Posted on 15-12-2013
Filed Under (POLITICS) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

“Sweep corruption away” is the intent of the broom (jhaadu) symbol political party. Various well wishers commenting online on their website said that “backward” (I’ve always hated this word because it’s against human dignity) classes, the poor and housewives will certainly identify with the broom representation. The respect that all these people deserve and have been denied is what the broom expects to restore.

Actually my livelihood journey started with a broom too. Jumping from a refugee colony outside Kolkata I landed with no better a status in France in 1973. I had no money, spoke no French language, but was fired by an ardent desire to turn into a Parisian artist. Towards that end a sweeper’s job in a Paris lithography studio was a silver lining start for me because I was spending time among famous artists. Initially I would sweep away the visible dirt in the middle of the floor. One day my employer Jacques Gourdon told me something in French which at that time I could not understand. So he took the broom and brush and showed me how I should first clean the corners. I later caught on that cleaning corners is critical and the most important skill to pick up for the job because that’s where sedimentation collects. If you don’t meticulously attack the difficult-to-reach areas to extract congealed dirt hidden there, the broad visible clean surfaces would just be a superficial lie.

This past experience of mine connected me very well to the “Jhaadu strategy.” I extracted two meanings from it: (1) Dignity for the millions in our country whose livelihood comes from the broom (2) Jhaadu to clean unwanted corruption and political drama that gives nothing to the common person. I must say that as a sweeper in Paris, nobody disturbed my dignity while I was executing my job. I was taught the skill of sweeping and I tried to perform to the best of my ability. Unfortunately in our country, poor, literate or illiterate people, whether or not they use brooms at work, are not only cheated with low wages, they also get no dignity in their living and working environment.

India’s extreme heterogeneous population who have been dominated and demoralized for 200 years by British colonial rule do not connect to the country’s political grain. In China, we had Mao Zedong who was a Marx and Lenin follower, but he brought in a new political perspective with the Cultural Revolution. He understood that in China’s cultural setting if everyone is not placed at one level, nothing can fall in order, The Cultural Revolution, extremely relevant to their country, was the innovative political dimension he designed and implemented. Whatever may have been his negative aspects, Mao injected a certain discipline in China that’s helped in economic upliftment. Disciplined Chinese Communism has been a political style that’s represented millions of poor people.

The Communist Party in India has tried to be poor friendly. However, their politics appear “imported” as they are not properly tailored to the common man’s needs nor have they been able to politically drive the nation’s economic requirement. In West Bengal, their big program was to distribute small pieces of land to the deserving masses. However, modernization has since changed the agrarian economy, preventing small farmers from earning a livelihood from such miniscule land holdings. Kerala, the other Communist bastion, saw a large exodus to the Gulf States for jobs. How many poor people can understand or connect to the Communists when they take up causes like anti-nuclear energy? Gandhiji tried to represent the poor, introduced secularism, but unfortunately his image is translated like that of a prophet. After all these past efforts to get close to the masses, when you look at this new party’s Jhaadu symbol, it undoubtedly relates and connects to 70-80% poor people in our country.

As in drawing up business strategy by extrapolating from customer insights, an interesting new trend the Jhaadu party started in the Delhi State elections is creating 70 constituency-specific election manifestoes. After about 20 meetings in each constituency, volunteers took away thousands of suggestions, analyzed them, and then drafted a customized agenda for the betterment of each constituency. The common points made up the party’s Delhi-level manifesto. Knowing the customers’ needs and desires is a surefire win in business. If applied with the same rigour in politics, the results can be tremendous.

Can a political party formed on the foundation of cleaning up society’s ills sustain the immense pressures of its detractors? If its leaders can uphold their avowed principles, manifesto and objective, India will see the masses actually taking part in real politics instead of merely casting votes as routine election activity. But from the media to different political parties, the Jhaadu party is being disgracefully provoked of having developed cold feet and being gutless to govern with outside support. As of now they have not capitulated, they are sticking to their guns of representing the masses and being anticorruption. However, if accusations from detractors make them and their ideology susceptible, they will become like all the others the common man has suffered since Independence. Hope that will not happen.

When a broom sweeps on the surface, like I first did in my sweeper’s job in Paris, it can polish society’s hard rhinoceros hide. But it’s the corners, like my employer taught me, that we need to get the dirt out of to really clean. Similarly society’s rhino hide can take the beating of natural calamities like tsunamis and earthquakes; manmade catastrophes of wars, piracy and robbery are also inflicted on unsuspecting people. But scratching below that rhino hide you’ll find the living matter that feels and bleeds. In that living mass of flesh there is illiteracy, neglect and discrimination that the same “backward” classes, the poor and housewives experience all the time. It’s mainly for the vulnerable in society that the broom is most familiar, aside from its purported purpose here of cleaning up society’s dirt.

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(1) Comment   


partho on 23 December, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

The broom ‘technology’is the right medicine for the limited Delhi area. For I believe, each Indian region has its common consciousness of its own- coz that’s why we are so disunited anyway. Be that as it may, the broom symbolizes the adage in communication “Audience first; message later” Viva broom technology then and may other technologies follow for different Indian regions too- unless the broom is used by others to drive away the power brokers for good. Then the Indian Nation will have risen at last.

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