'Future generations won't mention present day leaders'

'Future generations won't mention present day leaders'

Ambika Soni, parliamentarian, former minister and veteran Congresswoman, who has served the grand old party in various capacities, from being youth wing president to heading the women’s wing and as general secretary at the all-india level, she is known for her unambiguous stand on issues political and apolitical.

In an chat with Prakash Kumar of Deccan Herald, she shared her views on the verbal rage that has become the staple of contemporary media diet. Excerpts:  

Of late, politicians and public figures are becoming infamously famous for their insensitive remarks about serious issues. How do you explain this new trend  compared to the political discourse of the past?

During the days of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, there was a time when many senior leaders would not even campaign in the areas of their rivals who were equally senior. It’s not because they wanted to let them (their rival) win. It was simply a gesture of regard for each other. Now, there are so many parties in the political arena with their limited agenda. To compete with each other, some are trying to expand the divide between various castes, others are attempting to intensify regional sentiments to achieve their respective political goals. It has been seen that people sometimes making hurried and off the cuff remarks which in the long run creates controversy and divide in society. Political movements based on caste, regionalism and “unfortunately” religion, are causing a great loss to this country.

Are they really callous and insensitive or is it the offshoot of a feudal, male dominant mindset?

No, it is not male dominant mindset. You have women politicians also talking very aggressively at times, giving very strong statements. So, I won’t make it a gender specific issue. I think it is the atmosphere in the country. There has been a slight degeneration. This is my personal view as a Congress activist with 43 years experience. I feel there is definitely deterioration in public positioning and in public conduct. The respect that the people have for those in public life has also gone down tremendously because of what they speak. Sometimes, when you make brash promises and don’t fulfill, our credibility goes down. Sometimes, we are also seen to be misusing our offices whatever they may be for personal favour which is absolutely wrong. So the people feel politicians are only working for themselves which is not always correct. But, these are public perception. Some ten people (leaders) are dishonest, use indecent words or pass insensitive remarks against women but all the leaders face the brunt. People should take precaution while making statement. But many make careless and insensitive remarks. Next day you apologize and you are back there.

Is it a gimmick to win quick popularity?

No. Let us all be clear that even today, if you really want to influence people, especially the young generation, or motivate them towards greater cause of nation building, you have to remind them of their legacy. You will agree with me that still we inspire youth by invoking names of our great freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the country.

Does this degeneration in political milieu worry you?

So many times, me and my friends discuss how unfortunate is this degeneration in political atmosphere. So far, we were using names of Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders, but when this goes into next level, who will chant names of the leaders of this time and generation? No one will mention our name. To top it, there are so many scams. They don’t think what people would think about them world over as in this age of technology, people come to know what you think even before you finish telling it.

What is the recourse you suggest? What is the future of political discourse in India?

Don’t announce that I would like to have secular politics in this country. Instead of this, we have to say we would like to make north, south, east, west one strong India and that we will not allow our country to be a victim of narrow political gains. Unless we announce such things publicly, we will have to suffer the prevailing situation and continue with our appeals and struggle to bring change. As a country, we need to launch a fight against people who make efforts to divide and weaken our country; divide people from people, pass comments that hurt a particular section. I am really happy that a public opinion is gathering. In this, media is also playing a major role in exposing such people, who are insensitive in public life.

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