Delhi’s new Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal on the day he was sworn into office said: “Harsh Vardhan is a good man… I appeal to all Congress and BJP leaders that if your really feel what we are doing is good for the nation, forget your party and join our struggle.”
Even as Mr. Kejriwal extended an olive branch to his main rival, BJP leader Mr. Harsh Vardhan, let it be understood what the avowed aim of Aam Admi Party (AAP) struggle is. It is to make democracy participatory, transparent and corruption free. AAP leaders claim that theirs is basically a movement. Who can quarrel with it? But if the implications of Mr. Kejriwal’s invitation are to be taken to their logical end, what should be the result?
Mr. Kejriwal wants to change the nation’s political culture and unite the people. Mr. Narendra Modi wants to speed up development to make India into a global power. Mr. Rahul Gandhi wants to reform and change the system. All three goals are complementary and not contradictory. Is not the logic of Mr. Kejriwal’s invitation then to create a national consensus government? If that is the unspoken intention it is only welcome. The creation of such a government is imperative.
With all due respect none of the three protagonists can even remotely realize their declared objectives unless there are drastic systemic reforms. Over and above the micro reforms being talked about what the nation needs is a systemic overhaul without which good governance will continue to elude us despite the best efforts of Mr. Modi, Mr. Gandhi or Mr. Kejriwal.
What might be these basic fundamental reforms required to make progress?
Without two major fundamental political reforms India will never achieve good governance or national greatness, however competent a Prime Minister might be. The first reform relates to the integrity of our democratic system. The second relates to our identity as a nation. As often written our Constitution was subverted from day one due to the whims of Jawaharlal Nehru. Our written Constitution does not replicate the Westminster system of governance as obtains in Britain. Our first President Rajendra Prasad and Nehru disputed this. Unfortunately Nehru prevailed. Now the need is for India to reclaim its Constitution by reinterpreting it and by following it in letter and spirit. Our distorted interpretation of the Constitution and neglect of several of its key provisions precludes all possibility of an effective executive which might administer the nation. The President’s role, the establishment of an Inter State Council to demarcate federal responsibility, and the introduction of genuine Panchayati Raj allowing for rational decentralization of power as specified in the Constitution will have to be revised if we ever seek effective governance.
The late BR Ambedkar clearly stated that our Constitution allows appropriate and active roles to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers as well as to the President and Governors of States. In that sense our Constitution is closer to the French than to the British system. Clearly such revision of the prevalent political system based upon the written provisions of the Constitution cannot be implemented just by government but would require endorsement by Parliament.
The second fundamental reform relates to loss of national identity. For centuries the people of this region were known as Hindustanis inhabiting what was Hindustan. Even the Prophet Mohammed had made reference to Hind. In 1947 Hindustan was partitioned into Bharat and Pakistan. Ever since then we have degenerated into Hindus and Muslims, Forward castes and Backward castes, Sunnis and Shiites, Tamils and Biharis – fragmented into innumerable small religious, linguistic and ethnically divided groups. Instead of ending caste based reservation after the first ten years as specified in the Constitution we extended it to include more than 3000 new castes over and above the original reservation beneficiaries, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
With loss of identity there is loss of national purpose. That is why our system has become distorted.
State governments dictate foreign policy and the central government interferes in state subjects. To reclaim the spirit of Hindustan we will have to reclaim our national identity and ethos by undoing the spirit though not the legality of the Partition. This can be accomplished by recreating Hindustan in the avatar of a South Asian Union allowing free movement of goods and peoples across borders between India and Pakistan, between India and Bangladesh, India and Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, India and Bhutan and between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The European Union presents a model to emulate.
These two fundamental reforms are a historic necessity if the region is ever to progress and occupy its rightful place in world affairs. To realize these all the political parties and peoples must unite through a movement of national rejuvenation. That is why for a period of at least five years a national consensus government is imperative.
How can it come about?
The Congress is in decline and in crisis. AAP is yet a fledgling organization although it might have caught the nation’s imagination. The BJP remains the front runner for the general election of 2014. Clearly the responsibility to initiate moves for a consensus dialogue among parties and groups devolves upon BJP President Mr. Rajnath Singh. Can he with his senior party colleagues rise above current politics and take the long term view of national interest? Can they look beyond the 2014 election to the nation’s future national interest and act?
To resolve contentious issues of corruption a voluntary disclosures scheme would have to be introduced and the observance of zero tolerance towards corruption practiced thereafter. Political conduct is as much damaged by the system as it damages the system. An entire class of tainted politicians cannot be replaced. But inspired by a common goal it can be reformed. It is time Indians stop fighting among themselves and unite to face the world.
One is sure this proposal will be dismissed out of hand as being wildly impractical and utopian. But readers would recall that this writer for years has been advocating a peaceful democratic revolution for India’s revival. Indeed they must be chafing over the recycling of these oft repeated ideas. In August 2010 I wrote:
“Given the deteriorating conditions today it is possible that people in even high places might feel desperate enough to help. The mass of people are already desperate enough to frequently take the law into their own hands in violent protest. All this despair needs to be channeled constructively. A legitimate democratic revolution can exploit the communication and information opportunities provided by the 21st century.”
In July 2013 I wrote:
“For India to realize its potential the nation needs beyond reform a peaceful democratic revolution. Perhaps the hope of achieving this is utopian.”
After the Arab Spring I wrote that a similar democratic revolution must also come to India. The idea of this happening was dismissed out of hand. Can it be denied that today the hope and desire for change that has swept across the nation makes such a peaceful revolution possible? When the time for an idea comes, nobody can stop it. Therefore one urges India’s leaders to rise to the occasion and seize the moment. They can make 2014 India’s year of destiny.