Whither Indian politics? The question is not one of whether it is going right or left. For a complex developing polity like ours, what matters is a balanced march to keep the nation going on in a desired direction. Are we failing our people at the grassroots on this count? How come?
As it is, the Indian system has got crystallized around two seemingly opposite political, ideological and opportunistic pulls. On the one hand, the stress has been on cooperation and consensus. On the other hand, we see the nation-building exercise by the BJP regime towards a Hindu-oriented integration in the polity, apparently in view of the country’s long history of political fragmentation and disunity.
This trend has unleashed competitive politics between fragmented opposition parties in the States and at the Centre. The plight of the Congress on its leadership issue has made things worse.
Voices of dissent against the ruling groups, rightly or wrongly, give the impression that Narendra Modi’s ruling establishment is taking the country towards one party authoritarian rule. That is not desirable for our democratic polity which has not yet forgotten Indira Gandhi’s Emergency Chakra which was able to silence the opposition leaders and voices of dissent by those who governed then in the name of the people. What was then witnessed was “irrational power of the formless mass”, as Walter Lippman once described it.
My intention here is not to point an accusing finger at Prime Minister Modi. He comes out as a development-oriented democratic leader, especially keeping his latest triple mantra of Sabka saath, Sabka Vikaas and Sabka Vishwas. Could this be a tall order? I keep my fingers crossed.
A complex polity like ours does not live on mantras alone. Otherwise, with the rich treasure of our historical Vedas and their lessons, we would have been on the top of the world in all areas of high thinking and intricacies of statecraft. Take the Chanakya Niti. It would have guided our rulers to take the country to the Supreme Position had they cared to read and follow Chanakya’s creed and ethos. No point in shedding tears. I believe most of our power-puffed leaders lacked national vision and seem to get delinked from the changing ground realities.
My regret is that the political parties today are mostly guided by vote-and-note-bank politics. When winning elections and capturing power becomes the sole objective of all political activity, it is but natural to see the play of money games and acts of violence. Just look at the recent disquieting events in Karnataka, Goa and some other states. They are caught in the politics of defection and money greed in today’s black money economies. This may be difficult to prove. But “hidden facts” speak a lot.
Let me recall the anti-defection law. The “Aaya Ram Gaya Ram” phrase was coined in 1967 after Haryana MLA Gaya Ram changed parties thrice on the same day. The thrust of the anti-defection law was to prevent such political defections which may be due to reward of office or similar considerations. The 10th Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 which spelt out the process by which legislators may be disqualified.
I am not going into the question of when an MLA can be disqualified. Such provisions are well spelt out and are quite well known in the corridors of power. However, politics these days is run by the “sab chalta hai” mentality. In the circumstances, who cares for ethics and principles?
In fact, the record of Indian politics has been one of mergers, splits, electoral alliances and defections. Of course, in Karnataka and Goa cases, one could notice the “Aya Ram” phenomenon towards the BJP’s magnetic power which seems to attract power-hungry Congress and JD(S) legislators!
Well, the quality of Indian democracy cannot be upgraded as long as double standards, hypocrisy and doublespeak rule the political thinking and action. In fact, slavish mentality cannot help the democratic process to grow on healthy lines.
Take the question of a national alternative. The Congress is on the decline, for the present, simply because it has failed to learn from its earlier mistakes. A healthy opposition alternative has to be based on clear-cut policies and programmes, not on negativism. Going the way Rahul Gandhi has conducted himself in national power politics before and after the poll verdict, I see him as an escapist from the challenges before him. His escapist attitude has created a leadership crisis for the historical party.
A seasoned Congress leader ought to be made of sterner stuff and be committed to the basic democratic values and responsibilities. No wonder, the opposition scene right now is appalling. The trouble is that most opposition leaders seem to be self-centred and wedded to personal ambitions. Perhaps, this is what makes Indian politics a fascinating force, notwithstanding the dominating presence of Prime Minister Modi in the BJP-led NDA regime.
I occasionally feel that Indian society deserves a better deal. But, at the same time, I realise that a society gets the leaders it deserves. I am not going into the question of merits or demerits of our leaders. But, I would like to say that India’s “intellectuals” hovering around the corridors of power have also contributed to confusing the people with regard to their real problems and issues for petty favours. Perhaps, they are the victims of the prevailing atmosphere in the country.
It is a hard fact that values and ethics have declined. I do not wish to blame any leader or party.
As for the people, their central concern is the nation must move forward towards a cleaner public and political life. I passionately believe that India must rediscover itself, re-building its structure a new on modern but value-based foundations. Will our leaders, irrespective of their political colour, draw certain pertinent lessons from Karnataka and Goa developments in a wider rational perspective?
It is necessary to build the national character in every segment of our society.
The moot question is: how to revive the public faith of the people in the nation’s destiny, and not get lost in the majority-minority syndrome? India has a composite culture. All its elements have to be strengthened at the grassroots.
Look at Indonesia. It is the largest Muslim country in the world. Yet its culture bears a Hindu stamp which flourishes unquestioned. Indians can also learn from the philosophy of Sufi saints. It is a pity that the people of the Kashmir Valley seem to be ignoring it. They must come out of their mental barriers and be part of the national mainstream while retaining their traditional values!