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The Indian Express reports that Mulayam Singh Yadav, addressing an election rally has claimed that he would not beg for power but actually snatch it. With this statement having been made and recorded, all pretence that politics is matter ofâ€ servingâ€ people has come to an end. Ironical though that so feudal a statement has come from some one who professes the politics of samajwad and looks up on Jaya Prakash Narain as a mentor and who in turn looked to Gandhiji as his mentor. The very thought of Gandhiji snatching political power makes the stomach churn, albeit he had a lot of charisma and moral authority which he fully exploited for his ends.
Till recently, there was this game of pretence at least that people played â€“ politics was all about service to the poor and the marginalized and positions of power and majorities in the parliament and state assemblies were needed only because a certain pro poor ideology needed to be pushed, that people wanted to be ministers, not because they provided perks and power but because they were the vehicles of serving the people.
Look at the context. The rally is a Dalit rally and the Dalit Passi community is being provoked or taunted, if you will to come and snatch the power that has eluded them thus far and make a grab for it. What is being preached here is social exclusion, not social inclusion, the politics of revenge and not reconciliation. In such a game, in such a power quest, service for the whole community, the whole citizenry, the whole of society is not even an ideal to be envisioned, let alone pursued through practical initiatives with some hope of realization.
Oppression of the Dalits is a social reality, no doubt but is snatching power the way or the solution. I can think of two examples that come to mind. One if of George Orwellâ€™s famous book â€“Animal Farm. The animals are oppressed by the farmers, decide that they will one day overthrow the human masters who enslave them and so they do; but soon enough they develop their own pecking order and hierarchy and a new form of oppression begins.
The other example is of the dictatorship of the proletariat that began with the writings of Marx and Engels and was brought to some practice through the Russian revolution and the several satellite revolutions that followed, including of course the peasant revolution of the Maoists. In all these, the old oppressor class was over thrown but not to produce an egalitarian society but another oppressive one. In fact , hitherto , power might have been held by one class of people , after the supposed revolutions, power devolved in the name of democratic centralism to one single person â€“ be it Mao , Lenin or Stalin or Ceausescu or several lesser lights.
Having looked at all this, I would rather opt for the South African way. Nelson Mandela stepped out after a life time in prison, took power and developed and fathered an inclusive society in which there was a place for all. He did not preach the rhetoric of revenge and violence, rather that of truth and reconciliation. Nelson Mandela certainly sought power but he did not snatch power. Snatching power is always dispossessing and self serving; seeking power still has at least the glimmer of serving a larger constituency than your own. That to me is all the difference. The difference that I discern as a Christian