In the backdrop of the ongoing general elections, former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Tuesday targeted a section of the political class for “degeneration” in the quality of leadership which, he said, feeds on hatred and rivalry, values popularity and dishes out sugar coated language.
“In actual fact, beneath the surface stillness, there is a great frenzy astir, a frenzy to bring to India’s helm, the reign of an ethnic majority, of a sectarian bigotry, of a denominational autocracy. And all in the name, the very specious name, of ‘strength’,” said the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi at the 15th D.P. Kohli Memorial Lecture titled “Eclipse at Noon: Shadows over India’s Conscience”.
Calling into question the role of some sections of the media, Mr. Gandhi said: “And here I must say that sections of the media have become trumpeters of what they see as the coming change. We had heard of paid news. But this is free advertising. The high noon of the free press in India makes its own eclipse-by-ink and through the small screen. So, this best of times for democracy can become the worst of times for democracy as well.”
“The ship of our nationhood, during these election days, is meant to be moving. But is it moving at all? No one quite knows, no one wants to speculate on where, towards what port, we are headed if we are headed anywhere at all. Dictators have been wafted up by people voting democratically. The ballot box can receive the faith of innocence and emit a genie. It can receive trust unseeingly, disgorge its betrayal unblinkingly,” said the former bureaucrat himself in resignation.
Stating that although Indian democracy is vibrant, Mr. Gandhi said it is also deeply flawed. “Size and scale cannot and do not in themselves validate a democracy. There is something called quality also. The monarch, the voter, is powerful but his power is constantly subverted by blandishment. Money is at our democracy’s throat. Money can and does do worse currency notes come into the election bazaar first in container and cargo quantities, then in truck-loads, going into wholesale, small retail and finally in attaché, thailaa, jholaa and jeb-sized portions,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi said the money originate either legally, through licit company donations, or come from a myriad sources which necessarily and unavoidably go back to our natural resources such as mines, forests and land.
“There is a memorable quote from Mark Hanna: ‘There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.’ I can tell you what you already know about the second thing: It is called bullying,” said Mr. Gandhi.