Looking back on this year, what hits home hard is the transparent degradation of the Indian electronic media that seem to have lost the plot completely. On television channels which bombard Indian homes, the anchors either bay for the blood of the people who stand accused — without trial or conviction — or bury truths about untoward accidents involving family members of powerful shareholders who own media companies. Anchors often brutally attack companies and institutions on their shareholding patterns et al, but never examine their own organizations, their loans and NPAs. The ethics of journalism, as my generation knew them, have changed unrecognizably. A partisan reality dominates an area that should have been free of bias. This major pillar of democracy has been mutilated on account of greed and intellectual lethargy.
The other major development has been the overwhelming distrust and anger against the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, for the corrosive processes they nurtured and consolidated in their favour over decades. Faulty and corrupt delivery mechanisms were also protected by these parties and their administrations. This collective desperation to render dignity to everyday life resulted in the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party. Whether the AAP is any different from the rest will be revealed over time. However, its birth symbolizes a definite need for change and reformation from the high-handed arrogance of the average leadership that has been accused of corrupt decision-making.
The advent of Narendra Modi within a divided BJP is another phenomenon that reached giddy heights this year. Modi is an icon that draws masses in political rallies, be they in Patna, Benaras, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai or Chennai. It seems that the BJP is merely Modi’s vehicle or vahan. No other face dominates the politicalscape at the present. That has been the failure of the other parties and coalitions that have failed to throw up a consensual candidate who can challenge this craze for Modi.
The clear polarization is a deviation from the recent past. The analysts and pundits who are examining the political scene through their old lenses, unwilling to accept that they may be wrong in their assessment, have come up with predictable explanations on the basis of the number game to suggest that there is no Modi effect. The ground reality is clearly different, and being in denial about Modi’s growing impact only helps his juggernaut move on without obstacles.
Senior leaders of the Congress, who had accepted that there would be electoral losses, however, were not prepared for the debacle that took place. To regroup radically, because ‘radical’ is the key word here, is near impossible before India goes to the polls. But if the Congress is to make an impact five years down the line, it needs a radical overhaul to reinvent itself. Aging leaders need to be replaced with fresh faces. A new, transparent model must be put in place and a culture of open engagement ushered in. The rigid cordons need to be severed forever because the world has changed.
Think and speak; look and see; hear and listen; encourage dissension because through those debates emerge fresh ideas, approaches and initiatives as well as intellectual clarifications. Will the Indian political class rise to the occasion and cleanse the defective operating systems or will it continue to wallow in the mire? Will it fight for freedom of thought, knowledge and action? Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind is Without Fear” needs to become the modern anthem of a new India.