Two recent events provide a faint glimmer of light from the end of the tunnel. Mr. LK Advani addressed his party workers in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Rahul Gandhi addressed businessmen at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Consider what each leader said and then assess the only realistic way in which their respective sentiments can in fact be translated into reality.
Mr. Advani was obviously responding to the overtures made by Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav while addressing party workers at Chitrakoot in India’s largest state. He recalled the ties that had been established between the late Ram Manohar Lohia who is the inspiration for Mr. Yadav’s party and the late Deen Dayal Uppadhyaya who was arguably the most distinguished ideologue of the BJP’s parent party, Jan Sangh. In order to do that history compelled Mr. Advani to dwell on the most basic issue that had cemented the ties between the two departed leaders.
Lohia and Uppadhyaya made a joint declaration after the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 that India and Pakistan should form a confederation. Mr. Yadav’s party is already committed to this proposal. Readers would recall that I have taxed their patience endlessly by reiterating the crucial importance of realizing this objective. It is heartening that Mr. Advani, even though reviving this formulation very belatedly, perhaps in pursuance of limited short term objectives, has nevertheless decided to do so. This in my view is the prime goal required for removing suspicion and hostility between Hindus and Muslims in India as well as in the rest of South Asia. It is the key for realizing the real political and economic potential of this subcontinent. It is essential for reclaiming the cultural nationalism of people in our region. It is the way of reclaiming our true identity.
Addressing businessmen at CII Mr. Gandhi made a long speech recalling his personal experiences through his travels across the nation in an effort to acquaint himself with the ethos of the Indian people. His conclusion was that without a totally inclusive system, without all segments of society getting together, without a united national effort, India cannot achieve the required goal of playing its rightful global role. Readers would recall that this idea too has been frequently voiced in these columns. Suggestions have been made by this writer about how political coalitions can be converted into proper federations to allow cohesive and purposeful governance to carry this nation forward. One is gladdened by the fact that two important leaders of India’s leading national parties are addressing similar views.
However, the question remains. How might these fine sentiments voiced by Mr. Advani and Mr. Gandhi be translated into reality? Mr. Advani has endorsed through hints the unification of South Asia through confederation. Mr. Gandhi wants unification of India through a national consensus to achieve progress. Both views are not conflicting but complementary. But do these views reflect genuine resolve or a lot of hot air for media sound bytes? If both leaders are sincere will they put their money where their mouths are? If they are prepared they should also heed a third bit of advice often iterated in these columns.
Before unifying India and South Asia how about first unifying the Congress and the BJP as a purposive, stable government that delivers governance and an agenda? If indeed the situation within the nation and internationally is so critical as to warrant calls for unity, is it not time that the people be afforded a national consensus government that might pull this nation out of the hole it has dug itself into? Why cannot leaders of the Congress and BJP sit together and formulate a common agenda open for all regional parties to accept in order to create a truly national government that within five years might transform this nation’s future? There are no serious economic, foreign policies or strategic differences that divide both parties.
The people of India are ready and waiting. Sections of civil society are already talking of launching India’s second freedom struggle. Our politicians should ask them to wait. India has not yet won even its first freedom struggle.