The Opposition parties in India are having a field day denouncing the ruling United Progressive Alliance. They are trying to find substantive reasons to pull down the government, and hoping that their ‘shenanigans’ are not exposed in the process.
During the last three decades, the ageing leaders of these self-styled ‘people’s parties’ like the Samajwadi Party and the Trinamul Congress have opposed any measure and policy initiative that may take India into an exciting future as well as into the larger, real marketplace. In the age of technological advancement, it is getting more and more difficult to fool around with and manipulate the people of India.
When Rajiv Gandhi first brought about the ‘computer revolution’, Mulayam Singh Yadav vehemently opposed the move, condemned Gandhi and the Congress party in all forums, and cried hoarse about technological development being anti-people. Today, politicians cannot live without computers. The people’s leaders were also against the missions headed by Sam Pitroda that were mandated to take India into the larger world — one of which set up the first lot of public call offices across rural districts to connect the farmer to the mandi and to help eliminate the greedy middleman who is in cahoots with the politician. Today, the people’s leaders all sport cell phones. This is hypocrisy at its best.
A new-generation Indian, looking to improve his or her lot, wanting to compete in the marketplace and showcase the best skills and practices, has been constrained because of redundant rules and regulations, faulty and archaic policies, repressive bureaucracies and malgovernance. One has to hear the absurd diatribes of aged and often infirm leaders, all in a bid to maintain the debilitating status quo, in a determined effort to prevent fresh, untested but exciting ideas and initiatives from being introduced into a stagnant reality.
If the Congress wants to step out of its present avatar, it merely needs to juxtapose the words and intent of the Mulayam Singhs of the world with Indira Gandhi’s efforts to modernize India. She was criticized for forcing the entry of colour television; Rajiv Gandhi for modernizing processes and methodologies, for establishing the foundations of connectivity in the age of information technology; P.V. Narasimha Rao for starting the restructuring of the command economy into a liberalized marketplace; Sonia Gandhi and UPA I for consciously enforcing inclusive growth within the parameters of a free market economy as well as establishing the right to information.
Much still needs to be done. Laws need to be written to address new realities. Tax and other such laws that affect the citizens in daily life need to be revised to deal with changed societal realities. Many laws that have remained unchanged since the colonial times need to be disbanded altogether. Administrative reforms compelling stringent action against government servants who operate against the norms of transparency and accountability need to be initiated and made to work. Police and judicial reforms need to be brought into play. This will begin to break the ominous nexus between the administration and the political class.
The UPA can fast-track much of this and more, to show that it means business. The track record of the Congress party under various leaders can set an example in favour of change and modernization. The party machinery needs to present ideas and initiatives that will accelerate further growth and change. Sadly, the ‘machine’ lies corroded and bereft of fresh thinking, plagued by a lack of engagement with the intelligentsia, the academia and cultural practitioners. It needs to be revived and reinvented.