India celebrated the 60th Anniversary of its Independence from British rule this week. India at 60 stands poised to enter the top league of global players by virtue of its remarkable sustained rates of economic growth and its other potential power attributes that still have not been tapped by its political class.
At such a solemn moment in India's history thoughts naturally go out to ascertain as to where credit must be given for India's stupendous rise and the progress it has made so far. In this direction some contextual points need to be made before I begin my political reflections. Some of the contextual points that I would like to make are as follows:
1. India's phenomenal economic growth and progress has been made possible due to the vision, determination and perseverance of India's industrialists, entrepreneurs, businessmen and business professionals. They achieved it despite poor governance and archaic economic policies of its political class.
2. The Congress Party cannot claim it either because for most of its fifty years of its rule it was dominated by its ruling political dynasty who took great pride in being committed to socialistic pattern of economy and its allied economic philosophy of state control and outsized but unproductive public sector enterprises.
3. It took a non-dynastic Congress Coalition Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao to give a total U-turn to India's economic and foreign policies and put India on the fast track to progress. It was Narasimha Rao who made India unbound from the Congress Party's outdated policies and pushed India into a surge towards its quest for greatness.
Thereafter the political dispensations that have followed including the Congress could not politically afford to lose the impetus provided by Narasimha Rao. Those who maintain that it is Dr Manmohan Singh who is the architect of India's economic liberalization are wrong. The courage of conviction to do so and the vision was provided by Prime Minister Rao. Dr Singh like a good bureaucrat, that he was, translated Rao's policies into action.
Politically, India at 60 presents a bleak landscape when one surveys the political scene and the actors that dominate the scene. While the rest of India is on a high to transform India with a marked streak of nationalism, India's political class is moving in a reverse gear and at cross-purposes with the mood prevalent in India. Now for the political reflections on India at 60.
India today has no political statesmen or political leaders who qualify for or command public respect or affection. India no longer has the likes of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose or Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel or Dr Rajendra Prasad. They were towering personalities who outshone Nehru too. It is a different question that Mahatma Gandhi's personal likeness for Nehru made him nominate Nehru as his political heir. The 'nomination principle' set in motion lasts till now. India at 60 presents a 'power troika' at the apex of a President, a Congress President and a Prime Minister who in no way are distinguished or have the political substance to lead India to great power status. India at 60 moves on despite them.
The second political reflection that hits the mind is the abysmal depths to whish India's political class has fallen into in terms of moral turpitude and political corruption. Nothing exemplified it more than that on the 60th Independence Day India came to learn that in the infamous Bofors case the Italian businessman Quatrochhi who was arrested in Argentina for extradition to India was allowed to go scot-free as India's Law Minister from the Congress Party, is reported to have signed orders not to appeal.
It was the second time that the Law Minister had officially interfered in this infamous case favoring the absconder; earlier he had allowed the defreezing of his accounts in London. Who is being protected? Who is seriously interested that Quatrocchi should not reach India for questioning?
Political debates in India whether inside the Parliament or outside are no longer civilized. The violence that is on display in the Parliament and the Legislatures is reflective of the type of criminalized polity that has entered India's mainstream polity. They reach there because India's middle class has not politically empowered itself and that permits the electoral distortion that is creating havoc on the political fabric of India.
Politics in India today is not an avenue for those who wish to transform India towards greatness. Politics has been converted into family concerns for perpetuation of personal power and physical and financial security. It has become a hereditary profession on the argument by politicians that if a doctor's son can become a doctor what is wrong with a politician's son becoming a politician? What is forgotten is that doctors and other professionals take four to five years to qualify whereas politician's progeny become politicians overnight.
In the panel discussions and interviews that were conducted live by prominent Indian TV shows one thing that emerged abundantly clear was that the young generation of India rejects secularism as projected and patronized by India's political class and so also OBC reservations. Young Indians maintained that for centuries Hindus and Muslims had stayed alongside each other with mutual tolerance till 1947 and even thereafter. What therefore was the need for Indian politicians to invent secularism in free India. It was only a political invention to garner minority vote-banks.
The political class in India today seems to live in a state of denial. They would like to believe that whatever India is today is because of their genius because the coterie of sycophants that they surround themselves with make them believe so. If only they knew what the new India and the young India feels about them? There is nothing but contempt for them.
One could endlessly continue this litany against India's political class because there is so much wrong with them. What is their future in the Indian scheme of things where they are out of step with an India which is embracing modernity and economic transformation?
By current indications the political class in India is unlikely to transform itself as it is too busy in amassing fortunes by corrupt means and totally engrossed in their political chicanery. The India that is on the move has no time for their policies of casteism and minority appeasement. While they rigidly stick on to their fixations, India's politicians would make one thing certain and that is that they will increasingly render themselves 'irrelevant' and 'redundant' in resurgent India's calculus for India's transformation.