The challenges before the nation, posed by demands for creation of new States, upheavals in several regions, increasing corruption and the fault-lines of the country’s economy and political system were discussed at a session, “India at the Crossroads,” sponsored by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy at the Jaipur Literature Festival here on Saturday. “India at the Crossroads” formed part of the “Democracy Dialogues” series.
Indian-born British economist and Labour politician Meghnad Desai, who moderated the session, highlighted people’s aspirations for good governance and favoured decentralisation which could address issues at the grassroots and deal with public grievances. The changing political landscape in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections was also brought under scrutiny.
N. Ravi, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, introduced the panellists to the audience at the packed Mughal Tent at the 17th Century picturesque Diggi Palace, the venue of JLF. The panel comprised British political scientist Louise Tillin, Indian political commentator Sunil Khilnani and New Delhi-based British journalist John Elliott.
The panellists examined the emergence of new States in the country following linguistic reorganisation and said the demand for Telangana’s creation was a “strange instance” of conflicting claims by those favouring and opposing the split of Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Desai said the emergence of new political forces was an outcome of widespread cynicism among the public at large.
Ms. Tillin, whose recent book, “Remapping India”, has dealt with reorganisation of States, said it was strange that businessmen earlier supporting the Congress had gradually changed their stance and were now opposed to the split of Andhra Pradesh. The ruling Congress, on the other hand, was going in for Telangana’s formation. “It is a classic depiction of real politics of the day in India,” she remarked.
Mr. Khilnani pointed out that new experiments attempted by political groups such as the Aam Aadmi Party would strengthen politics and help bring institutional reforms. “Corruption is affecting people at all levels. It is time the right to information was exercised in earnest by the citizenry and the media to cleanse the system.”
Throwing light on the theme of his forthcoming book, “Implosion: India’s Tryst with Reality,” Mr. Elliott said the stakes were very high in the nexus of politicians and those controlling the natural resources. “Since huge amounts of money are involved in corrupt practices, it requires massive efforts to enable the public servants to resist the temptation and bring probity in public life.”
During a brief interaction with the audience, the panellists laid emphasis on the need for political reforms and inculcation of democratic spirit among the people, which they said would bring institutional strength and create a “silver lining” for the nation’s future.