Developed By: iNFOTYKE
Do People Get The Leaders They Deserve?
By K L Tariang
In less than three months from now Meghalaya will go to the polls for election of representatives to the State Legislative Assembly. Many who have participated in the process soon after the state was created have done so with the fond hope that positive changes will come. This is what actually motivates the citizens to participate in the elections although there is also a sense of pessimism which pervades because down the years the changes as perceived by them have fallen short of the expectations or have not materialised. This time however many may also feel humiliated if they have to drive or walk on the prevailing dilapidated roads towards their respective polling stations. It is unfortunate that even long established roads have today fallen into disrepair. This leaves them with the uncomfortable thought that these we may be regressing instead of progressing. The situation is quite upsetting for the elderly voters as they may have very few opportunities left to participate again in the polls before their innings are over and with the unending hope of positive results for their efforts.
Roads are usually the prominent index of progress and development. Their reach and satisfactory condition would encourage further expansion of activities which contribute towards further growth and advancement. However, if the road condition is poor and there is lack of urgency to overhaul them then it would certainly be a hurdle towards expansion of such activities which could otherwise be nourishing opportunities. The recent report in a local newspaper that a tourism development initiative at Shella village may be adversely affected by a road hurdle is a case in point. Ironically , this old and much used road leading towards this village comes under the LA constituency of a veteran and prominent political leader of the state. This therefore leaves us with the thought that the roads in other constituencies of the state under less known leaders could perhaps be in a far worse condition. Consequently if many roads are in poor condition then one can conclude that the other less pronounced but essential public facilities and services could be inadequate too and therefore there could be disappointments here as well.
One certainly cannot expect the best of everything and we have learnt to live with such disappointments because, for one, we are a patient lot and secondly we are accommodative enough to adjust with any shortcomings because we believe that these shortfalls occur due to prevailing complexities within the system even though these may be self created. Nevertheless, under whatever circumstances, it would be expected that many such disappointments should have been eased to a reasonable extent by now, more so by this present government which has had a long period of stability under a single continuous leadership. If instead the results are contrary to the expectations then it does rule out government stability as one of the contributory factors towards good governance and efficient delivery as often asserted. Conversely it could be that such stability has not been effectively capitalised upon by those in the present government to especially foster collective thoughts which would otherwise provide constructive and meaningful proposals towards positive outcomes. Hence it could be an opportunity lost which may never be regained.
When such disappointments occur, it is but natural that those at the helm of affairs in government will face public ire since they have the mandate to deliver the public goods and that too suitably. However, there is a growing realisation now that the representatives from the opposition parties down the years and presently also cannot absolve themselves of blame either. While their raising of public issues during the short Assembly sessions is laudable and criticisms made individually as reflected in the media reports are appreciated, we expect them to be more aggressive on the ground by taking along the people with them whenever necessary, to take on the government on its failures. These aggressive steps should not necessarily be only at the fag end of their term before the elections. An aggressive opposition reflects sincerity of purpose and also changes people’s perception of their seeming indifference if any because, they are likely to be in government too where they are also expected to effectively deliver.
Meanwhile, speculations are also rife as to the reason for this poor aggressive stand as opportunism post election is not ruled out since politics does make strange bedfellows. There had been instances when opposite sides fought against each other before the elections only to reconcile soon after and join hands to form the government ostensibly in the interest of the people. But there are ambiguities as to what people would gain from such post –electoral coalitions.
From what is assessed lately , it appears that there is a growing disillusionment with our leaders regardless of which side they belong to. What is seen as their inefficient delivery has certainly led to a sort of pessimism that things will not change for the better but probably for the worse after every election. To be too idealistic and optimistic that change for the better is around the corner is again unrealistic. For many, democracy is still seen as a once in five year electoral jamboree without realising that it should instead give space for vigorous public reasoning and for expanding public understanding of issues involved, where grievances should be widely aired. Moreover, if the demand for societal needs is superseded by the demand for personal needs as expected in a society where people are subjected to depraved economic situations then this will be exploited to the hilt by those who continue to seek power but who in the first instance are responsible for such an unfavourable environment. Above all, it could be our own complacency, indifference , lack of cohesiveness and our failure to hold our representatives accountable during their term which contributes to what we perceive as apathy on their part instead.
Under the prevailing atmosphere one wonders sometimes if Joseph de Maistre, the French scholar, lawyer, and diplomat in the eighteenth century was right when he said, “In a democracy , people get the leaders they deserve,“ or could there be a veiled meaning to the statement which is beyond other interpretations .
In the light of what has been stated above, we have to consider whether the call to educate , organise and agitate in a democracy would assume significance. Education is a prerequisite as only then can people organise themselves in a more guided and meaningful way. But there is still a lot of distance to cover in order to make the reach of refined education universal. It is also still vague and incomprehensible as to whether or when such a goal will be reached as it is not certain if the present approach towards this is on target. As such any organisation which intends to delve wholly into the realm of activities mentioned will have to explore new territory where the road map is not always reliable.
Considering the complexity of the matter , it is uncertain as to what the immediate future holds but as of now, to vote or not to vote in the election is not the question since we still need representatives regardless of who or how they are. In any case ,it would be unfair to tar all of them with an unflattering brush because there are representatives who are public spirited , hard working and highly competent. These will be more responsible and productive if we have democratic engagements with them especially on matters concerning the larger good . We hope for more of such representatives to emerge and that the two way relationship is strengthened through a greater use of informed and systematic reasoning about the most important needs of the people. As the saying goes, ‘amidst dark clouds and drenching showers there will also be unblemished sunny days which we can take advantage of.’