Waiting for a messiah

Post-Independence history of India is academically interesting; however as a concerned citizen, it is somewhat disturbing.

If one were to sum it up, what this account shows is that throughout this period of 68 years Indian people have been in the quest of a charismatic leader, a messianic figure, who would deliver unto them.

 But, they know not for sure as to what that person should bring about. 

After the departure of a tall leader like Mahatma Gandhi, a man of his kind would walk the earth perhaps only once in a millennium, India must have felt a huge void. With Mahatma Gandhi, India had a seemingly definite objective – that of attaining freedom from the British rule. The goal was achieved. But again, the Indian people were unsure as to what form of independence they should get. Should it be a partitioned India or united India? If a partition is to be had, how should that partition be? Can we preserve the essence of India in such a case? How can the cultural nuances of India during the British Raj be retained? 

Confusion in the objective plunged the sub-continent in an unparalleled mayhem. We paid a heavy price. The Himalayan figure of Mahatma left; India had now to work with the second line of leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru was that second leader. The goal shifted. Gandhi had been a world-class leader. He lent an aura of the energy of ethics and morality to the newly independent India. Indian people now desired for the leader after Gandhi to place the nation into a top position in the world of nations. But, how or what that ‘top position’ should be we were not clear.

One thought was that we could emulate the industrialisation model of Russia and be counted among the nations with powerful industries within a few five-year plans. Another thought was for India to be a world leader in terms of the power of morality and non-partisan statesmanship. Nehru’s actions, such as allowing the Kashmir issue to be taken to the United Nations, while India was almost on the verge of winning the battle of Kashmir insurgency, have to be seen in this light. Without so saying it, India wanted to appear to uphold ‘Dharma’ or a sense of justice or fair-play. 

Even with China, a newly formed nation, Nehru’s India preached Panch-sheel – the five principles of neighbourly nations. The confused goals backfired. With poverty remaining the same after 20 years of independence, India being nowhere on the top of the list of nations of the world, India thought of a revised goal of eradicating poverty through a ‘mild’ dose of ‘socialism’. Mild, because again the nation was not sure what the goal and the process towards it should be. The messianic leader this time around was Indira Gandhi. But, confused goals do not produce results. It was a muddle – ‘emergency’, the revolt against it and the problem in the name of Bhindranwale. Unfortunately, Indira died to an assassin’s bullet.

Reversing the ideology

With the experiment with the placid socialism having failed, India now looked more confused and looked for probably reversing the ideology modifying the goal to that of development. Rajiv Gandhi could not pose himself as a leader who would deliver the nation’s desire. More confusion followed with a number of different leaders or prime ministers who came and went for brief periods of time. When the national foreign reserves were empty, India stumbled upon a capitalistic, more open kind of economic growth during PV Narasimha Rao’s tenure as the PM. That seemed to produce results.But India was not sure. The majority of the Indian electorate saw a loss of its cultural identity and a hobbled up NDA government under the charismatic leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpeyi came to power promising a ‘shining India’. India seemed to desire the modern economic shine while retaining the grip on old Indian values. Contradictions do not generally deliver the goods however charismatic the leader. NDA government fell and once again a messiah was sought for. 

Manmohan Singh of the UPA government at the centre did seem like delivering the economic dividend. But, he was no charismatic leader. It was even doubtful if he was the real leader. The nation hurtled forward towards more growth in its GDP, because of the force of the opened up economy and the inflow of foreign investment. Was this the kind of growth it needed? The nation was not sure. 

Sudden inflow of funds with no planned usage pattern and with little guiding controls meant gross misuse by some in positions of authority and other vantage situations. Some of the scams that have surfaced like CWG scam, 2G scam and Coalgate were a result of this unsure ill-thought pursuit of a befuddled national goal. The confused ill-primed objectives were as much to blame as the prime minister himself who did not stand up to counter the misdoings of many of his cabinet and other colleagues in and outside of the government. The downturn in the global economy compounded the problem by dragging India’s economy down and increasing the number of jobless youth in the country. 

India blames it all, once again, on the lack of leadership provided by the leader at the top. Indians have immense hope in events leading up to a messianic leader who would do whatever is to be done and set things right for them. How is that to be achieved? People of this country do not have an idea. They are now in search of a new messiah who would cause a near-miracle, reverse the downward economic trend and provide jobs and ‘development’. 

Reacting to the last several years of weak leadership at the centre, India now appears to be looking for a ‘strong’ leader. What that ‘strong’ means, again, is very confused.  It is assumed that when the ‘leaks’ due to corruption are stopped by the ‘strong’ leader providing tough administration, the ‘development’ would happen as a matter of course. it is a bundle of befuddled agenda for the new messiah. Whosoever it is, we just hope he/she delivers.

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