Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Apolitical is the name of the disease that millions of Voters in India suffered from. This disease in turn caused many other diseases amongst the Political Classes of the country, like Corruption, Callousness, Arrogance, Decayed Leadership standards etc…

Dictionary meaning of Apolitical, of course is, “not interested or involved in Politics” but it is not a virtue by any standard, as a lot of people assume it to be. And in a country where citizens have the responsibility of choosing their representatives and a freedom to become a representative themselves either independently, or through an existing political party or through a new political party, being Apolitical is certainly a crime. Being Apolitical in such a democracy simply means being Irresponsible and being irresponsible is no virtue, you may agree.

This word is greatly in discussion, and has become a subject of a Panel discussion organized by my friends in Friends of BJP on 13th September 2011, because in the recent and ongoing protests in the country over corruption and for implementation of a strong legal mechanism, people have used this word “apolitical” ever so often, that those who take offense to this word or have been trying to create a larger Political awareness in the country by curing this disease, are bound to take it up as a debate.

I have two sets of explanations – Good hearted explanation & extreme-interpretation based explanation.

Good hearted explanation

I hold no grudge against those crowds that protested at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Ground in Delhi this April and August 2011, respectively. The people were inarticulate. If left to them, they wouldn’t be able to use the word “apolitical” too.

The word “apolitical” came from the people who occupied the dais. They used the word more as an apology or an explanation for why they were not letting any political party participate in the anti-corruption protests, alongside. I am surprised however, that even those seasoned players who occupied the stage were inarticulate. Two of them were ex-IPS/IRS officers. The Third was a known protestor.

It is my personal belief that what these people on the dais meant to state was that they wanted the movement to remain “Politically Neutral” and not “Apolitical”. Because the moment you participate in the political discourse of the country, either through voting or through protests or through various other mechanisms, you cease to be apolitical. You can however remain “politically neutral”. That means, you may choose to avoid either the Ruling side or the Opposition for the sake of saving a movement from accusations of a “motivation”.

As far as the masses who attended such protests are concerned a large number of them “were” apolitical till the time they decided to join the protest. In other words, these masses just got cured. They decided to join the Political Discourse of the country. They were ready to address the disease that the political class of the country was suffering from. They were ready to pro-actively set their expectations in front of the “Politicians”. Many of us may not agree with the tone & tenor of the demands placed by these common folks, but then we accepted right in the beginning that these are inarticulate masses. Many have not even read Indian Constitution. So as they begin, such a crass display is only natural and we must look at it positively & optimistically.

However, the problem that comes when I interpret the use of the word “apolitical” as meant for “political neutrality” is that the people who directed this whole protest did not act in a “Politically Neutral” manner. Please bear with me for sometime here.

What I find here is that “political neutrality” ended up getting translated into “vagueness” of charges of corruption. There are so many specific and large scale scams known in the public domain, and yet absolutely no such charges were publicized while the whole nation was listening to what those on the Dais had to say. There was no talk of 2G, CWG, S-Band, Air-India, PDS, Coal Mining, Iron Ore Mining, Krishna-Godavari Basin Petroleum, Robert Vadra, individual ministers’ land grabbing, Shashi Tharoor’s Sweat Equity, IPL, K G Balakrishnan (Former CJI) and god knows how many more scams.

And to not refer to the crime of the criminal is by itself a big favor to the criminal, especially when the whole world has lent its ears to you. And that, my friends, leads me to an explanation, that to some may appear to be a bit on the extreme.

Extreme-interpretation based explanation

While the masses remain innocent, inarticulate, newly political lot (may be neutral, at best), the people on the Dais, probably actually meant the use of the word “Apolitical”. What they, possibly, meant was that they are not “willing” to participate in the “current” political system. That possibly explains the vagueness, which inadvertently benefitted the real criminals.

Statements like “all Politicians are chors” and many similar statements are possibly aimed at demolition of the current Political System by waging a war against the people & institutions that make up the current political system, namely, of Parliamentary Democracy.

I find that the directors of this movement used the actual wrong-doings of this current Govt and the resulting public anger and dissatisfaction very tactfully. Institutions and Office-Bearers of these institutions were equally attacked. And mind you the office bearers are not only the Ruling members but also the Opposition members who occupy the seats in the Parliament.

Now as we have discussed right in the beginning, the disease called “apolitical” amongst voters is one of the key causes of diseases like corruption, callousness and decayed leadership standards amongst political classes. So, in my opinion, any campaign against corruption etc will ideally look at turning the masses from being “Apolitical” to becoming “Political”.

While I personally do not agree with proclamations that “Janta malik hai aur neta naukar hai” as an essence of a practical life but I do believe that the sentiment of a leader while leading should be of social service. It is not a job, but service to the nation, to its people.

