Accepting reality is ordinary human wisdom. “All honour to the winners!” that is the song today. MPs and MLAs are reviewing their loyalties. Bye-bye to ideologies and refinement, one’s political future is more important than principles and proverbs. Interests are uprooting ideas and ideals. Writers are rewording their texts. Theoreticians are revising their foundational assumptions. Collective thinking is in the process transformation. New visions of India are replacing the old ones. Like Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ that eliminated millions, Modi’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ is marginalizing those who think differently.
For all that, ordinary citizens will have to sit back and say we accept reality. We accept the leadership that India’s millions have chosen and we look on with realism the new developments that are taking place. We will support every idea that is good, and cooperate with every person genuinely serving the nation. Realism leads to Revival. But we need not accept fallacies no matter how popular they are, like fighting corruption by bribing voters, promoting national interests by buying legislators, garlanding mob-lynchers as though they are the saviours of the nation, and criminalizing victims! On the contrary, we are determined develop an alternative set of ideas, visions, strategies, and approaches. We shall not give up. Satyam Eva Jayate.
Working on Alternatives
Rahul made an honest statement when he said that we in India seek to “cling to power.” It was meant as a message for those in the Congress whose ego-claims were bigger than party loyalty, whose entitlements were endless, and who took adamant positions when the time came for power and favour distribution. His stubborn refusal to withdraw his resignation should have served as a moral note to them. It appeared like a gesture of self-renunciation. But he is not opting for Sanyas; he said he would fight to the last.
Not that the Congress has not been self-critical. The Congress in Assam, for example, was severely self-critical: they frankly admitted that they had lost touch with the grassroots, given too much importance to cultivating their own dynasties, remained too strong on ‘soft Hindutva,’ relied mostly on vote banks neglecting intense canvassing; that the upward mobility of the cadres was minimal, that hard work and personal qualities of junior members was often overlooked, and that, in consequence, many talented party members shifted loyalty.
Honest people admit that they prefer “frank Hindutva” to “sly Hindutva.” Open Hindutva can be confronted. While soft Hindutva avoids confrontation, it can never explain itself. Make-believes collapse in times of testing. Credibility vanishes, confidence of minorities is lost. Ultimately it does not pay. After all, the Kailas-trip did not help Rahul any more than the Ganga trip Priyanka. People look for transparency, not dramatics.
Every defeat gives the losing team another opportunity. Mahatma Gandhi knew how to tap the energies of his followers during dull periods. During the early part of the 1920s he launched a “constructive programme” of young volunteers to go into the villages, get involved in the lives of ordinary people, open khadi schools, initiate social work, promote Harijan Sevak Sangh, and such other activities. Young Jawaharlal Nehru proudly claimed, “Gandhiji sent us to the villages to transform India”: health, hygiene, education, development, collaboration, communal harmony. According to Tarun Gogoi, the former Chief Minister of Assam, the RSS had done better than the Congress in reaching out to the masses. Unfortunately the ideology that they proposed was divisive. And communities got sharply polarised.
The Congress, in response can make a consistent effort to cultivate “communal harmony,” fostering relationships with minority communities, encouraging Dalits and tribals, as they work for the development of everyone in their respective places. Gandhi called his goal “heart unity.” He asked his followers to feel one with India’s millions. For this, he said, every congressman will seek to cultivate personal friendship with some individuals of other religions. He warned that political movements without a ‘constructive programme’ are bound to fail.
Gradually Congress will have to develop new vision of India. While being true to old ideals, they also need to respond to today’s needs, proposing programmes that inspire the younger generation. Modi’s call for a $5 trillion economy had an attractive tone. Similarly, the Congress can take up a plan for fully tapping the “Demographic Dividend” of India as she grows to have the biggest workforce in the world within 8 years. They need not limit themselves to the goal of a $5 trillion economy of Modiji, 90% of which will belong to a few corporates, if we are not careful; but attend to the education and training of India’s youthful millions who look to the future with enthusiasm. Skilling of young people in advanced technologies has become the most urgent need today: e.g. in robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of things, 3D printing, data analytics and quantum computing. We can create the world’s largest pool of skilled people and become a technology powerhouse, if we only make up our mind to do so.
Winners too Must Spend Time on Self-Criticism
If losers must criticize themselves, winners have a greater need to do so; they turn complacent too fast. There is a growing feeling among perceptive people in India, which Cedric Prakash has expressed most powerfully quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” Citizens are anxious, he points out. There was no general rejoicing as the election results were being announced in most parts of India; no crackers, no singing, no sloganeering. People seemed stunned and muted even in Gujarat. There was uneasy silence at Gandhinagar, accepting the unavoidable with disbelief.
The accusation that many ‘EVMs were substituted’ during the vacant days will continue to haunt the Ruling Regime’s night-sleep, like how ghosts haunted Lady Macbeth’s dreams. Making ‘vote-purchasing’ an irreplaceable part of our political ethos is not a great glory. There are some who have started wondering whether Indian politicians have spent more money on their elections than their American counterparts…if everything in included. We seem to hear echoes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth “Fair is foul and foul is fair” in the hidden corners of our Subcontinent.
The maiden speech of the Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra in the Parliament was brief, but pointed. Her attack was directed against a xenophobic and divisive kind of nationalism that seemed to need the ‘construction of an enemy’ and manifested signs of fascism. She lashed out against the quasi monopoly over the mass media, fake news; disdain of intellectuals, suppression of dissent, rejection of scientific temper, and weakening of the independence of our electoral system. It is true, it is normal Opposition criticism, but it must be taken as part of the collective thinking of the nation. It cannot be ignored.
