’Opposition doesn’t have strategy to fight saffronization’

Source: The Times of India / https://timeofindia.com / By TNN /

Noted printer-publisher, theatre critic and translator Arun Naik has for long been a sharp observer of Maharashtra’s socio-cultural scene. A fellow of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, US, and publisher of ‘Pareekshan’, an English monthly, Naik heads ‘Antar Natya’, an avant-garde theatre group. His Marathi translation of Vaclav Havel’s ‘Largo Desolato’ and Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’ have won critical acclaim. TOI talks to him about India’s political scenario.

Q: How far are we from a robust and mature democracy?
A: We are a robust, but failed democracy. We’ve certainly come a long way since 1952 when the first polls were held. Managing elections was not an easy task given the sheer size of the country, the hostile climate at many places and the rugged terrain. We’ve too many religions ready to lock horns, too many castes and classes. Plus, corruption, crime and poll rigging. Holding free and fair elections is thus a stupendous task. Yet, the Election Commission has been doing a fine job and this makes our democracy robust; but not mature as everything is driven by money and power.

Q: Are political parties earnest to address key election issues?
A: Key issues are, as always, economic: lack of jobs, inflation, corruption, black money, slow growth. No political party is keen to address them. Defection is rampant as politicians aspire only for party tickets to contest polls.

Q: Is the Congress-NCP-led Opposition alliance in the state well set to take on the ruling saffron combine?
A: Certainly not. The Opposition is in total disarray. Many parties quit the Opposition alliance because their seat-sharing talks failed. Everything seems to have boiled down to extracting more seats. There is scant concern for policy issues.

Q: What worries you?
A: The country’s growing saffronization upsets me. It seems it can no longer be contained. The Opposition has neither strategy nor solution for this problem. Many have died for opposing the saffron forces. Sadly, religious loyalty overrides citizens’ duties and concerns. Hindus and Muslims take pride in their religious identity, and not in their role and responsibility as citizens. Even those who support the present government want economic stability. However, voters are by and large naive; and political parties take advantage of their gullibility.

Q: How are regional parties faring?
A: Very badly. They have no constructive role to play. Almost all are inefficient, corrupt, ignorant, vicious and careless.

Q: How do you find the political discourse?
A: What discourse? It’s just power and money. There’s plenty of money in politics and pol
ls, and the money comes from the poor who are deprived of all benefits.

Q: What will be the election’s outcome? A stable regime or a rag-tag coalition?
A: I’ve of late been getting nightmares. Who knows which political combination will get a clear majority? Actually, I would prefer a fractured mandate. Let there be no stability. Even a rag-tag coalition which enters office will maintain a semblance of democracy!