Indira Canteen will burden exchequer

With the assembly election next year in Karnataka, no doubt the ruling Congress will look at populist schemes in a bid to ensure that they retain the state. But a few basic theories need to be considered before they invest the money and energy into what may prove a bane rather than a boon.

In introducing “Indira Canteens” in a bid to garner votes in the next elections – which may not be the right option - there appears a desperate bid to imitate late chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa, in the way she established ‘Amma Canteens’ besides drinking water at Rs 1 per bottle.

The Indira Canteens proposed by state government will number 198 to begin with in Bengaluru on an experimental basis to feed  the floating population. It will cost Rs  5 for breakfast while  lunch and dinner will come for Rs 10.

The Amma Canteens threw open their doors to feed the needy who came to attend Jayalalithaa’s funeral last year. There was a prideful participation among the people who ran these canteens.

The Indian social fabric has come to appreciate people with exceptional qualities. Perhaps a leitmotif of our religious intones? We get influenced to admire super heroes, who have arrived on the political scenario. Indians love personalities, who have above average charisma.

We have cherished Mahatma Gandhi, a man who indoctrinated the philosophy of Ahimsa to the entire world. He is to date respected for the very same peaceful means he propounded and adopted towards carrying India to independence.

There was Indira Gandhi, who the nation loved and women were especially proud to have her as the leader of the nation. She served as the prime minister from 1966 to 1977 and then from 1980 until she was assassinated by her own trusted guards in 1984.

A day before her assassination in her last speech in Odisha, she avowed: “even if I die in the service of the nation, I would be proud of it. Every drop of my blood will contribute to the growth of this nation and make it strong and dynamic...”

There was positive romanticism in her leadership. She has left us safe in the knowledge that Bangladesh and Pakistan are two separate nations and that there will be no concerted effort on their part towards solidarity in infiltrating India and terrorising it. I sometimes wonder if we had chanced-
by another leader like Indira Gandhi.

She was a leader who could have consolidated the votes and a party towards a stable India and towards a bi-party political polity, with the BJP taking a stronghold in most states. The Congress with a charismatic leader, leading the Opposition, would have offered a constructive challenge to the BJP, and that would have benefited India.

The Congress has its share of luminary lieutenants, beginning with Manmohan Singh,P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and others, all adept in their field of expertise. Yet the lacuna is in the way the party is driven in the absence of a charismatic leader.

None to inspire

There is none to inspire a mass following, in the state as well as at the Centre. The need of the hour for the Congress is a leader in whom the nation can repose faith.  A leader who is confident and who likes to hold the helm fearlessly, as he needs to protect the country against terrorism and its borders. A persona who can look people in the eye and promise them a future with conviction and guide India through the challenges we are faced with today.

Indira Canteens cannot be the game changer nor can they gain popularity like the Amma Canteens have done. Such low-cost food is only possible when there is a collective adulating effort.

Indira Canteens, will dissolve the money in the exchequer — the quality of food or water they are going to offer is not known — may only attract criticism. It may prove detrimental to the already maligned ruling Congress in Karnataka, a state now billed as the most corrupt in India.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah does not enjoy such an exalted position in the political scheme of things in Karnataka. Unlike Jayalalithaa, he has no charisma or mass following to be able to standardise the canteens and water at such low costs on mere adulation.

It is time the Congress woke up. A charismatic leadership, in whom the people of India can look up to, is the only way they can rule effectively, again. But sadly, they have quelled whatever chances with their lineal patronage and inviting unsavoury debates upon themselves.

Populist schemes of poor quality and such hog-wash are not going to work in the backdrop of corruption and total discontentment of the people. Rather than this, go and improve the roads in cities and in rural areas. This will garner you more votes than the populist schemes which will only result in the drain on the exchequer and drill a hole in the pockets of me and you.

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