(Published in Sify.com, on April 18, 2014, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/is-there-a-saviour-between-the-devil-and-the-deep-sea-news-columns-oesiL3dbhac.html)
Yes, there is a Modi wave. And while I’m not enamoured of the man, I can’t help thinking that anything would be better than the Congress coming back to power.
Not only has the UPA’s period in governance broken all records for corruption and scams, but it has also led to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being immortalised for all the wrong reasons.
Here is a man who was once famous for pulling India out of economic isolation, for opening the markets up, and for allowing private players to enter an industry that was bleeding the country’s salaried class dry.
Now, he is famous not only for being ridiculed as a “lame duck” and for being caricatured paying his obeisance to “madam”, but also for admitting to his “trusted aides” that he had no power.
With Sanjaya Baru’s book The Accidental Prime Minister flying off the shelves at just the wrong time, and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh’s book on the Coalgate scandal raising questions about Singh’s ability to control his ministers, one is left with the impression that the man who fuelled India’s economic resurgence is a man without confidence in himself.
Despite the argument that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was not technically in power, it is apparent that the family will always be the puppet masters for as long as the Congress is in power.
It is also apparent that the next time round, it will not be Manmohan Singh, but Rahul Gandhi, a man with little political experience and less control over what he says – a man arguably more famous for political gaffes than any other Prime Ministerial candidate – who will handle the reins.
The problem with Narendra Modi is not simply the fact that he was in power when riots broke out in his state – riots have occurred frequently, and in several states in India; there is always a debate about who started it, and who suffered, but the fact is that a mob cannot be controlled.
The more important questions are – is someone who has only operated at the state level, and has no experience even as a minister at the centre, really capable of handling an entire country? Will the freedom of the press even exist if this man comes to power?
Unfortunately, the Congress does not have the best reputation with guaranteeing the press its freedom either. No government can claim to support the freedom of the press when a cartoonist is arrested for sedition. Ironically enough, at the same time that Aseem Trivedi was arrested, a party worker had put up a poster with the faces of P Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi and Karthi Chidambaram on the Ashoka lions emblem.
The real problem we have to address is that there is no viable alternative to the Congress or the BJP. We don’t have a leader.
Despite the momentum the Aam Aadmi Party gained, Arvind Kejriwal’s stint as Delhi Chief Minister proved to be a fiasco. Perhaps someone who is habitually in the opposition is bound to protest even when he is in power. It happened in West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee’s first weeks in power left everyone bewildered. The city was painted blue, and Rabindra Sangeet kiosks were installed in traffic islands.
When the anti-incumbency sentiment runs as high as it does, the country is bound to turn the other way. The axiom about known devils and unknown angels doesn’t quite hold.
Whatever I know or don’t, I’m sure that I don’t want this country to be led by a man who doesn’t even get to pick his own ministers – which, if Sanjaya Baru is to be believed, was indeed the case.
It troubles me that the Congress has asserted itself only in the matter of nuclear deals. The provisions of the Indo-American deal were a troubling reminder of the Bhopal Gas tragedy. The centre’s handling of the Koodankulam protest leaves much to be desired.
Yet, one wonders where the solution is. Choosing stability is not an option any longer, because of what UPA-II did during its tenure. The alternative is scary.
We are a country with a huge populace of politically aware citizens, with enormous resources, and astute thinkers. But can all these qualities possibly be found in someone who is willing to lead, and capable of leading from the front? Can someone get into politics without being corrupted by it?
It is hard to say what will happen over the next five years. But it is important that all of us decide to get more politically involved, and change the connotations of the word ‘politics’. It shouldn’t be about ‘wooing’ voters; it should be about winning voters. It shouldn’t be about ‘appeasing’ minorities; it should be about ensuring equality, which is what a democracy guarantees. Reservation has no place in a democracy; prejudice against someone’s sexual orientation has no place in a democracy.
Is there place for idealism in India? For us to start afresh? A start was made in Delhi. Can we repeat that across the country, without screwing up?