There are times when the nation rears for action, straining at the leash. It wants to move forward and that, too, swiftly. The leadership of the nation has to understand, guide and push the masses onward.
That was the mood of the nation in the Forties and Fifties when radicalism and the leftist movement attracted millions of youth. The phase continued into the Seventies. The socialistic pattern of society and “garibi hatao” slogans embodied the spirit of the times. Although the nation did move forward under the banners, there was still scope for more to be achieved.
That period came to a close with the defeat of Jayaprakash Narayan’s “total revolution”. The year was 1980, when Indira Gandhi gained a clear electoral victory. Her slogan was “I will give you a government that works”. Her other slogan was, “Na jath par, na paath par, Indiraji ki baath par mohar lagayee haath par” (Not on the basis of caste, nor on the basis of area, but on the call of Indiraji put your stamp on the hand) rallied the masses.
The nation responded with a massive endorsement of her leadership. In many ways this was a more significant verdict than the massive victory in 1977, and the later electoral sweep of Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 following her as sassination. The people wanted Indira Gandhi back in 1980 because they saw in it the possibility of the restoration of governance. It was a vote for stability and a respite from the turbulence of the total revolution. Her style was to evoke mass support for her through her charisma and also to use the power of her office to generate public support for her and her government. The process of revolution had been different before. The mass mood had been created be fore the challenge was mounted on the existing power structure. The call for struggle had then been issued and the Congress had taken the movement to the masses.
When the nation-state was established, Jawaharlal Nehru advanced the national revolution by giving the people the goal of a socialistic pattern of society. The supporting steps were the five year plan, the placing of the public sector on the commanding heights of the economy, cooperation with the Soviet Union and a non-aligned foreign policy.
The move forward was cut short by the Congress’s move to unconstitutionally topple the Kerala government in 1959 and more so, by the Chinese aggression in 1962. The point to be emphasised is that despite the overwhelming support that he enjoyed in the country, Nehru proceeded with caution, always taking the masses into confidence and encouraging their active participation in the process of socio-economic transformation.
The masses today certainly do want a change in their lives but in different ways, depending on their socio-economic status. At the same time, there has been a growing desire to define our national identity. Unity through diversity is still a dictum that is broadly accepted, but there is a question of whether there is a need for greater coherence. Such questions have been heightened by the threats of communalism. A scientific temper cannot cohabit with fundamentalism. It therefore does not fit in with the present mood of the people. Yet communalism can be combated only by proving the incompatibility between religion and communalism. This is essential to carry forward the process of the modernization in India.
The approach to communalism has also to be the same when it comes to the broader political and socio-economic questions. The Congress has to understand that since it is the largest party of India, it has to occupy the vast space at the centre. It has to remain a Centrist party, and nei ther veer to the left nor the right. The unity of the nation can be maintained by gradually changing the balance within it, by making it more democratic.This will not prove to be an easy job to accomplish, but it not might be too difficult either.