Today, on January 3, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has threatened to address the nation through a press conference — a rare and unusual announcement. India is the only democracy where the leader of the nation hardly ever communicates with the people, much like some of the potentates of yore who looked down upon their subjects and felt they could rule from up there without any engagement with those on the ground below. The fate of millions would thereby be decided by a coterie of the chosen few. This is not in keeping with the spirit of democracy.
The arrogance of silence, of not wanting to address the people and redress their grievances, has driven the Congress into a corner where Indians across the layers of this complex polity are rejecting the great umbrella party of Gandhi, Patel and Nehru. Once, in the not so distant past, this party had embraced diversity and survived for over a century because of its engagement with the people. It now faces rejection for ignoring the central ingredient of a liberal, modern democracy.
Because the prime minister hardly ever speaks to India, does not travel within the country to meet and talk to his constituencies, and is abroad very often, the announcement of a press conference is invariably met with wild speculation. The prime question is being asked whether he has seen the writing on the wall and decided to gracefully resign, before the Congress meeting on January 17. India has moved away dramatically from the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government. The latter has had a tenure ridden with scams, half-truths, inappropriate decisions, lack of good governance and bad practice. The ageing gentry that rules the Congress, and therefore India, is no longer acceptable to the people. Both Bharat and India, rural and urban, are looking for proactive politics and good governance.
Will the prime minister hand over the baton today, or will we have to listen to a lacklustre, predictable monotone? It may reinforce the inclination to dump the Congress and vote for change, whatever that change may be in the short, medium and long term. The Congress has forced India to veer towards a dictatorial regime. Many traditional Congress voters, true liberals, are determined to vote against the party this time, in the hope that correctives will kick in, that the new regime will cease to be a polarizing factor and instead be liberal. History has shown that sentiment is a dangerous thing.
The Congress, in its most recent avatar, has betrayed India and its democratic structure by indulging in corrupt practices in every area of civil society as well as in decision-making and governance. If the party hopes to retain some semblance of dignity after its probable defeat in the upcoming general elections, a fresh face with the courage to discard all colleagues involved in wrong and crooked deals needs to address India now, today.
The Adarsh scandal, regardless of who is involved in it and who is not, must be exposed. The new Congress face must perform this duty in order to show India that the party means business when it speaks of cleansing its operations. If some senior leaders have to be prosecuted because of this, so be it. The party must follow this rule on all such exposés, without exception. Only then will India stop and look at the Congress again.
It is very tough to turn the course back after a betrayal of spirit. All the good work is forgotten when corruption — lies and half-truths, arrogance and high-handed behaviour — rules the roost. History is replete with such examples. A radical, immediate change of guard, a rebooting, is imperative for progress.