Apart from Moitra’s comments, everyone knows that the nation has been sliding downwards in very many other ways. Smart cities are becoming pollution centres and garbage repositories. Unemployment rate has risen to 6.1%. Child mortality remains high. Prices refuse to yield. Hunger stares at the faces of the poor. But the Government wants to hide these facts from public attention. They must remember: Realism alone leads to Revival. The fact is that the Government spends more money on publicity about their projects than on their implementation. A recent report showed that Rs. 3800 crores were spent on publicity alone. Independent media has no more than a vassal status in the country.
Official statistics are manufactured. Performance report is inflated. India is losing credibility with regard to its official economic data. Investors are pulling out. Certainly, it is difficult for a cow-driven mentality to look at things objectively, to discuss with foreign investors, and build confidence in bigger and creative investors. Meantime BJP as a party keeps thriving. Over 92.94% of the political donation of the corporates during 2016-18 (the pre-election period) went to the BJP. This amounted to 915.596 crore from 1,731 corporate donors. The Party prospers, the Nation withers.
Regime Changes, Toppling Governments, Bullying Vocal Leaders
“Operation Kamala” is on. As American forces go round the world effecting ‘Regime Changes,’ BJP volunteers move round the country ‘Toppling Governments.’ Today Karnataka, tomorrow MP. That is the formula. This political strategy is what has earned the name ‘poaching politics.’ Randeep Singh Surjewala of the Congress grows eloquent when he explains how “MLAs are being bought in broad day light.” The BJP has created a ‘culture of defections,’ he says, in UP, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra., Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, and Goa. He accuses the BJP of thus denigrating Indian democracy.
Meantime, Modiji stands tall totally unperturbed. He has launched a party-enrolment scheme in Varanasi to saffronise the nation. Assam has already 29 lakh members, Meghalaya 40,000, even Mizoram a few. All disgruntled elements, like unemployed youth, rejected job-seekers, high school dropouts, untalented upper castes…all have a chance to be trained to become cow-vigilantes, morality enforcers, culture defenders, and Masjid destroyers! These will be asked to give special attention to dissenting states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Dharm Yudh must go on.
As dissenting states and governments stand in danger of being toppled, dissenting voices stand threatened with legal cases. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress President, stands in court for defamation in Patna. Yechury, CPI(M) general secretary, stands in court in Mumbai equally for defamation; the case against him is filed by an RSS worker. Everyone knows that these are only Hindutva styles of harassment, intimidation, and exhausting of the defendant’s financial resources. Should such cases be even admitted? But every institution in India today is under BJP-RSS control. Their Yoga experts will control our breathing habits next! Food habits are already under their thumb. But what they are hunting after is our ‘thinking habits.’
Dissenting thinkers are doomed to be trailed, theirs houses raided, their accounts dissected. When Modiji boasted after the Balakot surgical strike, “Modi went into their homes and killed them,” little did we realize that it was in preparation of similar surgical strikes against ‘domestic dissenters’ as well. If leaders of national stature can be harassed in this manner, think of what happens to young upstarts: Dalit critics, tribal dissenters, Minority spokespersons, who are cashless and weightless…how easily they are silenced with a mighty list of cases against them. In every tussle with the Saffron squad, the victims are taken to court.
The Saffron Supremacists are not satisfied yet. They want to control young people even before they step into the field. Recently they have proposed to survey the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account of all college students, 3 crores in India. This will help the Government to profile the students in order to weed out “dissidents-anti-nationals” from pliant citizens.
Generate New Ideas, Make Space for Innovative Thinking, Produce Intellectuals
Recently Jagdish Mukhi, the Governor of Assam, addressing a group of intellectuals in Guwahati said, universities should be role models in generating new ideas, promoting innovative thinking, giving rise to intellectuals. No one can challenge that statement. But let us also admit the truth about the present situation. We are far from that ideal. We are reining in research, and seeking to silence innovative thinking.
Accepting Reality is the beginning of Revival. The present reality is described by Nobel Prize laureate Klaus von Klitzing in this manner: China is far ahead of India in research and investment. Too much of official control holds India back. So, let us make up our mind today to march away from this Painful and Ugly Reality. Nalanda and Taxila must come alive in our times.
Let the Opposition set up a “ Shadow Cabinet” like they do in the UK, following up each ministry and its initiatives, evaluating, appreciating, criticizing, suggesting, helping with their own expertise. While criticizing new ventures, let them make sure that it is not mere destructive criticism. Every good project must succeed; it is the nation that gains. If they are opposing Government proposals for good reasons, let them offer an alternative blueprint. While supporting, let them caution the government about unforeseen difficulties and possible negative side-effects. That is the role of Responsible Opposition.
Let them stand with the $5 trillion call of Modiji, or any other, insisting also on the development of human potential, expansion of intellectual capital, and growth of ‘Human Capital,’ giving absolute importance to development-oriented education. Let them encourage research not only in universities and research institutes, but also in thinkers’ clubs, panchayat libraries, trade union offices, workers’ gathering rooms, and youth clubs—in other words—encourage ‘responsible thinking’ at the highest level as well as at the lowest. Let the collective potentiality of a united nation fully awake. “Into that haven of freedom, let my country awake!” (Tagore).
(Published on 22nd July 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 30)