One of the ‘Aam Admis’ Views on Indian Politics

I had started tweeting about this, and thought a slightly more elaborate blog post was in order.

Today, my family had traveled to a nearby city in our car, and as nobody in my family is confident enough to drive, we had hired a driver for the purpose. He is not in our regular employment, and we had availed of his services once in the past. He is 38 year-old, married, Tamilian by mother tongue, but (perhaps, born and) brought up in Mumbai since he was aged 8 years, and had studied till class 8. I am not aware of his caste, but perhaps is Brahmin as he had mentioned “Iyengars” as his relatives. There is not much I know of him that would betray his general disposition, except that he expressed disappointment several times that he did not study beyond class 8 because he found out to his dismay that minimum qualification for many government jobs was having passed class 10. He had his run ins with corruption when trying to get a passport for himself. He had at one point mentioned that with advancing age he no longer enjoyed driving at high speeds as it would risk his life (which he feared on account of having a family to take care of), and that the basic purpose of having a car was to go from point A to B instead of depending on more inconvenient public transport, and to not “speed”. His elder son is in class 12, and younger one perhaps in class 10, and he had already tried to have financial plans in place to enable his sons to study further. I saw him getting quite agitated each time he would see the traffic policemen relegate their duty in more serious matters, and instead trying to chase someone for their quota of “targets” or bribes. At few points my father was driving the car and whenever father would get anxious (or mildly panicky) if a speeding car would overtake from the wrong (left) side, the driver would assure him to just stick to his lane and not worry about what others do – however, I would not extrapolate this to mean he would necessarily have or recommend the same attitude in other areas of life.

I had been witness to a conversation between my father and him involving the current state of politics. The driver was the more vocal one. 😀 My father had hardly expressed any views contradictory to his. I had deliberately stayed out of the conversation as I was finding it fascinating to hear some ‘offline’ person’s views on something I keep on discussing/debating day in and day out over tiwtter. 😀 So, there was little leading on by my dad. I would say that the driver was initially measured in his words, perhaps, not wanting to say something my dad would find unsavory, unaware of his political views and preferences, however, he became a bit more assertive as he saw his and my father’s views converge. The distinct conclusions I could draw from hearing him were:

1. Extreme cynicism towards Indian politicians. He was very clear that politicians work for private gains at the cost of national interest. But on the other hand, it seemed natural to him that the politicians ought to work for larger good of the nation, and not pilfer money from it. His cynicism somehow did not seem to lower his demand of the politicians that they be both honest and efficient. Furthermore, he was not willing to make any allowances to the politicians who he saw by and large as dishonest and malevolent. He wondered several times (in general about rich people [politicians and businessmen] who would amass large amounts of money through dishonorable means), “itne paise ka kya karega yeh log? Marne ke baad kahaan lekar jaayega?” [“what will these (rich people) do with so much money? Where will they take this money to after dying?”].

2. He found Sharad Pawar the most corrupt politician. He pointed out that while the Nehru-Gandhi family had several decades to amass all the wealth they had, Pawar had amassed most of the wealth in just last 5 years or so, which was astonishing to him. However, I would want to point out that the backdrop was the conversation happening in a privately owned educational institute which is rumored to have discreet stakes of Sharad Pawar, so the sprawling campus with impressive infrastructure might have skewed his views [had he seen similar ’empires’ belonging to other politicians, he might have not appeared so confident about Pawar being the greatest beneficiary of corruption in Indian politics].

3. He found the Congress totally pathetic, and the BJP hardly better. He clearly stated that it was the Congress that was responsible for the present poor plight of the nation. However, he also blamed the Indian citizens stating, “sau rupaye ke note ke liye Congress ko vote dega toh kya hoga?”. Somehow without prodding, he also added, “BhaJaPa bhi waisa-ich hai. Woh log bhi kuchh alag nahin kiya. Woh log ne bhi paisa khaaya” [“Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is also like the Congress. They hadn’t done anything different. They had also siphoned off money”].

