At least, a few political bigwigs bear a striking reverse similarity to Cassandra, the famed sister of Iliad’s Paris. The former make emphatic assurances about solving various critical problems, which in due course turn black lies though the gullible people repose trust in them without a second thought. The latter, on the contrary, used to make promising prophecies on the fate of Troy but neither her family nor the Trojans believed her utterances, which subsequently came true every time. Here arises the issue of honesty as to what extent the promulgators of political promises stand truthful to their words in the gaze of the public.
When people remain indifferent and unconcerned even in such eventualities, it becomes a chicken-egg query as regards the dilemma of who deserve whom: between politicians and people. But, unfortunately, it is the common masses who suffer the most when the political bosses fail to implement their vows. Hence, honesty on the part of political masters assumes all the more cruciality for effective democratic functioning.
It can be stated in no uncertain terms that a nation’s progress is directly proportional to people’s perception of their leaders’ honesty. Tony Simons, a professor at Cornell University, found in his study that organisations where the employees strongly believed that their managers followed through on promises and commitments and demonstrated the values they preached were substantially more profitable than those whose managers scored average or lower.
Likewise in public life, a political leader in power, who shoulders the responsibility of providing a road map for development, can attain the objective only if there is spirited involvement of people in its execution. An iota of suspicion on the honesty of the leader will destroy people’s confidence, thereby leading to weakened effort rather than concerted action. Because, a political master being the occupant of the seat of the high office ought to look like Caesar’s wife since the position s/he holds must not only be clean but also be seen clean. If any of the credentials, thereof, is called in question, it becomes a serious threat to personal image and to the public trust and aspirations associated with the high office too. So, any deviation from the just ideals creates a ripple effect down the hierarchy adversely.
Authority bias drives the lower functionaries to blindly obey and also to emulate their political bosses in words and deeds, howsoever unethical they might be. Way back in the early 1980s, the National Police Commission came out with some startling findings when it reasoned, ‘the manner in which the police officers at lower level behave is conditioned by the manner in which they themselves are treated by their own higher-ups in the force.’
This observation is equally applicable in other hierarchical set-ups especially such as political governance. Such situations, having already become almost a new normal in the current political scenario across the country, call for a code of honesty for a straightforward path in public life. Hence, here are the five rules:
• Those political bosses who voice against dishonesty and demand righteous activities in governance must be the first to comply with what they preach and profess. Only when they stay exemplary of doing what they expect from others, they will have the moral authority to ask others for maintaining honesty. Exhibiting overtly the policy of transparent and corruption-free administration and showing it simply on paper and in spoken words are not sufficient. They shall, without exception, abide by the principle that the conduct of people is entirely dependent upon the way they themselves have taken to, in the same fashion as that of the time-tested maxim, ‘yatha raja, tatha praja’ (as is the king, so are the people).
• The political bosses must first abstain from involving themselves in illicit fund rising exploits before calling upon their own subordinate functionaries or other political parties to desist from the same. Like other parties, if they stash contributions from the corporates for unlawful purposes during elections, they will have no rightful ground to raise allegations of malpractices against such parties or corporates, because collection of contributions for unethical ends itself is a wrongdoing, which calls for legal action.
• The political bosses must not decide public issues unilaterally under the impression that they are duly elected and so they are mandated to conceive and carry out policies at their whims. Such issues shall invariably be put through public scrutiny in real sense rather than as a formality and the majority of people’s opinions be taken as supreme, even as the opinions of the majority of legislators or parliamentarians must remain as secondary only in a representative form of democracy.
• Those political bosses who, while in power, indulge maliciously in rights violations and involve in deliberate retaliatory moves against their own party brethren or rival parties will not have moral entitlement to object if the law takes its own course for certain deeds should the rivals be in power in future. Both sides must stop branding each other as perpetrators of vendetta since they are all equal under law for any excesses on their part.
• The political bosses must realise that the main drawback of almost every political party lies in its belief that its party’s ideology alone is indispensable for national progress. Sadly, each party tends to forget the fact that the nation requires all-round development which is possible from the services rendered by all from different perspectives.
Stephen Hawking wrote in his famous book, ‘A Brief History of Time’, that no one so far has unravelled the secrets of the universe because of the reason that philosophers don’t know physics and physicists don’t know philosophy. Therefore, all the parties, including the ruling and opposition, must shed their mutual prejudices, contribute the best of their respective ideologies and work in unison for the realisation of Constitutional goals. And that truly makes the political bigwigs honest, irrespective of their party allegiances, for the cause of the nation.
(The author is former DG Cyber Crimes, Bhopal)