But taking that oft repeated sentiment (aimed at humiliating Political Leaders again & again) forward, wouldn’t it only be logical that when the Owners of a house sleep, theft does happen. And when the owners of the house are awake, watch the work done by their servants carefully, the servants too deliver wonderfully. The continuity of this wonderful work also depends on the rewards that the owner gives when the work done is wonderful.

That being the equation between the Owner & the Servant, it is all the more important that those who intend to cure the Political System of its diseases become more aware, politically, instead of remaining Apolitical.

And people must be cautious about those who try to coax them to become more “Apolitical”, meaning further cut-off from the Political Discourse of the country.

People can undoubtedly choose to remain “Politically Neutral”.


  1. ""And to not refer to the crime of the criminal is by itself a big favor to the criminal, especially when the whole word has lent its ears to you"
    "While the masses remain innocent, inarticulate, newly political lot (may be neutral, at best), the people on the Dais, probably actually meant the use of the word “Apolitical”. What they, possibly, meant was that they are not “willing” to participate in the “current” political system. That possibly explains the vagueness, which inadvertently benefitted the real criminals."

  2. Brilliant explanation to the word apolitical. Dissecting political neutrality and being apolitical has been simply great. While the importance of the voters and ultimate duty of citizens to be vigilant to avoid corruption is what i agree and holding this view since long. To me voting in our democracy should be more of duty then a right.

    Lastly, "One sensible vote can reduce no. of occasions to hold candles

  3. nicely written.

    In my opinion, the movement which was branded as "Apolitical" from start was not apolitical and it had political overtones right from the beginning.

    Even finally the movement had to depend on the same "politicians" to get a resolution or temporary reprieve from the fast.

    As explained above by Piyushji, being apolitical is not equivalent to being Apolitical.

  4. Calling something apolitical while using the freedom given by a political process called Democracy is dishonest. Piyush, you are correct when you say that Politically Neutral is more accurate.
    There is mischief afoot in declaring movements apolitical and tarring all Netas with the same tarbrush. This was done successfully by the congress to divert attention from their failure in 26/11. And we know how the apolitical candle holding janata reacted on election day, that they spent in cool climes of Lonavla while the political janata elected the congress MP. Like kicking themselves on the ass! Apolitical makes me want to puke!

  5. Excellent assessment of the prevailing situation. The whole concept of apolitical stems from this inherent reluctance of the Indian mass to take firm decisions. Unfortunately when masses becomes mobs even ridiculously dangerous ideas seem feasible and that is exactly what has happened in phase 2 of the Anna Hazare movement. The movement went from a discussion of a piece of legislation to mass hysteria.

  6. *Apolitical*? What the heck. Inventing new words for a cause that has every bit a political significance is preposterous.

    Yes, you are correct in terming it 'Politically Neutral' if they so desired it to be termed so. But to call it a 'apolitical' struggle against the establishment seems silly, rather, seems to take away the merit of a legitimate struggle for a genuine cause.

    Apolitical is that class of people who are the candle light vigilantes at a disaster, but who would not move their butt to vote. Apolitical is that class of people who would reprobate at anything and everything that would impede their routine. Apolitical is that class of people who would willingly pay a bribe at the cost of the wait they may have to endure. Apolitical is that class of people who would gleam on talk shows castigating the system, the poverty, the litter, the abuse, the umpteen other things surrounding them without distancing from their elite social evenings & wine drinking. Yes, these are the APOLITICAL lot.

    All along, I was more voluble at the skepticism the movement initiated than the intent it desired. That there was an inherent discreet ploy of diverting the mass attention from core issues of national importance was reeking all over the movement. The distancing of Justice Hegde and Swami Agnivesh from the latter movement was sufficient proof that there was an indiscreet match-making taking place elsewhere. Other than Anna Hazare, the rest had their nefarious motives hidden behind the entire movement. Time, Samay, will bring out what was underlying behind the entire 13 day saga and that is a fact as encrypted in the Mahabharata!

    No doubt, in the meantime, political scores were settled. Social scores were settled. A clearly ambiguous compromise was obtained in the pretext of Government succumbing to public pressure. Almost all media channels had a fantastic festive 13 days hiking up their TRPs to the core. Many a MPs had a tutoring of how to face the camera. Plenty of them were tutored to public speaking and public writing too. Many NGOs, whose attitude runs several miles ahead, rose to sudden lime light and came out with vociferous claims of ownership of JLPB draft.

    Your conclusion hits the exact notion. Either be Politically Neutral or be Political. To brag about being Apolitical is merely playing with vocabulary!

    An excellent post Piyushji. Your blog and our comments may not be like by many, I am sure. But facts are facts and you have laid it down neat and tidy. Bravo! JAI HIND!

  7. India is deep into politics. No movement, discussion even in drawing rooms is Apolitical. We only keep finding excuses and reasons to use a certain vocabulary.
    It is time to accept the reality

  8. This what I felt...but could never express....HOPE THEIR WAS A WORD OR A PHRASE WHICH SUMS UP THE WHOLE THING