the indifference from our leaders has hurt even the most conservative misogynists of Haryana, notorious for their past records of female infanticide. Believe me, these are not good signs.

I think the time has come to distinguish politicians from political leaders. Those who join politics to further personal fortunes can never be expected to focus on a larger vision. Their interests will always be influenced by promoting family members or their baradari so that they can secure a prosperous future. On the other hand are those who are leaders in the true sense: Gandhiji and the freedom movement gave us those who dreamt of a free India where all Indians, regardless of their religion, name or lineage, would join in a collective effort to make this a better country. They were not afraid to admit that they occasionally erred and were, therefore, readily forgiven because which human being has not made mistakes? Increasingly, after that generation passed on, power became concentrated in the hands of powerful political figures who became imperious and unyielding. They began to view public apologies as a sign of weakness that would be exploited by their rivals and so we never had a proper acknowledgement of the lapses over the Sikh pogrom or of the Godhra riots despite clear evidence of political conniving.

Today, we have made this into an axiom of political policy: Say nothing to the people or to the media for heaven knows what may happen if I apologise. If I can venture to give any advice to them, I would say that the people of this country are so large-hearted and forgiving that they would forgive and move on. In the absence of any admission of a personal failing, rumours, suspicion and a lingering sense of betrayal will remain.

Just say sorry. It’s as simple as that.

#karnataka



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