A new vision for a new India

satwik Gade  

Our Prime Minister has, from time to time, administered to the body politic shock therapies to ostensibly eliminate corruption and the use of black money, deal a fatal blow to terrorism, address the problem of circulation of fake currency notes, and put in place a fiscal regime that promotes the formal economy with extensive use of digital platforms. One may question both the motives and the wisdom of these therapeutic procedures that have failed to realise the outcomes they set out to achieve. But the most fatal blow to the body politic is to let loose in different ways forces, disruptive and destructive, that seek to systematically destabilise established systems of governance.

The imposition of votaries of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in positions of influence is disconcerting. They provide the pervasive ideological rationale behind this disruption and justify it. The destructive elements, whom the Bharatiya Janata Party seeks to distance itself from, are not averse to the use of violence to silence voices inconsistent with the ideological position of Hindutva. Lynching Dalits; the targeted homicide of Muslims and rationalists; instilling fear amongst minorities by attacking their culinary preferences, culture and traditions; and, above all, attempting to propagate a nationalistic narrative through the assertion of a particular mindset are all intended to transform India.

Opposing disruption

The Congress, a truly national party, needs to stem the dismantling of our cohesiveness, traditions, culture and constitutional polity. Our party must expose through a coalition of like-minded forces the deliberateness with which our Prime Minister is acting to achieve his biased agendas. We need to reach out to people by penning our thoughts and articulating them through all possible channels of communication. We need to highlight that the RSS is occupying the most important offices of this country: the seat of vice chancellor in universities, the office of the Governor, the office of the President of India as well as that of the Vice President. We must inform people how constitutional practices are being subverted and constitutional norms are being violated with impunity; that ordinary legislation termed as Money Bills are being introduced to ensure their success, bypassing the Rajya Sabha; how Raj Bhavans, instead of acting as constitutional facilitators, have become centres of intrigue to bring down Opposition-led governments by openly aligning with and manufacturing majorities for the BJP; how history is being rewritten with icons of the past relegated to oblivion; that statistics are often used to blur the contours between myth and reality, and name change and plagiarism carried out to appropriate schemes launched by the United Progressive Alliance I and II. Added to this is targeting leaders and members of political parties through investigating agencies, offices that are being allowed to be willingly misused for vendetta politics.

Though providing leadership to oppose both the disruption and destruction of our value system is essential, that alone will not do.

Making honest promises

The world has changed radically. The communication revolution has eliminated the concept of distance. Proximity is the order of the day. Our people know about us. Every word we utter is heard with rapt attention. Our persona is an open book. So we can’t fool people any more. Our integrity, commitment to values and our attitudes are etched and stored in digital mode. This applies to individuals, entities, and political parties. So, we must be careful in our utterances lest they come back to haunt us. Our detractors are ever alert to trip us for what we said. We may win elections by words, tall promises and lies; we may also lose them because of betrayal. Narendra Modijiwill be paying a heavy price for his utterances. It is therefore incumbent on leaders of political parties to be upfront and honest about what they can promise and deliver.

Politics must be grounded to solve the problems of today. While a party may draw inspiration from the past, it must live in the present. The laurels of the past will not serve the present. The present is far more dynamic than the past ever was. Millions are influenced by the tsunami of information which has the capacity to misinform and misdirect impressionable minds. Political parties must be alive to this and have an army of digital soldiers to guide and educate. Without it, political discourse might just be one-sided.

More important is the ability of a political party to sensitise itself to the most fundamental issues of the people. The two areas of concern to every home are educating children and health-care facilities for the family. We need a transformational education policy and a radically different mechanism for delivery. Those details must be worked out after thoughtful debate.

A similar exercise must be done with reference to the delivery of health care. Existing systems of education and health care suffer from a deep malaise. Lack of resources, inadequacy of quality teachers and doctors and inadequate infrastructure are a few of the causes. Central to any exercise in providing solutions is the abject poverty afflicting our people that diminishes their ability to make choices. Any proposed solution must take that into account.

The road ahead

We need to deregulate both our mindset and governmental procedures. Industry must flourish for economic growth. We must not view business, and through it prosperity, with suspicion. Investigating agencies must not be used to throttle enterprises. Our taxing regime must be far more humane than it is today. Money in the hands of the private sector is often more efficiently used than by government. Yet the state must garner adequate resources for providing infrastructure and public necessities. Digital technologies must be accessible to all to ensure equity. We must quickly bridge the gap between India and Bharat.

Our obsession with a market-oriented distribution of public assets needs a relook. Allocation of land, spectrum, minerals and other natural resources, if allocated through a competitive bidding process, has made our industry globally non-competitive. We need to put in place an alternative resource allocation mechanism in which the government is entitled to a share of the profit that industry garners. Further, high interest rates have debilitated both industry and business. This is the main reason why enterprises cut corners and indulge in malpractices — reasons for the growing spiral of corruption.

Our legal system is poor in quality. Our justice system must be made immune from external pressure. Corruption within our justice delivery system destroys the citizen’s confidence in the state. Our police and enforcement agencies must also be immune from external pressures.

We need to embrace a new vision. Let us make a fresh start giving hope to those we serve.

Kapil Sibal is a Congress leader, former Union Minister and lawyer