'Politics of the ethical'

She is well known as a classical dancer, an accomplished Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi dancer, but she is an activist and social entrepreneur as well. An economist and manager with a degree from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, she runs the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts. I am talking of Mallika Sarabhai here. It’s timely to think about her on polling day because she more than anybody else in this election exemplifies what the common person can do to try and make India a better place. Of course, Mallika comes from a privileged background but in many ways I’m sure she represents the common man and woman of India.

Mallika is contesting as an independent candidate from Gandhinagar, Gujarat’s capital. And her opponent is none other than the BJP prime ministerial candidate L. K. Advani. Writing in The Hindu Sunday Magazine about Mallika’s brave initiative, Harsh Mander, prominent human rights activist who quit the civil services after serving in it for 22 years, says that Mallika’s “battle has captured segments of the popular and intellectual imagination”. It’s “politics of the ethical” that Mallika is standing for and this will strike an immediate chord in voters because she, like Harsh, had spoken out against the 2002 Gujarat riots. Mallika, Harsh points out, wants to change the perception that people with integrity do not wish to enter politics because it is such a dirty word.

We need more Mallikas. Even is she were to lose, Mallika will bag a moral victory. She has shown others the way and I’m sure she will continue to serve the people she has met during her campaigns in Gujarat. She and people like N. S. Venkataraman in Chennai need the support of people like you and me. And we must also derive inspiration from them to stand up for what is right, take up civic issues and do our best to make society better. And if there is a leader somewhere in us, all the more reason to come forward and engage in “politics of the ethical”.


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