Apart from the downgrading clichés piled upon the field, Indians in general view politics as a dirty game, a corrupt and unscrupulous field, ill-suited for good and decent folk.
Probably due to this perception, except for members of the BJP, nobody, especially none of the outspoken journalists and commentators, seems to be delighted at the prospects of E Sreedharan entering this field in Kerala.
On the other hand, except for vested interests comprising select bureaucrats, politicians and their favourite contractors and business associates that are reaping the benefits of systemic rot in high places, there is a general agreement among all concerned citizens that the political situation and governance of the state is in severe disrepair and needs urgent service.
In reality, it needs a thorough restructuring and overhaul, without which the state will virtually fall deeper and deeper into the debt trap it finds itself in.
And at some point, the trap would turn out to be inescapable. So, if the veteran trouble-shooter Sreedharan wants to try his hand at it, why not?
Decades of gross negligence, incompetence, minority appeasement, the persistent and contagious lethargy, intimidation and violence peculiar to communists, and nepotism have reduced the region into a cauldron of corruption so much so that, to escape from this black hole of colossal debt is the biggest challenge for Kerala’s future citizens.
Seen in this context, Sreedharan’s entry into politics assumes multifaceted dimensions. Analysing the issues plaguing Kerala polity and society will hopefully enable us to see Sreedharan’s foray into politics at 88 in the correct perspective and with a lot of hope.
Current political quagmire in Kerala
After the nation scrapped the self-defeating socialist mode and opened up its economy in the 1990s, India made tremendous progress and development in financial terms.
Kerala too appears to have made great strides since then, but only superficially.
If there is no abject poverty in sight today, it is only because of the largesse afforded by mindless borrowing of the state which, I am sorry to say, is more customary and appropriate for gamblers and alcoholics than competent statesmen who govern states.
Kerala’s educated citizens have the same problems as before — under employment or no employment. The more educated and skilled they are, the farther they need to go from the state to pursue a suitable job and a fruitful life.
The singular reason is that the state is still an unfertile ground for the production industry and big business, thanks to the bandits who run the trade unions.
So, the educated and the skilled go abroad and to other states of the country.
The fact that the government’s main revenue comes from the monopoly of alcohol and day-to-day lottery generates a foreboding of a region deep in trouble.
If the state runs typical businesses of the mafia and the underworld and operates like one, does it become legitimate?
How long should or can an elected government run the alcohol trade and spin lottery wheels in order to just stay afloat?
The people in charge are so incompetent and corrupt that this state of affairs is deemed normal and affirmed by an equally incompetent, weak and corrupt media, which, as it were, seem to bend over backwards, seemingly content to play the role of sidekicks of underworld gangs.
If the state’s economy is not sustained on a major scale by remittances of those working outside the state any longer, economic chaos and mass exodus of citizens would just be around the corner.
The present state finance minister sounds so unscrupulous, for whom flouting national laws and regulations is the norm and abuse of people when questioned is considered heroic.
Employees at the chief minister’s office are under investigation by national law enforcement agencies, but when asked by the press, the boss responds with emotional breast-beating and histrionic outbursts.
An arrested member of an international smuggling ring now in custody names the present Chief Minister of Kerala, speaker of the state Assembly and three other ministers as accomplices, or the main plotters, in a crime involving at least one diplomat of a foreign country.
But the mainstream media, a with few lukewarm exceptions, fail to report it to the public.
Quality of the average politician in Kerala
The biodata of 90 per cent of the politicians in Kerala, regardless of their academic certificates, would feature, first of all, a consistently aggressive track record in street violence and backstabbing, second an extraordinary aptitude in opportunism and third, the ability to con the public at large without shame or remorse.
Most politicians have never held any substantial or responsible position in any professional field, nor do they have, with rare exceptions, any record of perseverance or individual brilliance in any field of activity.
But that is no handicap for politicians in Kerala because they share the exceptional common ground of enormous ill-gotten wealth and consanguinity with politicians of the passing generation.
Of course, we have to acknowledge the unusual ability of melodramatic oratory at least some of them have or had while serving as political leaders in their respective regions and the fake camaraderie and cheap wit they are capable of in essential interactions with the general public at large maidans.
Well, that would in brief underscore their unique selling point among the masses.
The frequent refrain that cheekily questions Sreedharan’s credentials in governance: “Oh, he is a good man, but only an engineer,” ignores the reality that the majority of full-time politicians walking the street are the most unruly thugs or those who manage these thugs with a put-on smile among the public — while, excellent managerial skills and knowledge of engineering are top requisites for being an able statesman.
Virtually, all those who are unhappy with Sreedharan entering politics have never held a decent job at any length of time in their lives nor have they done any kind of exemplary service to society at large.
It is no coincidence or chance then that most of the top leaders in all major political camps made their entry into politics by making news as an accused or victim in a violent political crime.
It is worth remembering that the present Chief Minister of Kerala came under the regional spotlight as a murder accused in the 1960s around the same time as he was launching his distinguished career.