4. Views on Lalkrishna Advani and Narendra Modi. I was eager to hear his views on Modi, however, I was surprised my father had not brought him up despite being quite partial to him, and the driver clearly lamenting lack of any good leaders. But after talking of the BJP’s dismal past performance, he profusely praised Atal Bihari Vajpayee (ABV) following my father praising ABV (indicating his praise of ABV was perhaps not entirely sincere). At that point the driver mentioned that there was no need for ABV to have taken Lalkrishna Advani (LKA) along with him in 1999. He said that it was obvious that nobody would’ve voted for the BJP with LKA as their prime ministerial candidate in 2009. He seemed to feel that somehow only ABV had been a sincere prime minister up till now. Then suddenly without prodding again, he turned to Narendra Modi (NaMo). Vaguely from my memory, he said, “Usne pehale jo bhi kiya, usko maalum hai ki kya karna hai. Woh kuchh toh kar raha hai.” [“Whatever he did in the past (mostly alluding to the alleged role in Gujarat riots, but with certain measure of agnosticism of veracity of those allegations or even indifference cuz of finding them irrelevant today, and also with a tinge of disapproval), he knows what is to be done. He is (at least) doing something”]. My inference: he looked at NaMo as a distinctly unique phenomenon in the present condition of Indian politics, however, he was not too passionate or expectant of him to deliver (that, despite my dad having praised Modi and sort of endorsed the kind of administrative work he’d done in Gujarat [at one point, both my parents had pointed out that the quality of roads penetrating right into the villages had improved phenomenally under his administration]). Part of his lack of excitement seemed to stem from what he had to say further: “BhaJaPa ka dusra log usko PM ban-ne nahin dega. Woh sab log ko bhi PM ban-ne ka hai, na?” [“Others (top leadership) of the BJP won’t let him become the PM. They all also harbor prime ministerial ambitions, no?]. I don’t remember his exact words, but had declared rather dreamily that if NaMo wants, he can be the PM. Why all of this assumes significance is because he is a Tamilian, hailing from Mumbai, and despite being so unrelated to NaMo, had not mentioned any other politician as part of his political wish list.

5. National media seemed to have little direct impact on his opinions. It somehow became clear to me that his primary sources of information were not the kind of mass media I would be exposed to (media houses owned by large corporations like the NDTV and the Times group). I had seen him read a Tamil newspaper, the title of which I don’t know. But it somehow strongly seemed that his inferences were based largely in what he heard from others (hearsay) – some passed on from elders in his family or neighborhood, and others drawn from the everyday chatter. However, national media might get to set the agenda for this everyday chatter.

A few disclaimers from my side:

1. It is certainly not obligatory upon any of the readers to a priori take my account as faithful or honest. However, as it is me who is reporting this, it would make no sense to bargain with me to modify some of the words I have attributed to the said driver, and any discussion on this post follows with the acceptance of a precondition that I’ve quoted the driver accurately, and also that my interpretations of his words and non-verbal means of communication were accurate. I’m sadly having to say this because I have read so many accounts in the mainstream media and sometimes even on blogs, which to me seemed at least partly cooked up. But now I am in the same shoes, as I recount something that could be politically (and also emotionally to some) sensitive, and hence, find the mistrust harbored towards others (which I continue to do) mildly embarrassing.

2. My interpretation of what the driver had meant, apart from the spoken word, was also based on his tone, mannerisms, the immediate context of conversation, etc., and hence it could be inaccurate. I had not participated till quite late in the conversation with the intent of avoiding influencing it one way or the other.

3.I do not think the driver’s views were necessarily representative of any religious/linguistic community or socioeconomic class, but I found his views instructive and valuable, because they came from a person seemingly very different from me in many ways (I am not so passionate as him about politics and governance, for one).

4. The driver did seem to be a bit reserved in his opinions, perhaps with the awareness that strong views on politicians could hurt other people’s sentiments, but I must also point out that my father had anyway hardly taken lead in any of the various tangents in the conversation. So, though his words might have not been an exact reflection of his views, they seemed more or less honest.

3 thoughts on “One of the ‘Aam Admis’ Views on Indian Politics

  1. Your assesment is accurate

    I am also getting the same feedback from Taxi drivers here

    Saahab ,
    Aajkal licence nahi renew hota, 10000 driver berojgaar hai.
    Gareeb ka koi nahi. Jo shehar mein parivartan ho raha hai, uska fayda to aap logan ko hai, hum gareeb ko koi labh nahin

    Translation For english readers.

