More that things appear to change, more they remain the same. Over four decades ago Indira Gandhi was splitting the Congress party in the midst of an inner-party power struggle. To galvanize public opinion in her favour a series of daily meetings which I attended to observe were organized outside her residence by motley groups with the respective banners of their organizations. The demonstrators consisted largely of the same band of paid demonstrators marching under different banners. The demonstrators were supplied and led by the late Joginder Singh Dara, a leader of the Indian National Trade Unions Congress (INTUC), and a dear friend of mine. The crowd rarely exceeded five hundred people.
|India needs a revolutionary change of political culture and attitude. The leadership for that cannot come from members of the prevailing political class. Young Indians must bite the bullet
Each time Indira Gandhi would come out and address the motley bunch with her shrill vacuous speeches. The national media would play up this small daily ritualistic demonstration as proof of a great nationwide wave in her favour. After the New York Times editorially endorsed her daft populist decision to nationalize the banks – which were already under control of the government controlled Reserve Bank of India – Indira Gandhi proudly referred to that in one of her speeches. I quote from what I wrote at that time.
“Once, the day after the New York Times had praised her decision to nationalize the banks, she told her audience with pride that though her critics at home blamed her, even the big newspapers in the West had supported her actions. Quite a spectacle that, the Prime Minister of five hundred and twenty million people pleased by the certificate of good conduct presented to her by some obscure scribe in New York city.”
Doubtless in the view of American corporations ably represented by NYT bank nationalization, which rendered banks under strict control of the political class, was economically advantageous for American interests.
Well, that was four decades ago. Has anything changed? Yes. Things have got worse. Recently TIME magazine carried a cover story rubbishing the performance of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. It described him as an underachiever unable to stick his neck out to implement reforms or to curb corruption. India’s national media went to town with the story. TV channels reported the event for days. Anchors commented on it ad nauseam. Politicians cutting across parties seized on the report as an international event. The BJP gloated. The Congress responded by recalling an earlier TIME report against Atal Behari Vajpayee. Third Front leaders triumphantly quoted the report to recall the dark days of the East India Company.
For the love of God, have all our politicians and TV channels gone stark staring bonkers? Whatever TIME wrote regarding economic reforms or of corruption has been commented upon more explicitly, authoritatively and effectively by sections of Indian media. Did the politicians or the electronic media take the slightest notice of that? Of course not! The stale comments of the TIME cover story came from the Great White Father who calls the shots from abroad. Never has India’s ruling elite appeared more pathetic. Never has the state of Indian politics been more humiliating. The servile crowd that rules India talks of becoming a global power while dancing to the tune of foreigners who call the tune. Nothing could demonstrate more glaringly the intellectual slavery of India’s ruling elite that has emasculated this billion strong nation for over six decades. Is it not a time for change, a time to grow up?
There is a new generation of Indians out there which has been exposed to the Internet, to many foreign lands, to the competitiveness of ethnic rivalries and national identities worldwide. It has not been groomed solely by our former colonial masters as were their parents. They should assert themselves if they want a level playing field globally for the nation they will inherit. They should not heed protagonists of the Lokpal Bill who cannot genuinely think out of the box.
India needs a fundamental reappraisal of our political culture, of the disgusting traditions created by our venal ruling class, of what the founding fathers of our Constitution wrote and what eventually emerged. India needs a revolutionary change of political culture and attitude. The leadership for that cannot come from members of the prevailing political class. Young Indians must bite the bullet and start a political movement to establish a political party which can win elections and govern the nation. If they do not, they will suffer. There is no short cut.