A senior journalist, in his most recent column, had quite correctly said that once the new dispensation, with a new agenda and fresh ideas for re-shaping India, is sworn in at the Centre for a five-year term, the old political establishment will be removed from its perch, taking with it the intellectual growth of the past decades. Those who were supposed to carry forth the philosophical legacy of India’s founding fathers failed to ensure probity in governmental and institutional practices and in the delivery of goods and services that are essential for a modern, liberal, inclusive nation state. They did not fight hard enough for the good of the nation. Nor did they oppose bad governance when they should have.
We are about to embark on another phase of socio-economic and political changes as well as, hopefully, rapid growth. Corruption, in all its manifestations, crippled India over the last four decades. A self-serving and (in the last five years) weak leadership compelled India’s middle class and rural youth to look towards any person or party that promised change for the better. The Congress remained mired in its own rhetoric, unwilling to see the writing on the wall. Its older leaders acted in fear of losing their grip over their power. The reality on the ground has led to a clear hostility towards the Congress for having diluted the ‘idea of India’.
The country is changing course, taking the necessary risk of experimenting with a radical change of leadership and ideology. Needless to say, the intellectual wing of the political class too will be peopled with new faces. The transition may be fraught with some pain and the nation will have to wait and see what happens with an open mind.
This is the age of information, and that in itself could be the check that ensures a balance in governance and decision-making. Some people will be isolated from positions of power. Others will be included in the new government at the Centre. The churning of the seas has begun, and hopefully, the outcome will lay down the parameters for an inclusive, progressive state.
Watching the presentation of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto was interesting because of the body language on display. Murli Manohar Joshi behaved like a dismissive, authoritarian school master. Narendra Modi let him have his say, knowing very well that the aged Joshi is at the end of his political career. The younger leaders — those in their 60s — were energetic and far more real, exuding the vitality that would be imperative for implementing the changes promised in the manifesto. The Congress reacted in the same, predictable fashion, damning even those parts of the manifesto that made sense. This robotic response has become the hallmark of the Congress, and alienates more and more people who listen to the party.
As far as the Congress is concerned, it is far too late to reverse the damage it has caused. Much like what happens in healthy democracies, it must reinvent itself for a future victory, with a fresh set of leaders and party workers. It is a great opportunity to turn the party inside out, restore its fundamental values and rewrite its operating manual, in a concerted effort to go into the future while respecting the Constitution of India and its liberal framework.
An election defeat signals a time for restructuring an ageing edifice. It helps break a particular party’s or coalition’s monopoly, reinforces democracy and celebrates the will of the people. Hurling abuses at the winners of an election is wholly unwarranted in any civilized society. We need to learn how to behave in the public domain and set the right standards for civil society.