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A NATION IN TROUBLE

Political shenanigans carry on relentlessly. India watches the unfolding charade, aghast and amazed by the ridiculous partnerships and predictable quarrels that ensue and then engulf us and our happiness. The scene is unpalatable and senseless. This time round, the pre-election mood is upbeat, to say the least. The electorate is looking for radical change. It is not looking for weak and squabbling coalitions that spend more time blackmailing one another than on delivering goods and services. The election code of conduct will kick in any moment now and ‘work’ on new ideas or initiatives will be put on hold. Strange but true.

The result is anyone's guess. Those who emphatically pronounce from the living rooms of Delhi that the Bharatiya Janata Party will peak at 180 seats believe this at their own peril. Those who support a coalition at the Centre of the failed leaders of past decades — most of them aged, intellectually infirm and devoid of new ideas — also do so at their own peril. Jairam Ramesh, the ‘Kautilya’ of Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, is also pushing an agenda that has been spouted for years, a faulty, one-sided idea of India. Strutting about on a stage with his leader, this rajguru looks like he needs to have a shot of imagination to ignite his bank of ideas that has become dull and repetitive.

Narendra Modi takes every utterance of his opponents and turns them into dynamic slogans by adding the missing link. Taking off from Rahul Gandhi’s ‘must empower women’ chant, he announced that women had consolidated family values within the home and were now needed to participate in nation building and lead from the front. This was a good line, formulated to attract 50 per cent of voters.

Wings clipped

As he traverses the length and breadth of India, visiting areas that the BJP have not consolidated yet, he is ensuring that he makes his presence felt. Rumour has it that if Modi stands from Varanasi, committing himself to Uttar Pradesh, the eastern part of the state will swing towards the BJP. But there are many who claim that in the end, Rajnath Singh will triumph and become the leader of the National Democratic Alliance.

Travelling on Air India, the national carrier, is a national curse. In some ways, it is a carrier that carries the baggage of an inept, fumbling, mismanaged entity, unconcerned with efficiency, and representative of the complete breakdown of orderly mechanisms. AI is the symbol of this benighted, failed nation state. It is shameful that a government led by an economist did not, over a decade, ensure the privatization of this airline to save it from being maimed.

Hopefully, the new dispensation at the Centre will address the obvious problem areas and bring in correctives to ease life and living in this country. It should start with the service sector, which is easier to deliver on, and simultaneously restore the manufacturing sector, besides bringing in norms to make the real estate industry inclusive and profitable. These changes are not difficult to introduce.

If the leadership is forthright and intent, bureaucrats will fall in line and join the bandwagon of growth and change. There are bound to be babus who would play the games they have been used to playing. But if the leadership is firm and committed to being proactive, India will join in and work towards that corrective. If the new government indulges in revenge, takes up abrasive positions that are undemocratic and exclusive, polarizes people by endorsing hardline positions, India will not tolerate it for long. The country will gear up to protect the fragile idea of India that has been damaged by different parties and collectives.