    ” Sir, these days licence is not being renewed, 10000 drivers are unemployed, because we dont have local residence id proof, as we do not have permanent place of stay. There is no one for poor. Whatever development is happening, will be enjoyed by you guys, there is no one to look after us poor ”

    One of my ex bosses used to say,
    ” Kam padha likha sahi hai, fauj ka jawwan agar zyada padha likha ho to , sochega kya maarna sahi hai? goli chalau kya? Kam padhe likhe ko bola fire, to ghoda dabayega ”


    Lesser the education of a worker, the better, if an army soldier were over educated, he would ask, must I kill ? should i fire the bullet ? Lesser educated solider , whent ordered to fire, will pull the trigger without losing a second

    The more we are educated , the more we question logic.

    But But my frined, I am sure, the social melieu I have seen, from Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, UP, Bihar and Now West Begal, one thing I have learnt.

    1 Rich is getting ricer rapidly
    2 Upper Caste is getting wealthier / stronger at a CAGR higer than lowere caste
    3 The convictions/punitive action among upper caste in scams is lowere than lower caste
    4 Social and Cultural malpractices, like untouchability, ostracism, keeping people down, preventing from getting rightful benefits, lack of education, social evils like dowry, sexual segragation, discrimination on caste. color, race, creed, sex, physical ability and geography is high in India. In my opinion, the only reason for benefits must be Economic. Rest must be ignored. This will give equal oppurtunity to all in Life.

    I have a difference of opinion wioth the driver

    a) Education qualification of a government job in Class IV jobs is class 8. anyone with higher education, is ineligible.
    b) There is NO CORRUPTION, in jobs IF , the candidate is well educated and qualified. Trust me on that. I have recieved, and also given jobs to deserving candidates, purely on merits and attitude, ignoring caste, creed or colour.
    c) It is lack of information, which in India is kept secret, the pure reason for corruption in India is , keeping information supressed

    Solutions will come, when UIDAI will bring cards and processes go online

    In 1992-1994 a financial newspaper ” Fiancial Wizard” used to be published on Friday in Mumbai. The printed tips on 1st page. The tips were of penny stocks. Totally dud shares, the stock of which the Dalal Street brokers had in substantial quantity. The paper used to arrive in Jaipur on Monday

    Brokers would buy in Mumbai on Friday, and sell in Jaipur on Monday, leaving Jaipur investors hold dud shares.

    Also arbitrage between delhi and mumbai used to happen. Mumbai Dalal Street broekrs had terminals where they had all the BSE info, whereas , Delhi, Jaipur, Surat did not. So Mumbai Deales encashed fully and made money, whereas every year, brokers in Jaipur/Surat committed suicide. The Broker Ticket had a premium of 15 lakhs.

    Once the terminals came and cnbc tv18 came, and web came this practice died, and the offices brokers in Jaipur, Surat are empty, where as the ones with terminals are full.

    Same for Bajaj scooter
    BSNL Telephone
    Rail Tickets

    Wherever Computerisation is done, even in land records, education etc, corruption has vanished.

    You will see, the drivers son would be net savvy and get a job

    Crux always is Education and Automated processes

    RTE & uid WILL solve much of issues. But , have you ever questioned CSR of Industry

    Is there 1 Bill Gates, Smithsonian, Ford Foundation, Inlaks, Fullbright

    The point is Ther is no Indian Alfred Nobel. Is any Prize Money sponsored by ANY CORPORATE IN INDIA ?
    Like Magsaysay / Nobel / Booker

    Just 1 Jnanpith award by The Birlas
    None other
    All the other awards are Government sponsored

    I have so many times tweeted to @anandmahindra to start some innovation award like google/intel/microsoft science projects. Alas, no result

    Stop expecting Government to do everything
    God helps those who help themselves

    Jai Hind

    Well written blog, factual and totally accurate

    But solutions now lie with private sector, they have to pay for benefits, also give back to society, Data can be fallacious, 1200 hectares of land will provide employment to 6000 people paying high wage, but actually, 1 hectare of land, employes 10 people directly and 20 indirectly so 30*1200 36000 PEOPLE . Meaning 30000 jobs poof
    Same 2 Same on Wal-Mart

    All my logic is based on my dad’s 81 statement ” Never buy spuirious, you are creating criminals ”

    So friend, let there be openness. He is doing something yes, how he is doing, ONLY HE KNOWS, AND NO ONE CAN QUESTION HIM
    No one can dispute this fact
    Good night
    Jai Hind

    • Thank you, sir, for reading and commenting.

