Chandrabhan Prasad examines the "Indian unintelligentsia"

Shri Prasad makes some very pertinent observations on the role of Indian intelligentsia and media during the campaign and post voting phases. It is depressing to read but these are facts. I must confess to not having similar thoughts while watching the many television programs related to the election campaign. So caught up was I with who was making the better rhetorical point.

However I will say this much – Shri Advani’s offer to debate Shri Singh was very proper and desirable. I wish it is taken up and practiced seriously henceforth. One need not have to wait for major elections to have such a debate although a debate during the campaign would go toward addressing concerns such as those raised by Shri Prasad. Dismissing a debate between recognized Prime Ministerial candidates as “presidential” in tradition and therefore not suited to an Indian parliamentary campaign, like Shri Kapil Sibal did, is a no-brainer.

– Namaste

By Chandrabhan Prasad:

The electoral process had begun. A Mumbai based English daily asked me to write an opinion page article about shape of things during the 15th Lok Sabha campaigns. Published on March 27, this is how I began my article:

“Elections to the 15th Lok Sabha will be different this time. It will be hyenas and wild dogs fighting over the same game. Morality will turn into a negative point of reference, and ‘ethics’ talkers will be laughed off. General Election this time will be the Panchayat elections fought nationally. The daylight bribing of voters will come into fashion. Parties will compete in ‘righting’ blindness for the nation called India.”

Exit poll results have already shown a hung Parliament. We have been witness to the debating standard set up by political players. The first paragraph of my March 27 article stands blameless. During April 16-May 16, political players were not any dissimilar to a wildlife conduct. Whenever a society fails morally, all sections of the society fail in the same proportion including the intelligentsia, and most certainly, the media.

Our collective moral failure is so profound that the high-born intelligentsia began even celebrating that failure. “Regional parties have become a reality,” they argued in the spirit of affirmation. Few of them even began romanticising our moral failures as the ‘deepening of democracy’.

We were witness to the US election. We saw how Clinton and Obama debated about the future of the US. We saw how intense and elaborate the debate was between Barack Obama and John McCain. They discussed America’s past, and explained the present. Both offered prescriptions for America’s future. While economy stole the limelight, primary education, health, housing and insurance were no less important issues that they debated.

The American intelligentsia kept a close watch on the campaign. Each and every policy statement Obama or McCain made was subjected to rigorous scrutiny. The alert US intelligentsia had laid down intellectual content of the campaign.

What was the level of the debate we witnessed during April 16-May 16? What were the policy statements made by the competing parties? Does any one remember even one line from the manifestos of the parties? What a pity! The 15th Lok Sabhacampaign couldn’t identify one core issue the country is faced with today, leave alone the prescriptions.

We can still forgive the regional warlords. As legitimate children of provincialism, regional parties can’t be blamed for being virtue deficient. To them, the State is a large honey nest that has to be plundered. The two main national parties, too, can’t be blamed for behaving like regional parties. After all, these two parties, too, are made up of honey hunters. In the times of collective moral failure, it the intelligentsia that does the rescuing work.

What happened during April 16-May 16 campaign was just the opposite. The intelligentsia instead of questioning and interrogating the political players, turned into cheerleaders of the very political players leading to the nation’s moral collapse.

What we needed was subjecting political players to rigorous interrogationin the print and electronic mediums — “Explain this part of your manifesto,” “Tell the nation five most important issues India is faced with, and what are your prescriptions,” “Why do you want to rule this country when you don’t have any blueprint for the future of this country,” “Explain your motive of entering politics,” “Why did you create this political outfit when it cannot justify its existence?”

Instead of laying the intellectual content for the campaign, the intelligentsia chose to partner the moral collapse. Instead of intellectually leading politics of the 15th Lok Sabha, the intelligentsia allowed itself to be led by the forces predestining India’s moral failure. The most vulgar aspect of the moral failure was witnessed on news channels, of which, I was also a part.

The political leaders joined the TV studios claiming victory and winning more coalition partners when the electoral process was still on. Instead of cornering them for their unethical political conducts, anchors and experts joined them in offering alternative possibilities. This symbolised how profound the moral failure is. Whenever a nation is failed by its polity, possibilities of restoration still exists. But, whenever a nation is failed by its intellectuals, it takes generations to restore sanity in the society.


Indian unintelligentsia


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