Hold your horses

Tue, Aug 20, 2019

All politics is a House of Cards. In fact, here’s a reality-check on political morality for all of us. Almost all human actions have a political and an economic underpinning. And hard as it may be for us to acknowledge it on a day like this, elected representatives are human, too.
A quick look at in world history. In the US, the 13th amendment of the Constitution, which banished slavery, was passed not because US legislators were morally persuaded by the nobility of the then President Abraham Lincoln’s intentions.
Because Lincoln had to get his administration to procure votes by “any means necessary” – which meant government posts and campaign contributions to get legislators to switch votes. As one legislator noted, “the greatest measure of the 19th century was passed by corruption aided and abetted by the purest man in America.” Framed in that context, the formation of a government in Karnataka earlier this year is weighed down far less by morality. The same applies to Sikkim, which 12 of its elected MLAs switching sides recently. No wonder moneybags are having a free run. As former US President Teddy Roosevelt famously said, after an egregious instance of deal-making, “In politics, we have to do a great many things that we ought not to do.”
Negotiations are at the heart of all political deal-making of the sorts we are witnessing in Sikkim today. And behavioural scientists have identified many cognitive short-cuts (called “heuristics”), rather than strictly logical constructs, that the human mind employs while making decisions. Behavioural economics, in turn, builds on concepts of normative decision theory, which is a foundational concept in traditional economics: it encapsulates the rules by which a fully rational individual makes choices.
A 2013 report, Negotiating Agreement in Politics, edited by Jane Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin and others, frames the contours of successful political negotiations, in the context of breaking gridlocks, and commends pitfalls to avoid on that path, including ‘negotiation myopia’, which it defines as the ways in which negotiators fail to see their own advantage, which may sometimes be right in front of them.
Political power and the lure of office is what counts and explains the still ongoing events in the BJP’s larger scheme of things. On the face of it, if events in these states like Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and now in Sikkim are to be seen as evidence of the BJP using the temptation of office, worry over action for alleged past indiscretions or misdemeanours and desire to be on the winning horse, these developments also underscore complete failure of the opposition parties in coping with the post May 23 scenario.
It almost appears that the opposition has thrown in the towel despite the odd unexpected turn at the hustings. This is also a pointer to the structural anomaly in Indian politics and the failure of the Anti-defection law in preventing political opportunism. Part of the problem stems from lawmakers not being true to the primary factor behind their victory — was it due to personal popularity, ideology, party or the leadership?
The neo-converts, despite occasional unease with policies, programmes and periodic utterances of adversaries turned colleagues, remain mute because of the trappings of power. As these developments demonstrate, the BJP is no longer content with acquiring political power across states, it wishes to eliminate all opposition.

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi