Politics in India is often reduced to electoral rhetoric, where contesting candidates make tall claims and fake promises. Once the election has been won, promises are broken and consigned to being ‘jumlas’. In the hullabaloo of electioneering, it seldom is clear what each candidate intends to do or what his/her roadmap for progress is. Each party or candidate comes up with trite promises, often copied from their rivals. Civil society seldom gets an opportunity to question the feasibility of plans.
Even the presidential election has been confined to shrewd electoral arithmetic, even though the post is mostly ceremonious in nature. It nevertheless garners a great deal of media attention, unlike the vice-presidential election, which is also in the pipeline. In such a scenario, the media could take a leaf out of the US politics and conduct a debate between the contesting candidates so that people are aware of what each candidate’s vision is.
It could start with the vice-presidential because it is mostly away from the media glare and the general public doesn’t vote. This will initially help in keeping away any controversies, given the hyper-sensitive sections of the society that take offense at the drop of a hat. In due course, the culture of political debate can be extended to elections to other offices, including the legislatures.
It would for instance, be interesting for the public to understand the vision of Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, whose name is amongst the possible candidates for the office of Vice-President of India, along with the other possible candidates. Lt. Gen. Shah is the recipient of the highest peace time military honour from the President of India the Param Vishist Sewa Medal. The Vishist Sewa Medal, Sena Medal, a commendation card for exceptional and meritorious service to the Nation, an Honorary D. Litt Causa are amongst a few honours he has been conferred with.
It would augur well for our political culture if the citizenry were aware that he is one of the leading liberal voices in the country, backed by an impeccable career in the Indian Army. The public could debate over whether a post as prestigious as the Vice-President of India should be reduced to being confined to the spoils system, even though they don’t vote directly.
Having an apolitical person like Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, as the Vice-President of India will not only continue the tradition of having the most distinguished citizens occupy the post, but also be inspiring for the increasingly young demographics of India, who desperately seek a leader with a liberal, inclusive and egalitarian worldview. His popularity amongst the students of the Aligarh Muslim University, of which he was the VC till recently, is testimony to his charisma. It was under his leadership that the university returned to its former glory and is often listed under the best universities of India. In this era of hyper nationalism and jingoism, his sagacious leadership, backed by an inspiring military career, would usher in a whiff of sanity. The internet patriots could take lessons from him about service with humility and what disciplined nationalism really entails. Taking inspiration from him, his son Major Mohammed Ali Shah, served the Indian Army in the SSC, after which he pursued his management studies at IIM. He is currently an upcoming actor, like Lt. Gen. Shah’s more famous brother, actor Naseeruddin Shah, while his sister Saira Shah Halim is a writer and social activist, endeavouring to make India a more inclusive and progressive nation.
The mass media, instead of stoking controversies should introspect and consider inviting potential candidates like Lt. Gen. Shah to express their views and ideas about how we can promote dialogue in our political discourse. This could be our chance to shun identity politics and embrace enlightened politics, no matter what our political preferences. Hope the media is listening!

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Columnist | Political Analyst | Proud Indian| Congressi| Those who want to teach me RSS ideology as saviour of Hinduism pls stay away.