There can be no better articulation of the ever-increasing anxiety and anguish that Indian citizens experience at this juncture of history. The new Government in Uttar Pradesh has an opportunity to restore democratic values
India’s mini general elections are over. While political pundits have generally proved immature, Indian voters have given credible demonstration of their ever-growing maturity in understanding the nuances of the political leadership that has all along exploited their vulnerability to caste, sub-caste and religion. In addition, they have made promises that were never to be taken up seriously after elections.
Elected representatives are generally known to forget about even maintaining live contacts with their electorates. Indian democracy witnessed the region-based, caste-based, sub-caste-oriented, caste-combination oriented politics with generous inputs of relegating minorities (read Muslims) to a mere pawn in their game of communalism projected assiduously as secularism. It has also witnessed the rise of a new politician, mostly with humble beginning, amassing huge, amass huge wealth, property and influence over gullible people.
The average perception of the common man about the politician is that of an unscrupulous person in power who cares only for himself, his family and his near and dear ones. During the pre-election period, personal visits to Uttar Pradesh brought forth some enlightening observations from villagers, farmers, small artisans — all of whom have suffered politicians and elected representatives all along.
The manner both of the major political players in Uttar Pradesh have been thrown to dustbin clearly indicates the analytical competence of the voter who is often ignored in political deliberations in studious as of no consequence; illiterate, poor, uninterested, uninformed and reticent. This voter has shown the right place to the power-drunk politicians their right place.
To understand Uttar Pradesh, one may recall how John Kenneth Galbraith, then American Ambassador to India, spoke to the Planning Commission on India’s poor and poverty: “Well, I have seen poverty everywhere in the world, dismal poverty, and I have seen poverty in India, but Indian poverty has uniqueness because there is a gleam in the eyes of the poor people here which I did not find anywhere else, and the poverty does not make for crime in India whereas in all other countries poverty means drunkenness, crime and a sense of newer frustration”.
Contrast this to the understanding of Indian mind by illustrious scholar and two-term Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh who found demonetisation a “monumental management failure” and a case of “organised loot and legalised plunder”. Those over-awed by the glitz and glamour of the Western ideology of progress just do not care to care to comprehend India, Indian psyche and Indian mind. And Manmohan Singh and the oldest political party could not think beyond ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’. Such gems of wisdom can make people laugh at you, create jokes and make them relax, but these childish interventions just cannot win the hearts of people.
Uttar Pradesh needs honest persons in power, who can rise above family and caste considerations. It needs a Chief Minister who can appoint teachers in schools, equip them decently, and not fill the positions in public service commissions by members from the same caste. Everyone in the State talks about Safai, Saifai festivities, Dalit prerana sthals, the manner Noida and Greater Noida became the milch cow for politicians in power.
Janata sab jaanati hai. Vah sahi avasar ka intzaar karati hai. In this State, rates for each category of Government jobs are known to everyone. People also know which caste would get preference under a particular dispensation. They were fed up and were living in suffocating circumstances, in utter despair. They see hope in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sarkar.
The landslide victory is the consequence of this attitudinal transformation. While Modi’s detractors may frown on this, many of them remembered Lal Bahadur Shastri ‘who knew India, Indians and Indian values’. A poignant comment was made by a an elderly person: “If only almighty had given him 10 years more, India would not have seen the rise of the corrupt, cunning and convicts in politics”.
The Opposition failed to realise that people are now convinced of the dedication of Modi to poor and the downtrodden who remained neglected. They are convinced that he can succeed in reducing corruption within years. They are aware that Modi suffered unprecedented attack for full 12 years from the Union Government, its agencies, external interests in India who liberally funded NGOs to work against him. Not only he came out unscathed, none could dent his ability to discharge his duties as the Chief Minister, achieve results and consequently, the faith of his people in the State.
His aura as a fighter and an achiever spread mostly by word of mouth, to every other State in India. Modi’s success in 2014 disoriented the Opposition beyond repairs. They thought personal attacks will give them a chance to spring back to the citadels of power. Even if a sewer line gets choked somewhere in Delhi, the Chief Minister immediately blames it on Modi.
Huge victory poses far bigger challenges than an ordinary majority. Rajiv Gandhi got it, under different circumstances and for different reasons, but squandered it. The new Uttar Pradesh Government shall be tested most severely by the people, and hence, must remain conscious, active and alert all along. It is common knowledge that the quality of any system of governance is directly related to the character, commitment, integrity, moral fiber, and sense of responsibility internalised the people.
Mahatma Gandhi had warned in 1922 that Swaraj would not bring happiness to our people as four factors would weigh heavily on them: Injustice, tyranny of the rich, burden of governance and defects of elections. Realistic apprehensions were expressed by Rajendra Prasad as the President of the Constituent Assembly in his speech delivered on November 26 of 1949: “Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend on the way in which the country is administered. That will depend upon the men who administer it. It is a trite saying that a country can have only the Government it deserves. If the people who are elected are capable, and men of character and integrity, they will be able to make best even of a defective Constitution. If they are lacking in these, the Constitution cannot help the country. After all, a Constitution like a machine is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them”.
There can be no better articulation of the ever-increasing anxiety and anguish that Indian citizens experience at this juncture of history. The new Government in Uttar Pradesh has a great opportunity to restore democratic values, and transform the system of governance on the pillars of honesty, integrity, transparency and efficacy. It has to remove corruption and nepotism in recruitment, equip schools to a decent functional level, implement central scheme. Remove the corrupt from thanas and let dalalas be ousted from district courts and administration. The list is long and challenges are unprecedented. So are the expectations.
By JS Rajput
(The writer is former Director of NCERT)