Thursday, Apr 18, 2024 | Last Update : 07:55 AM IST

  Opinion   Oped  27 Dec 2017  It’s time to press the pause button

It’s time to press the pause button

The writer is a former ambassador
Published : Dec 27, 2017, 1:54 am IST
Updated : Dec 27, 2017, 1:54 am IST

The laying of industrial foundation from scratch and creation of numerous institutions can’t just be wished away.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: ANI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: ANI)

Political discourse in India is causing noise pollution of a different kind. But it is as harmful for Indian democracy as it is for the health of politicians and political parties. Allegations and counter-allegations, abuses and vituperative comments are exchanged between members of rival parties, especially during election campaigns. And each one accuses the other of having started the process.

No stone is left unturned in digging up dirt against each other. Winning is the only goal but how one does it is immaterial. No one seems to pay heed to Mahatma Gandhi’s sage advice that noble goals should be achieved with noble means. The politicians, instead, seem to have taken the adage of China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to heart: “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”.

Is this the new normal for Indian politics? Isn’t each side pedalling half-truths, believing that no one can figure it out? Aren’t politicians ceaselessly creating post-truths? “My honey is the real honey; everyone else is selling sugary syrup!” But why should we feel outraged? Isn’t everything permitted in war and politics? Isn’t our mythology replete with instances when our venerated heroes turned a blind eye to the wrong being done before them? In Mahabharat, didn’t Lord Krishna let it pass when Ashwathama’s death was announced knowing well that it wasn’t Dronacharya’s son. What about the killing of King Bali in Ramayan? What did Lord Ram do? Our politicians have read not only the Ramayan and Mahabharat but also Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Apart from advice on statecraft, it offers realpolitik recipe for outwitting, outmanoeuvring and defeating one’s enemy.

Those who trash the Congress claiming that nothing happened during the long years of its rule at the Centre know that it isn’t the whole truth. Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India meticulously details at what state the British left India in 1947. A dispassionate look at the record of the period of Congress’ domination will show that a lot was achieved in spite of inherent weaknesses of a nation emerging from a long spell of the colonial rule, the horrors of Partition, meagre financial and human resources, communal riots and corruption. The laying of industrial foundation from scratch and creation of numerous institutions can’t just be wished away. But questions like “couldn’t India have developed as fast as South Korea, Japan and China if it was administered more efficiently and honestly?” are valid questions, and there is nothing wrong in discussing these issues.

Doesn’t junking all that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to do since May 2014 as jumlebaazi, dramebaazi, grand sale of dreams and pursuit of “Congress-mukt Bharat” at any cost using divisive politics and all the resources at the government’s command betray an ostrich syndrome? Isn’t this its unwillingness to introspect, dissect, draw sound lessons from failures, assess strengths and weakness and adopt new strategies to fight another day? All political parties tell half-truths most of the time! But who cares? Jo jeeta wohi Sikandar!

The present government has reportedly done away with 1,200 outdated rules and regulations which have seen India jump 30 places on the list of “ease of doing business”. Though far behind the Asean and the OECD rankings, it still is a significant achievement ought to be applauded. Similarly, bringing millions of Indians in the banking network through the Jan Dhan Yojana, facilitating direct transfer of funds into their accounts, can’t be dismissed just because there is zero balance in many of such accounts. Unlike his predecessors, Mr Modi has led the Swachchh Bharat Abhiyan for making India open defecation-free; it can’t be faulted because thousands of toilets built hurriedly are unusable for want of water and absence of connection with sewage systems and lack proper hygiene. Won’t providing gas cylinders to needy women in rural India under the Ujwala scheme; rural electrification under Saubhagya; efforts to promote cashless transactions and “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” improves the lives of millions of Indians? Few disagree with the fact that demonetisation and GST are bold reforms which would help boost economy in the long run — undoubtedly, their well thought-out implementation would have spared the public of serious inconveniences and disruptions which they had to suffer.

Should we not applaud something good just because the credit of doing it goes to our competitor? How many times Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the two great tennis players, have acknowledged and applauded each other’s good shots though they fight to win? That’s sportsmanship! Would politicians lose anything if they emulated themselves? Simply put, even if 60 per cent of the schemes initiated by Mr Modi get implemented, our country will be transformed beyond recognition. Shouldn’t we welcome such a prospect?

“Our decisions might go wrong but we won’t be doing anything with wrong intentions,” says the PM. It’s a healthy and reassuring approach but shouldn’t we gracefully acknowledge good things done by the previous governments? It’s fashionable to criticise Nehru today but didn’t he take the nascent independent India forward? Would India have reaped the benefits of globalisation if P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh had not introduced economic liberalisation in 1991-92 against strong scepticism? Will India have one billion Aadhaar cards today if UPA-2 hadn’t created UIDAI with Nandan Nilekani as its head? Will India be referred by the US as a major defence and strategic partner at present if Manmohan Singh and George W. Bush hadn’t signed the Civil Nuclear Agreement in 2005? Notwithstanding serious problems of leakages, hasn’t the World Bank applauded NREGA? So why shouldn’t we be large-hearted and give the credit where it is due? Any policy, scheme or initiative serving India is good. It doesn’t matter if it was initiated by Indira Gandhi or Atal Behari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh or Narendra Modi!

Why can’t we just press the pause button, take a deep breath and have a dispassionate look at what we are doing and ask: Is it in India’s larger interests? The blame game won’t help, balanced alternatives might.

Will the buzz and hype surrounding mega announcements be worthwhile if India isn’t united, isn’t at ease with itself and a large number of its citizens feel they aren’t part of its success story? Can India blossom as a great nation without celebrating its bewildering diversity; its multi-religious, multilingual and multi-cultural society? Can India be great if it isn’t just, fair, equitable, inclusive, disciplined and law-abiding?

Just pause and think!

Tags: prime minister narendra modi, political discourse