There is much talk in the media about whether Rahul Gandhi is going to stand for the top job in government or not. This kind of speculation seems futile and utterly unnecessary at this juncture in which we should be trying to ensure that the incumbent government, which has one more year to go, makes some substantial interventions that will position India for a smooth take off at a difficult moment. It seems clear for the time being that Rahul Gandhi has taken charge of an old and frayed Congress, and is determined to bring about a revamp of its machinery and management. The change can neither happen overnight nor can the results of that restructuring be palpable immediately. It is time we rejected quick-fix solutions to fundamental problems. The time has come for the media to get serious about reporting and analysing such restructuring without being bombastic, cynical or dismissive.
The constant loud badgering from the electronic media in particular pushes all serious problems and their possible solutions to a dark background. Superficiality prevails and sound bites dumb down the viewers. Anchors and television operators have been spoilt by all those men and women who are dying to be seen on the small screen because it does good to their egos. This same media have already pitch-forked Narendra Modi into the prime minister’s throne and are thereby compelling his rhetoric to peak well before time! When the Congress begins to speak out a few months before the election date, its rhetoric will be far fresher and will probably ‘stick’.
Voters, constituents and the people of India do not want to have the immediate past bandied about. They would rather get a clear picture of what the future holds for them and for the country if one of the two major coalitions or even one of the two national parties is to win. There is no party speaking about the basic changes that need to kick in. The leaders are not saying what they intend to do in the realm of laws and acts, which determine virtually all economic and social activity, and most of which have been rendered redundant in India circa 2013: in the area of education, health, housing; in the larger social sector; in foreign policy, particularly that concerning our immediate neighbours.
An agenda for India is something that has been thought through and spoken about for decades by different sets of intellectuals, think- tanks and institutions. The political class has been arrogant in its disregard for such ideas and initiatives. It has, over the years, retreated into a self-serving mould where the lack of intellectual oxygen has stunted the growth of an already old and corroding system.
The present conditions of the nation are ripe for a renaissance. The national political stage is empty, waiting for a strong, liberal, intelligent, committed, selfless and thoughtful main player. There is no better time than this to step out of the immediate past and march into the future through a living, speaking person whom India can identify with and risk voting for.
Till we sit around a table and look again at the Constitution, at the processes of our parliamentary democracy within our federal framework, at issues such as whether we need to introduce proportionate representation into our electoral system, and so on, the first sane step would be to pit two opposing leaders against each other, via the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and go to the polls for the Lok Sabha. A careful distribution of tickets must ensue now. There must be a shadow cabinet to craft a first-rate team, post election, that will provide the much needed impetus for new ideas and efficient governance.