      I would say not all the issues you’ve addressed are directly related to this post, but I certainly don’t mind people speaking on entirely unrelated issues as well in their comments on my blog post, for I don’t believe in classifying knowledge (even if the information does not help me, it lets me ‘know’ what the other person thinks) needlessly into ‘relevant’ and ‘irrelevant’. I always value new insight.

      1. I agree with your ex-boss. It’s perhaps more by design than coincidence that both the British and many of the subsequent governments did not really give importance to education. It was not so much of a conspiracy to keep the masses ignorant, but perhaps a sense of entitlement that made the politicians insecure of being questioned once the masses were to get educated (and perhaps more aware) and questioning.

      2. My view on the most important cause of poor plight of Indian society and economy is different. I think it is high population density. I’m exploring this theme in one of my blog posts in draft. But to put it briefly, high population density leaves fewer resources per person to use –> lesser production –> further less resources. Plus, automation because of industrialization is leaving lesser need for manual labor, so even more unemployment or disguised unemployment. So, even if there would be production of goods and services, people would not have income (because they would not be required to work) to be able to buy them. On social front, this creates immense struggle and a perfect environment of mutual mistrust both between the individuals and the communities. Most of the socioeconomic problems, in my opinion, are results of the above process. The most important solution is to reduce the population density (fertility rate) drastically.

      3. The driver had mentioned at least for one central government job that he was found ineligible because of not having passed class 10. I’m unsure if the job of a driver is counted among Class IV in that organization. I somehow always felt drivers were counted as class III (sometimes they’re required to ferry consignments, and to sign and counter-sign, etc.). Also, he was ineligible for another job in the US cuz he’d not cleared class 10.

      4. He does not have a permanent residence in Mumbai, so the police constable was willing to clear his police verification, but had warned him that till he would not produce an electricity bill, he would remain ineligible for getting a passport. So, the constable had not taken any bribe (though, he’d openly admitted that he could clear his case if there were any complaints against him by taking a bribe), and left with just that friendly advice. 🙂

      5. I agree, maintaining records electronically makes for a more transparent system. 🙂 Others have issues related to phishing and hacking.

      6. I completely disagree on corporates having any social responsibility. But my caveat for that is to cut out any government favors to them altogether. Let them have complete right over their profits, but let there be good amount of competition as well to reduce cartelization to the greatest degree possible. Any forced upon ‘responsibility’ almost never works. One needs to have conviction behind what one does to have any real impact.

      Thanks, again! 🙂

  2. Only one differrence of POV with your comments CSR of Corporates, I have given examples, if you check Mumbai Municipal Hospitals, Wadia, Tata, Kutchi association do a yeomans service in help to poor patients.

    Worldwide, in Christian and Muslim world Philanthrophy is part of a Businessmans job. In India though, the same is only miniscule, though it was there in the past, if you see Birla/Poddar schools, or schools set up by Communities. Like Agarwal, Jain , Maheshwari, Gujrati Samaj. This has diminished ever since 1990’s

    I say the problems in India cannot be solved, without active participation of corporates.

    The PPP part in Right to Education is right Step in this direction. Ever since 2000 the role of private ssector in Housing/Health and Education had turned highly Commercial, resulting which, you see the high rate of frustration and violent nature in todays youth. Good housing, education and health have gone outside the reach of the common man, (middle class not poor{ in case of poor it is worse} )

    Even today, I find a great deal of fear in general public, in approaching right places for jobs. I have enabled scores of people by providing information, to get right education and jobs.

    Many a times people ask me ” Education Loan/ Job / Admission dila dijiye VenuG ” My standard reply is, I teach you how to fish, you have to catch the fish ! Those who agree to my thought, end up gaining, rest stay where they are. If we educated, at eleast start by enabling those in our vicinity, like our peon.maid, driver, watchman , in 20 years the problems will be solved.

    Because resources are’nt sscarce, delivrey mechanism is not proactive .

    My view
    A Agar bachcha royega tabhi doodh milega
    B The chances of success if you try is 50% and when you don’t ZERO , SO TRY, LAG JAYE TO TEER NAHIN TO TUKKA 🙂

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