During our school days, in our civics (introductory political science) class we were taught that in a republic, the Prime Minister is an ordinary citizen at par with any other citizen, his job being to serve the nation by literally running it. However, as kid I knew before I went to school that even petty political figures in India stand way above in the societal hierarchy here. A classic example was illustrated yesterday, when a 32-year-old man with a critical kidney condition arrived at the PGI Chandigarh, a top-rated med college. However, the Prime Minister was speaking on the college’s Convocation ceremony, and his security crew denied the man entry to the Emergency ward. By the time he was granted the permission to battle death, he had lost it.
The death is tragic and unfortunate, but it only bares naked the flaws in our political system. A photograph which made it to the front page of a top Delhi newspaper comes to mind: A picture of Tony Blair gesturing playfully because he was standing in a subway coach; all the other seats were occupied. I’m not a fan or critic of Tony Blair, but it just went to show that the people in the coach regarded their PM as one of them, and vice-versa. Now, what would happen if an ordinary politician, a Neta, were to board a Metro in Delhi? A battalion of bodyguards will turn the station into a warzone, frisking everyone and shooing off the passengers in the coach their boss will sit in. All as an extreme publicity stunt; Netas in India are generally provided with on-call helicopters, even if the helicopter was supposed to be rescuing policemen being ambushed by rebel guerillas.
The Prime Minister has since apologized for this unfortunate incident. The kind of person he is, he probably was disturbed by all that happened. But the truth is, such events really are common in this part of the world. It’s only this event that has come into the limelight. There is an invisible dividing line between the rulers and the ruled, something which we inherited from the colonial times, and which sixty years of democracy has not been able to smudge. It becomes distinct on occasions, when a candidate begs for votes from the poor, and shoos them away when the poor elect him to the Parliament. It becomes distinct when anybody openly criticizing the Government is branded a rebel and is put behind bars. And it becomes distinct when letting a critically ill common man into the Emergency is deemed as a security risk for one from the ruling class.