Nine hundred million people in India will soon cast their vote in the world’s largest democratic exercise. The two top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi will most likely ensure that incumbent Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returns to power.
The problem with the Indian National Congress (INC) party is every time it speaks about the future, it’s always about its past. This has become such a part of their psyche they barely see it. Yet another generation of bright young women and men have fallen by the wayside because their President Rahul Gandhi must not be overtaken even after he decimated the party in 2014. He announced recently that he was willing to be the next PM of India under a grand coalition umbrella only to find coalition leaders folding their umbrellas and fleeing. If politics is the art of survival, the disintegration of the grand alliance gets first prize.
Prime Ministerial hopeful Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi have already made one critical mistake – they have consolidated their enemies, a mistake even a rookie strategist does not make. But, here’s the take – since there is no separation between personal friends and foes of the Gandhi family and that of the party, they have also taken the party down with them by insisting that anyone who criticizes the party criticizes the family. They must be chastised – rather sad when you know there’s so much talent in there.
The second is a corollary of the first. With a dismal showing at the last elections, one would have thought the party leadership would consolidate around a leader and start the process of rebuilding. Strong democracies need strong oppositions. By promoting themselves at all and every cost, the Gandhi family has let India down.
In my view, the Narendra Modi government’s biggest failure is not creating jobs at a pace young India must consume. The other is not communicating with the media, leaving that critical responsibility to usual suspects in Delhi whose lack of domain knowledge is embarrassing if not just dangerous, especially in matters of war and warfare.
I take this opportunity to share some trends I’ll be watching. I am following numbers but not overwhelmed by time. There’s something called public sentiment. You can’t catch it but you feel it. You may find the following lines interesting:
The very people who say nothing gets done in India unless you shout and “sit on people’s head” turn around and call the PM a dictator. From building a flat to ensuring local civic authorities do their job, from garbage collection to standing in line, everyone shouts or gets someone to do the shouting for them. There are processes, but few obey. Breaking queues is a striking example. The PM is trying to build a nation of 1.3 billion people, not a residential colony. Of course, there will be mistakes, huge ones sometimes, but pulling a subcontinent out of the depths it finds itself in will take time, a lifetime if we’re lucky.
Where is down and what an arrogant thing to say. Millions of Indians are in that spot and they are ambitious. From where they are, their only journey will be up, something privileged losers cannot fathom, much less swallow. The 18 million first time voters this time don’t necessarily read reports and analyses about how they should grow and thrive – they are struggling to do it every day. They are learning on the job. If India finds itself responsible for just about two per cent of global trade despite the massive talent pool, it’s because the Gandhi family has never wanted India to thrive. Family first. Everything including national security be damned. Frequent-visitor to the ED and son-in-law Robert Vadra who has the world’s best business model (who said money does not grow on trees?) has now joined the family business publicly. Will be interesting to watch how people vote. Propaganda from all sides will only harm their case. Like the G-37 in London and Washington didn’t think Brexit would pass or Donald Trump would be President of the United States (US). People thought otherwise.
Arrogance and family come together. Rahul Gandhi tearing up the Ordnance is no different from Rajiv Gandhi firing India’s Foreign Secretary A.P. Venkateswaran in a press conference. No decorum, no decency, no respect, just arrogance.
So? Indeed and he is not hypocritical about it. He doesn’t publicly read Namaaz as Mamata Bannerji does or become a janeu-dhari Hindu like Rahul Gandhi or the perpetual PM-in-waiting Kamal Nath. All have insulted Hindus and Muslims in India. Narendra Modi has not made India anymore violent than it has always been. I grew up in Bihar and Orissa both bordering on West Bengal and have witnessed unspeakable brutality and violence. There’s enough to show when people have jobs, food and basic amenities, health services, among others, violence is significantly reduced. The violence we see also comes from this – more and more people cannot be expected to do with less and less as the privileged bleed the system for personal gain. As for faith, it is a journey, it is not a photo-op or an event but to understand that you need roots. Without roots, you’ll never be free of prejudice.
Modi is a clever politician. He is also very cunning and calculating. That makes him what all politicians are. I would never trust a politician who doesn’t have both. It’s called samartyam.
The two can coexist. Narendra Modi cannot be given the entire credit for getting the country talking about development, but there’s no taking away from the fact that he’s given it political momentum, language and context. Take cleanliness for example – something has moved there. Let’s also not forget that policy work does not grow in isolation, especially in a consultative democracy and the environment where the development debate is unfurling in India is turbulent.
Anybody who has run an institution shepherded policy, raised capital and resources will tell you this – there will never be enough money for any project. The health initiative Ayushman Bharat is a beginning, it sets the floor. So are infrastructure projects where resources are limited, negotiations are tedious and securing success is also a journey. Railways stations are cleaner, homes that did not have electricity for the past 75 years do even if it is just a pole in a distant spot and cleaner cooking is becoming a possibility. Those not born with this will obviously not notice it.
You have to be especially stupid to make this comparison. Do secular people have no bhakti towards their causes? And what temerity to mock people who are on a personal journey of faith and prayer? Unless secular is cool because it is in English and Bhakti isn’t because it’s in Indian languages. Self-respect is bhakti. If you don’t have that, you cannot respect difference. Tip – when people bend over backwards to say they are secular or bhakts, the circle of arrogance is complete.
This is not about people who eat beef and those who not. Yes, both Muslins and Hindus have been killed over a piece of food and politicians from all sides have rushed to cash in. I know people in India. None of their personal lives have changed in any way because of the beef dialogues but they among the loudest in flaming it. Why? Who benefits from the crime?
The dirtiest cut came when Indian armed forces were asked to prove they had successfully eliminated Pakistani terrorists responsible for Pulwama. This call for proof was led by Rahul Gandhi and his political friends. If they get a drubbing at the polls, so be it.