This is how many top politicians flagged off their profession.
How earnest is Sreedharan?
In competence, professionalism, consistency of word and deed, and impeccable conduct, Sreedharan lives on a different planet than those just described above.
If he displays the managerial and engineering skills he has exemplarily demonstrated throughout his life and career, there is no doubt that if he comes to rule the state, it would be a critical turning point for the Kerala.
But, considering his age, how realistic is it to expect him to fulfil his election promises? It is a tricky question; however, one cannot mistake his earnestness in stating his desires for the state.
There is no doubt that his willingness to enter politics stems from his earnest wish to contribute something worthwhile to his home state. From his statements, it is clear that he only wants to donate his experience, acumen and special genius as a trouble-shooter to Kerala.
Nobody can imagine him harbouring a clandestine motive to steal the family silver in his eagerness to serve the land.
Sreedharan’s decision to take the plunge arose from a sense of duty that he as a passer-by in life could not shirk in real life. This assumption keeps in line with his record as a problem solver of the highest order.
He has seen corruption, incompetency and unscrupulous opportunism among our political masters at close quarters like no other and now he thinks he can make a change for the better.
Now, after his last assignment as a trouble-shooter, fixing a defective bridge at the last minute in record time, Sreedharan sees the danger looming over the future generations in Kerala very well.
He is witnessing his descendants, all the people in the state hurtling towards certain calamity caused by spiralling debt and civilisational chaos, and he unquestioningly takes the plunge.
For a person who has proven his mettle as a trouble-shooter in impossible situations, it is only natural for Sreedharan to jump into action to avert a disaster.
But why the BJP for Sreedharan
In my reckoning, there are more than one reason for Sreedharan to join the BJP camp. To start with, we may guess that each and every party should be more than elated to have Sreedharan as their own party man.
If we examine his initial words announcing his entry into politics, the striking thing is that he mentioned himself being at the helm of affairs if the party won the elections.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) carry a convoluted and sickening karmic baggage that would not permit Sreedharan anywhere close to the top that he wants.
And he knows it.
Sreedharan obviously calculated that the BJP leaders in Kerala and New Delhi would not stand in his way to be the Chief Minister if the party were to get a chance to come to power, because the party has everything to gain from just having him at the top.
Sreedharan’s wish to be the chief minister was parroted by the state’s party leaders, but it was frowned upon by the high command in New Delhi. Sreedharan later said he is willing to accept any task given to him by the party and that his intention was to increase the vote share of the party and give it a fillip by jumping into the fray.
Despite his words, it is hard to visualise his colossal figure playing second fiddle to any politician in Kerala. If he wins personally and the party loses, he would be a model MLA for all politicians to emulate.
If the BJP added another 10 per cent to their past vote share of around 15, it would be a great gain for the party, even if it didn’t come to power. With 10 to 15 seats in the Assembly, the BJP would become a party to reckon with in Kerala politics like never before.
That would signify a ‘spanner in the works’ for the two major political forces in Kerala who take turns to pardon each other’s crimes.
The UDF and the LDF have been riding the elections each time in the past on the back of a religiously configured electoral raft, bundled and propped up by Muslim and Christian votes at the expense of a fragmented Hindu electorate, which is forcibly highlighted by caste colourings.
If Sreedharan would consolidate the Hindu votes in Kerala as well as attract a considerable share of the minority vote bank, the old electoral configuration would be upset.
E. Sreedharan’s sense of dharma is outstanding. His motto is the same as PM Modi’s mission — development for all — that transcends all religious and jati divisions.
Being a true Hindu, whose ancestors defined true secularism in ancient polity through the Dharmasastras, Sreedharan will be an impartial leader who would consider all his subjects as one.
The BJPs opponents announced that Sreedharan was a “sanghi” all out to outcaste the beef-eating Shudras and mlechas of Kerala by mistranslating his statement to NDTV — “I don’t like people eating meat” — as “I don’t like people who eat meat” in Malayalam.
But sane people just ignored it.
One thing is certain. The entry of ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan is a sign of good things to come in Kerala politics. Even if the BJP doesn’t win a seat, it is an exemplary move by a stalwart citizen to pioneer a new wave in politics.
Upright citizens from professional fields should enter politics and save it from its own criminal vices, uncouth behaviour and uncultured conventions.
Incompetency and inefficiency must be wiped out from polity, if the state should put its feet again on solid ground.
By joining the BJP, E Sreedharan is demonstrating to us that our inimitable Indian pluralism and innate secularism stems from our own cultural legacy, tradition and ideals, and not an imported idea from the West or leftover from past colonialists.
Going back to our deeper civilisational roots is the only way forward for Kerala.
If the Kerala BJP leadership doesn’t make the most of the Metro Man and provide him with all the means and mend their own mediocre ways, it will be a lost chance that will not come their way again for a long time to come.
If the people of Kerala do not opt for Sreedharan and what he represents, the state is heading for a gargantuan tragedy.
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