The voter at sea

The voter at sea

For some years, the activists from India have been trying to persuade Pakistan to pay homage to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev who went to the gallows in the 1930s to strengthen the struggle for freedom.

The change has come about in Pakistan. There was a candle light vigil at Lahore on March 23, the day Bhagat Singh was hanged, along with his two comrades. The Pakistan media also devoted space to the programme in the memory of Bhagat Singh.
This is a bold defiance to the Jammat-e-Islami which considers every non-Muslim a kafir. I have no doubt that one day, both India and Pakistan would jointly celebrate the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his comrades.

Regretfully, India, which claims monopoly over Bhagat Singh, took no notice of the sacrifice by the three. The media was conspicuous by its silence. There was no meeting held in their memory much less lighting candles. True, the Indian society has ousted the value system. But I had never imagined that even the memory of those who made today’s democratic polity possible would get no mention.

One other development which is beyond the realm of my conjecture is the bickering in the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), known for its cohesion and solidarity. When even a stalwart like Jaswant Singh, who headed finance and foreign affairs in the BJP government, is denied ticket from his old constituency, Barmer, there is something wrong with the party. The RSS reportedly feels that the BJP, particularly its leadership, has compromised with the ideology of Hindutava. This explains why RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was present at the Central election committee meeting selecting the party’s candidates.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi fits into the framework RSS has in view. He refuses to say ‘sorry’ for the killing of Muslims in his state in 2002. And he proudly flaunts ‘Hindu nationalism’ instead of Indian nationalism. Development which Modi emphasises is a state subject.

There is no Modi wave. People want a change from the Congress, associated with scams and mis-governance. They want an alternative. The BJP is no better and its rule is remembered by the scandals at that time. I feel dismayed when even liberals are taken in by the propaganda that the country needs a national leader to set things right. Indira Gandhi also raised the Garibi Hatao slogan and imposed the Emergency to suspend even the constitution. India is a federal polity and has no place for the presidential system of rule.

Corruption, communalism

I am amused over the remark that the coming Lok Sabha election is a contest between corruption and communalism. Both are evil. How does it matter if a candidate is corrupt or communalist? I believe that the distinction is a brainwave of some candidates: who are corrupt and want to hide their sins by mouthing the slogan of pluralism.

However, the entire discussion is of little consequence because the two main parties, the Congress and the BJP, have fielded tainted and extremist candidates. (30 per cent of candidates have a criminal record). The Congress is more to blame because its ideology is that of secularism. The BJP makes no bones about the pro-Hindu stance since it wants to polarise the society. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is right when she says that the BJP is sowing the seeds of poison.

The Congress, with Rahul Gandhi as its leader, may claim to be pluralist in his outlook. But this does not condone the numerous communal riots during the Congress rule in the country on one hand and the corrupt deals in which the party has been involved in its 10-year rule on the other. Many skeletons have tumbled out of the cupboard. Many more may come out if and when a non-Congress government assumes power at the centre.

A new phenomenon has emerged in the shape of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which once evoked idealism and provided a non-Congress and non-BJP alternative. But the party is losing sheen because it lacks ideology and projects only its leader Arvind Kejriwal. Too much authority is concentrated in him and he flaunts it.

Which party it chooses is a dilemma before an ordinary voter. With Modi, there is every chance of an autocratic country, although the growth oriented India would be more centrally controlled and less democratic. A slight dip in his popularity graph indicates that more and more people are seeing through the façade of progress Modi has created.

When I listen to Rahul Gandhi, I vainly seek direction. He has improved in the last few weeks. But the nation cannot be entrusted to him. Perhaps he would have matured by the general election in 2019. At present, he is trying to please everybody. He too is lacking ideological clarity, more so in the foreign policy field.

The challenge before the nation is lack of leadership and governance. The Congress has been found wanting in both. The party has wasted the 10 years of its governance. Even now the Congress is miles away from the leadership it provided till the seventies. Probably, the initial thrust was because of the people who had gone through the fire of national movement. They followed a value system. What is the Congress today except the people who want power by hook or by crook? Even their body language reflects arrogance.

The party has committed the unpardonable sin of linking politics with the state. When ministers are on the take why shouldn’t underpaid government officials do likewise? No doubt, the BJP has come to occupy more space than the Congress. When some top officials join the party after retirement or by resigning from the service, there has to be a serious study to know why it is so.