As I write this, Narendra Modi is orchestrating the swearing-in of his cabinet. The capital has been secured as heads of state of the Saarc nations fly in to attend the open-air spectacle at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The event is being held with elaborate fanfare to herald a mandate that has given the Bharatiya Janata Party a clear victory. Consequently, the BJP did not require any help to get to the majority in Parliament. This has happened after years of rule by coalition governments at the Centre. These regimes explained away inaction by citing the ‘compulsions’ of coalition politics. India had had enough of such excuses to defend faulty governance and incompetence.
Such disconnected and dismissive politics plagued UPA I and II, wherein all ears were perpetually sealed and the main doors closed and protected by partymen who interpreted truth and reality on the basis of their own whims. By choosing to listen to only what they wanted to hear, they crippled the party and its government, maiming it for life in its present avatar. Even today, it is the same back-room boys who are continuing to alienate their own in a toxic manner. Sadly, they are being allowed to do so. It seems to be business as usual for the Congress that continues to be in supreme denial. A strong, single Opposition party and an equally formidable party in the treasury benches are essential for democratic stability and growth in India. The wasted years of opportunistic coalition politics that was based on vote banks and characterized by the exploitation of the underprivileged have injured the Indian polity. The Congress remained unwilling to hear the bitter truth. Its leaders drew comfort from the cordon of isolation that was manipulated by insecure and discredited partymen and women who have buried their heads in the sand even during these changing times. Not only was the party damaged, Indian democracy was also challenged.
The air in New Delhi is a heady mix of political gossip. The people whose existence depended on the sinecures dispensed by the previous dispensation are running to find new connections that they can describe as old friendships. Will the heads of institutions who were in positions of power in the earlier regime put in their papers with dignity? Their brittle veneers have fallen off, even as these ‘activists’ work on their survival strategies. Professionals who are willing to learn from the unfolding new realities are being damned by these outgoing ‘pros’ who gave themselves all manner of titles and accolades. No one questioned them even as they preened on the capital stage.
Then there are the scattered politicians who have gone into hiding. But they remain arrogant and abrasive as they had been when the muck hit the surface some years ago. The refrain of their friends and families that the ‘poor things don’t have a home in Delhi’ has begun to assault the senses. Surely they too can do what the rest of India does — rent a house, work hard and earn a living. The ‘right’ to live off the State needs to be cremated. India has had more than its share of exploitative babus who have underperformed for decades. If the new government gets the babu to work and remain accountable, the resultant impact will be energizing. This class of administrators, with a few exceptions, abandoned good governance faster than the elected rulers who have ignored their responsibilities. A new government has taken office. New aspirations have risen. India needs to be saluted for its entrepreneurial strengths which must be empowered by norms that would facilitate and not debilitate. We wait and watch and hope for inclusive change and growth.