The Telegraph
Friday , April 4 , 2014


The single most distressing fact in present-day India is that political discourse has been reduced to slanging matches. It is like a cacophony created by selfish, uncaring, non-committal individuals who, in the absence of any other skill or passion, have joined politics because no other profession would have them. Apart from some of the senior national leaders who are driven by public engagement, and who hope to bring about social and economic change in India, most of the people’s ‘representatives’ no longer symbolize the values and aspirations of this nation.

In 1977, a new government that professed to believe in consensus and democracy came together in opposition to the horrors of the Emergency. India had thrown the dictatorial regime out of power peacefully and by democratic means. It was clear then that this country, with its diversity and plurality, dignity and self-confidence, was not one to endure authoritarianism. This nuanced civilization which is made up of many cultures, philosophies, faiths and ideas, cannot buckle under ruthlessness. Its greatest strength is its intrinsic ability to deal with the myriad problems it goes through to emerge even stronger as an entity.

Today we are witnessing the prelude to an election which could yield unpredictable results. Coalitions could be cobbled together, and some would last for a few months while others could last some years. No serious political collective that could serve the country well in a liberal, democratic manner is in the offing.

Gut feeling

The Congress will not win a decisive majority, but could, if the unexpected happens, lead a coalition of sorts. India does not want to relive the last five years, especially the inept governance, corruption and nepotism that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is best known for. What seems definite though, is that the Bharatiya Janata Party will be ahead of all the others in terms of the number of seats won, but a clear majority will still be elusive. The infighting in the BJP, owing to the unwillingness of old, infirm leaders to give up their high posts, has bruised the party’s chances of a decisive victory.

My assumptions are based on instinct and a perception that comes from travelling to other parts of north India, and from talking to people across this country incessantly. There is no doubt about the support of the urban middle class for Narendra Modi. This has created a faction in the BJP that is seen to oppose him and his strong-arm politics. However, in the end it is possible that the will of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shall prevail. I was amazed to hear the things that the former BJP veteran, Jaswant Singh, had to say about the party. Why was he not so vocal when he belonged to the BJP? Surely values and beliefs live on regardless of whether you are being celebrated or shunned.

Why must tickets to fight elections be allotted on the basis of mere sentiment? Singh moved regularly from one constituency to another when he could have nurtured one and made it an example of success and good entrepreneurship. Why is it so difficult to pass the baton on and so easy to be selfish? This is not the message that respected leaders of the past would have wanted to pass on to the current crop of politicians.

India is a vibrant and energetic democracy. Will the people choose a greedy government that pulls all directions except the one that goes towards unity, growth and dignity, or an authoritarian one? Either way, the nation is agile enough to experiment, support the unknown, and reject whatever it believes will destroy the dignity that comes with liberty, fraternity and true freedom of thought and expression.