This was a speech made by Devanoora Mahadeva, on 25th March 2017, on the occassion of the merger of Sarvodaya Karnataka Party and Swaraj India in Bengaluru.

Today, Sarvodaya Karnataka Party merges with Swaraj India. I do not see anything new in this neither am I surprised by this. Because we, who founded Sarvodaya Karnataka, and Yogendra Yadav and his companions, who founded Swaraj India, have walked together harbouring dreams of building a healthy India, even before the birth of Sarvodaya Karnataka and Swaraj India. Hence this seems to me to be a natural process.

Now we have set forth, through Swaraj India, to do politics. What stands before us is India’s tragic politics. It is only if we understand this correctly that we can figure out the kind of politics that we need to do. How do we comprehend this?

Swaraj India’s vision articulates and shows us the tragedy of today’s politics:

  1. In a democracy, ultimate power must reside with the people. The working of democracy, especially in our country, has served to take this power away from the people.
  2. Democracy has been reduced to a tiresome routine that involves electing the rulers once in five years, while being subject to their indifference and various indignities during this period. Political parties and people’s elected representatives are no longer channels for expressing people’s voices.
  3. They have become election machines with their own vested interests. These machines are designed to gather votes and use them as fodder to convert money into power, and power back into money.
  4. It is not just that the system has rampant corruption, but the system itself embodies institutionalised corruption. Hence within the present system of governance, even if it is run by honest and efficient functionaries, it cannot fulfill Swaraj India’s dream.

If we were to visualize the system of our disastrous politics it would be like the tiger who got sores. The tiger with a sore is a proverb. When the tiger gets a sore, in order to soothe the pain of the wound, tears off skin from another part of the body and sticks it on to the wound. In this way – a wound as the medicine for another wound – India’s politics suffers from the proliferation of sores. It does seem immensely difficult to heal this. It is probably for this reason that everyone, without really looking at it, just carries on having adjusted to corruption being the norm.

Recently, I invited my friend who thinks like us, who is dynamic, and a legislator, to join Swaraj India. He has a lot of love, respect and faith in us. Even as he continues to keep his trust in us he said, “It’s difficult to swim against the tide”. I did not speak any further. But I felt that he wasn’t swimming. I thought he was just moving his arms and legs and going where the current took him while stating that he was swimming. In such a swimming you are bound to get lost, caught up in a whirlpool.

Is our foundational politics, within a background of people’s movements, a swimming against the tide as many people have assumed? – Definitely not. Firstly, this misconception needs to be broken down. This is not a politics that would float with the current, eyes closed, into a whirlpool. We have to be convinced of this first. But this asks for immense effort.

As an example of electoral effort I give to you BJP’s recent win in the Uttar Pradesh elections. After losing face in Bihar’s elections, it becomes a question of life and death both within and outside the party, for the Prime Minister as well as the party president Amit Shah and from the moment of this loss they start to put themselves to work for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. As if it were a question of survivability itself. You have to remember, even though the elections are a year away, even at the level of a small booth with appeasements, donations, differences, damage – if they hadn’t put effort into such manipulations would they have won so much? Or from the moment that the BJP got down to work, if the SP, BSP, Congress had also put in the same kind of effort would they have lost like this? BJP has reaped the fruits of its’ labour. Whether this is good or bad is another conversation. All in all they did put in effort. We are not seeing their effort. Instead what we see is the kite, with the face of Modi, flying in the sky being bandied about as the reason for the win. Sold out media’s illusions blind us. We seem to be completely taken in by this.

We should not look towards this kind of politics. It’s a win that comes out of doing what should not be done. This triumph is not what we understand as a win. In the same way ours is not the substitutable politics of the ruling party and opposition party who are the same drama company. We don’t have to create deceits for their deceits. We have to create strategies. As they awaken society’s dormant hatred we seem to get lost only in thinking about how we are reacting. Instead we need to encourage the love and solidarity in society and work towards being a community. Today’s politics has fallen so much that I have heard it said in current times that ‘During elections a BJP win is guaranteed if a Hindu is killed.’ Using caste, religion, faith etc emotionally for a win will bring us to a fall. In this game of winning, this thought could take you to the point of communities killing their own for a win. If you see the electoral workings of the major political parties today it seems even more excessive than the underworld. As such without putting in much effort we have been desiring a win. Which is why we have been losing.

So in order to win how should we walk this path? How do we win in an underworld politics that sees systemic corruption as natural? An example – If I stood for elections I would lose my deposit since people will assume that I will not win. However if I am able to convince my voters that I am competing and am in the third place then the voters will not logically put me in the second place but will instead bring me a magical win. If we prove our potential this much then the wind will blow much more strongly in our direction than anyone else’s. Hence we who desire to do a politics without the lure of money, muscle power or alcohol have to find ways of convincing the voters that we indeed are competing and are in the third place in the electoral arena.

We do have a way. And that is to establish our presence widely in elections for local bodies such as the gram panchayat, municipality, corporations etc. For example in Raichur district Navajivan Women’s Coalition and Rural Workers’ organisations together contested for 474 seats in the gram panchayats and won 268 seats with a majority in five panchayats. Other members are slowly joining hands with them after seeing their developmental work. This needs to be the way we lay the foundations for the realisation of our politics. This holds true as well for all people’s movements. When it’s not just people but their votes too that are with us, then only will the people’s movements find a force for their voice.

All in all we have to make grounded politics our foundation when we come face to face with this underworld politics. Instead of solving the main cause of the disturbances and impatience, boiling in society, which is unemployment, discrimination and inequality the reign of underground politics uses these to rise to the seats of power.We have to bring this decadent underworld politics above ground.

For this reason just substituting one party for another, or executing a change of administrative power is not enough; we need an entirely new path for politics. Therefore Swaraj India is taking a step towards an innovative politics. The youth of tomorrow’s politics, women from all communities and fields of society have to take on the mantle of leadership on this path. Any kind of centralisation provides the space for dictatorship making power ruthless. Against this we need to let loose the flight of decentralization.

As such, this is difficult. True. But not impossible. People’s movements need to come together and walk along with us in this direction. This cannot just be thought of as the work to be done solely by activists or by another party but instead if everyone joins together, understanding that this too is their work, then from this moment on a dream starts to become a reality.

Translated into English by Rashmi Munikempanna

Devanoora Mahadeva, acclaimed Kannada writer, Dalit activist, is the author of Kusumabale, which won the 1990 Sahitya Akademi award. He was also conferred the Padma Shri in 2011, both of which he returned, in 2015, to mark his stand against growing intolerance in the country.

First published on 1st April 2017 in countercurrents.org: http://www.countercurrents.org/2017/04/01/a-new-path-for-politics/