Will the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance dispensation at the Centre use this moment in time to cleanse themselves, rectify faulty decisions and speed up what needs to be done to restore growth, peace, pride and change? Had the prime minister asserted his ‘inner self’ and refused to condone all that goes against his instinct, ignoring the horrors of ‘coalition constraints’, he could have had all of India on his side. This is far more critical for the survival of the Congress than the ‘helping hand’ of either Mamata, Mulayam or anyone else. High-handed, corrosive and extortionist politics needs to be rejected and the people of India ought to be told about the plan of action and asked to participate in the change in trajectory.
Reaching out and engaging with India are critical. The people of this country, cutting across caste and creed, faith and language, want to listen and be heard. They want to participate in the nation-building exercise. Elected representatives have failed them as they are only concerned with their personal elevation. Alternative candidates of quality and intellect, with commitment and passion, are few. Professionals in India do not want to enter the corrupt quagmire of Indian politics. The choices are abysmal, and this is what accounts for the degraded political and administrative governance of India. Politicians and babus manipulate and twist the system for short-term survival. This has demeaned and destroyed a potentially buoyant India.
The Congress president as well as the prime minister are perceived as clean, well-intentioned patriots. They can turn the wheel if they decide accordingly. The grand old party can reinvent itself while the Opposition continues to grope for its true identity. A polarized ideology can never survive in a pluralist, dynamic and restless culture such as ours. Right-wing conservatives, propagators of Hindutva and left-wing rhetoric gain ground because the party that represented the whole of India has let the nation down.
Each time the Congress decides to ‘do’ its work in a selfless manner, its opponents lose percentage points in voting patterns. If the mother of all parties wakes up and takes charge, millions of Indians may well join the crusade. A new generation, unscathed by the Partition, free of policy pressures and restrictions that came with the building of the foundations of a new democratic nation, is waiting impatiently to fulfil its aspirations with a sense of pride and belonging.
To let this generation down by citing the excuse of coalition dharma is unforgivable. Minority governments have survived in India. Work the political system to sustain the march forward; tell the people of the ridiculous constraints that have tied the ruling party in knots; ask them for their firm support at the hustings; tell the truth of what is happening; be fearless as leaders of this great civilization. It is an honour to rule India, and India needs to be respected and cared for.
To risk the gaddi is selfless politics and service. To hang on to the chair and abuse values, ethics and integrity are untenable. Surely the UPA wants to win the next election. Or are Congress leaders resting in the belief that whatever grouping comes to power, it will last for a short while and their party will return with a formidable mandate thereafter? It is this kind of thinking that has debilitated the mother of all parties. A limited, insular vision and a mindset that prioritizes wheeling and dealing over the delivery of goods and services have suffocated the party.
Manmohan Singh has a final opportunity to ‘bell the cat’ and with Sonia Gandhi revive the sagging skin of the Congress and the UPA.