The Politics of (dis)Engagement

Image Credit: Goa News Hub

The brutal lathi charge on the helpless fishermen is yet another indication of reign of politics of (dis)engagement. The Government seems to have no political will to engage the aggrieved fishermen and took refuge in the lathi to silence them and ignore their legitimate demand. This act of brutality may be explained away by the authorities in charge of law and order claiming that the police were provoked by the agitators who in their view had become unruly. But the erasure of the legitimate demand of the fishermen by reducing their struggle into a law and order problem is clearly a politics of (dis)engagement. The politics of (dis)engagement in Goa is employed to allow the powerful elite to have its way. Often the people who resist in their Gram Sabhas are thought to be of nuisance value and steps had been taken to curb the power of the Gram Sabhas during the Congress regime. Thus, the politics of (dis)engagement operates as a tool that silences, brushes aside the voices of the citizens who come forward to participate and present their positions through legitimate democratic foura. Unfortunately, these active citizenry has to face the brunt of the power of the state apparatus that is unleashed on them in order to disengage and dissuade them from resisting/ obstructing to the Government’s sinister designs that are often detrimental to the interest of the ordinary citizen.

The politics of disengagement that is unleashed on the people is one form of denial of democracy. It gushes forth from authoritarian power centres but it forgets that the discontent that it creates produces multiple counter discourses that swells up the trust deficient of the reigning Government. Without the direct engagement of the political leadership, the people are often left with the option of agitation which is sometimes scuttled with the iron hand of the state. But these strong tactics do not diminish the resolve of the people who become even more determined to fight to achieve their goals. This means the politics of (dis)engagement that operates in multiple ways in the name of democracy being a denial of democracy only creates an acute thirst for democracy. Often the Government is tempted to sacrifice its future for a small or big gain in the present. In the bargain the Government stimulates the political impulse of the people who would then seek their political engagement through the ballot and respond to the politics of disengagement by casting their vote against those who denied them democracy. In an era of political engagement no democratic government can pretend that its policy is determined by an unquestioned compulsion.

At a time when political parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and independents like Vijay Sardesai have already sent signals of the politics of engagement in form of muhulla sabhas and Sunday dialogues respectively, political parties which forget that the people are their only high command have begun to look like the harbingers of politics of (dis)engagement. Hence, listening and dialoguing with the people is steadily emerging as the sine qua non of political survival and success. It would be hard to keep the people away from participating in democratic affairs in the future. Hence, the costs of politics of (dis)engagement are going to be heavy for parties that fail to become dialogical but choose to remain insulated in a monological mode. While the present BJP led Government in Goa appears to back the politics of (dis)engagement, the opposition Congress is also not far behind. The national parties have an obvious temptation to engage only its high command (which seems to remain in a limbo for the local people) and close most channels with local people. Hence, the politics of (dis)engagement appears to be the culture of the national parties. Except, perhaps, is the case of AAP which is also unfortunately haunted by suspicions (true/ false) in Goa which are raised by some prominent opinion makers as playing to the music o f RSS. As one reflects on Goan scenario, one may find legitimate faults even with the several local outfits. But as long as they promote a culture of engagement and dialogue, we have the hope of bringing about a change that we all desire.

The monological framework of politics that fundamentally depends on politics of (dis)engagement is exhausted and may not reap scanty fruits in the coming future, particularly in Goa. It seems that leaders parachuted by high command from the top have little or no credibility. Goans are in no mood of accepting unilateral political leadership. Top down leadership model is slowly but surely giving way to the bottom up model of political leadership. When the people have viable alternatives that engage them, it seems natural that people will turn to them. That is why monarchs of monologue in politics have to make room for dialogue and even polylogue. This openness to the people is important to build a consensus that can translate into votes. The politics of (dis)engagement that is reigning today does not seem to have a future. The triumphant, opaque parachuted modes of leadership do not seem to find favour with the people. In hindsight everyone becomes wise. Goans seem to have learnt about their mistakes during the last elections in hindsight and now are eager to take their foresight seriously. Monologue and monarchical models seem to be on their way out and the Goan political scenario is opening its door to politics of engagement. The politics of engagement is the road that is leading to a desired destination known as participatory democracy. While the powers that be and their cronies may want politics of (dis)engagement to continue, the people are fed up with the U-turns of the present regime and earlier regimes and are clearly moving to the dialogical politics of engagement.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao