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THAT TIME OF THE YEAR

There was a time when December heralded the year’s much-awaited fun and entertainment. There were parties, good theatre, music and dance recitals, book launches, lots of cheer and excitement as friends got together to celebrate the season. Things have changed. Delhi is today an exhausting, non-stop party, three hundred and sixty five days of the year. It has become, undoubtedly, the cultural capital and the nerve centre of all that is new and energetic, showcasing the best and the worst of an India going through the pangs of transition, learning to cope with sharp disparities and differences, having to adjust itself to a changing socio-economic ethos.

This year put India on the planet’s map as a preferred destination for vacations and travel. Our ancient and medieval cities, our traditions, our philosophies and faiths, all of which have intrigued travellers through millennia, have come into focus once again. We need to take this interest in us seriously and not reduce it to a mere money-making opportunity.

A sense of safety and comfort in the public space needs to be enforced to make India truly attractive. Pimps and beggars, harassment by taxi drivers, airport and railway employees, make the living experience nightmarish till you enter a wonderful historical site or watch a performance. Our museums are dank and unimaginative. Publications are always out of print and souvenirs are usually sub-standard. Parks are choking with litter and voyeurs looking for titillation. Public loos are unclean and smelly. Transport is broken down, dirty and unpleasant, with the single exception of the Delhi Metro. We never seem to get it right while countries across the globe have got their act together, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, ancient or newer cultures.

The strong leader

Our politics is confused and our political parties have forgotten how to embrace the people and bring about change. This has had an adverse effect on our society throwing it into not one but many crises. Corruption within the ruling establishment and the forces mandated to serve and protect civil society has corroded the fabric of our many communities, thereby forcing ordinary, good people to indulge in wrong-doing at the behest of those who are powerful and who manipulate the law. This has, in turn, adversely affected the strengths inherent in the cultural and economic layers of India.

Narendra Modi has won his election in Gujarat for the third consecutive time. He is a politician who has stood by his beliefs, spoken out and lived by them, supported all those who followed his instructions and, for that, the Gujaratis have reelected him. They deserve to get what they want and they want him. However unsavoury the victory may be for some, it reveals a truth that needs to be seriously contended with and an alternative devised that will overtake the myth and deliver more than development.

For speaking out its beliefs loud and clear for the first time, regardless of the consequences of a possible defeat, the Congress has lost for the right reasons. But it needs to build a base from scratch with hard work and zero politicking, something its top brass in Gujarat has done for yonks. Ahmed Patel has presided over a resounding defeat and needs to be put to pasture in organizational terms but challenged to fight and win a Lok Sabha election. That would send out the correct signal. Allowing unelected leaders to run and manage the organization on the ground may well be the reason for the alienation of the Congress from the political realities in many states.

People want strong leaders who deliver on their beliefs and promises. The prime minister should sign the 123 agreement, face the consequences and move forward.

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