Towards the demise of vote bank politics?

It is said that ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd.’ We could rephrase that as ‘two’s company, three’s politics.’ Some today would be inclined to say that politics is hardwired in our nature. For good or bad, politics has evolved as the system by which human beings govern their society, whether that society is feudal, monarchical – for there is politics in the royal courts as well, isn’t it – or some variant of democracy, the latter described by Winston Churchill, a British politician, as the least bad of all systems.

Taking off from there, perhaps there is a minimum amount of ‘systemic’ bad in any political system, but it surely is minimal. The rest of the bad in politics, and whatever good there may be in the politics of those who join it believing in politics as noble (service to fellow human beings), come from the politician in his individual capacity, or from politicians as a class.

We had an interlude of good politics in this country when bright young and inspired patriots returned to the motherland after their studies abroad at the time when the colonies had begun the struggle for their independence, which had fired their imaginations and moved their hearts too. Thus was born the workers’ movements to claim their rightful place in the sun, and the morphing into the Labour Party under the leadership of Dr Maurice Cure.

The slide began in 1959, when the Parti Mauricien (PMau) fielded Romriky Ramsamy in Curepipe with a clear ethnic agenda. Still, the objective was garnering support for the anti-independence stance that PMau had taken. That is, people were still rallied on an ideological platform, swayed by the worldwide prevailing ideology of Independence.

Over time, however, slowly but surely insidious campaigns began to bring ethnicity surreptitiously into the equation, turning the slide into a wave. In due course, shamelessly, covert vote bank politics took hold and won over ideology. If people got increasingly swayed by different ethnic cards, surely either there could be an iota of systemic good or a posse of ‘noble’ politicians that could realign the boat and steer the ship of state? Surely ‘noble politicians’ was not forever to remain an oxymoron?

The subsequent history of the country has, alas, hardwired the oxymoron as a bequille incontournable in the political psyche.

Is it possible, just possible, that we may be approaching a historical inflection point, one where the oxymoron will be overturned? For the better good of this country, we sincerely hope that this could happen.

Politicians had better start realising that the demographic profile of the country is changing. The ‘I-want-my-biscuits’ generation has a different outlook. They also have needs which are non-negotiable and which relate to jobs, security, leisure, hope for a better future, fair deal from all institutions both private and public, from the police, the judiciary, the PSC, etc; and access to finance, land and to so many other aspects of a sound polity that would allow them to match aspirations commensurate with their enlarged vista in an age of the connected world.

They want a civil service that delivers.

They want politicians who will live up to their promises.

They want to progress on the basis of their merit, not on the strength of political patronage, hanging to the trousers or hovering in the entourage of X or Y politician, minister or whoever in that basse-cour.

With social media and the World Wide Web opening new avenues and new perspectives, many of the young people who are going abroad for higher studies are not coming back. They are in most cases encouraged by their parents and peers to scout for better prospects abroad, despite the risks given the meltdown in the once highflying economies. But this is symptomatic of a situation where people seem to be losing hope in the system, a system being actively maintained by an ageing political class that ought to know better. A genuinely patriotic political class would surely encourage and seek to induct in a new, younger and promising cluster and groom them for a taking over.

If this be utopia, so be it. Because if we do not dream for our country, and that includes its political class, who will?

The writing is on the wall: the young will not remain content with the status quo – sooner or later they will overcome the divides that have plagued politics over a long stretch of time. Let us hope that this will happen sooner rather than later, that we will not have to wait long for the tipping point.

For the sake of our future generations, it is time for the old guard to let go and to assume a more dignified role as farsighted mentors.

But who will bell the cat?


* Published in print edition on 14 February 2014

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