I prefer not to write blogs about politics, but so many things have happened in the last six months, that I am compelled to write one more time. The blog is not about comparing leader A with leader B. It is about the leaders who took decisions and moved forward as against those who preferred the status quo. It is about accidental leaders; it is about “leaders” who were led by remote control. The discussion is also about the changes in society and its thinking. Hindsight is always 20:20. So it is easier to comment on things that happened sometime back. We need to understand that today’s times and decisions will only be understood better 50 years hence. History is an easier science than prediction.
We also need to consider separate periods as “Before the Internet” and “After the Internet”! Nehru led the post-independence era. The society loved the handsome, cigarette smoking prince. One hundred and fifty years of British Raj ensured that society became naïve.
Anything that the authorities did was considered good, and people rarely challenged them. The nation glorified poverty, but Nehru’s fashionable lifestyle was never challenged.
The first significant unrest was in the late fifties as Maharashtra was being split into Gujarat and Maharashtra. During this agitation, people from Maharashtra wanted Marathi speaking area around Belgaum to merge in Maharashtra. In this agitation, 106 people died in Police firing. It led to the conversion of Flora Fountain in Bombay into Hutatma (Martyr) Chowk. The leader at that time was Moraraji Desai. Then there was Goa agitation. Indians wanted Portuguese to leave Goa. But this happened after a lot of unrest and a small armed forces confrontation. Then occurred the 1962 China war, where Indians were unprepared. Luckily, China stopped the fight unilaterally. It was the first kick that made us understand what the real world is all about. Nehru’s downfall started from this incident, and he died, a sad man, in 1963! India continued to be led by the old guard as they never wanted to retire. China war did not need history to prove how India was ill-prepared to face the world both politically and otherwise.
Shastriji’s quiet leadership during the 1965 war made India a little more confident!
In the case of decision-taking leadership, history decides whether their decision was right or wrong. In came Indira Gandhi. She had to remove the old guard, which she managed with aplomb. Indira Gandhi took two significant decisions. She helped Bangla Desh to become independent, thus splitting Pakistan. The act indicated that India had some spine! You don’t need only to be tough, but you also need to show that you are tough. She nationalised all the banks leading to the start of the socialistic era in India. In hindsight, it proved to be not a very right decision. For joining the global economy, it was a retro step. Her next brave decision was to send the Army into the Golden temple in 1984! Had she not taken that decision; Khalistan movement would have created another Kashmir due to indecision. Operation Blue Star resulted in her assassination, but it was necessary to have Blue Star! Here the terrorists were Sikhs! They were trying to take advantage, hoping that the government will be soft and will not enter the Golden temple!
Rajeev Gandhi took some excellent decisions about computers with advice from Sam Pitroda! But his miscalculation cost India dear in Sri Lanka; LTTE took their revenge by assassinating him in Sri Perambuddur!
By the time Narsimha Rao’s term was over, the system got used to status quo. He is said to have opened Indian Economy to the world. But this was done under duress in 1992 as India’s financial condition was critical. India had to borrow money against “family” gold. Coalition governments, Bajpayee Government and later Manmohan government were in status quo mode. Good, soft people sometimes are not enough to run a vast country like India. India is a complex country and has diversity. Different people think differently and want their solutions to suit themselves. These may contradict with the requirements of other states!
The effectiveness of government actions, people’s reactions and court interventions collectively define the society’s acceptance or rejection of any event. Two events show how unfortunate events were allowed to happen. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the silent support by the then government allowed hundreds of Sikhs to be murdered. The Gujarat government was a mute spectator and silent supporter of riots after the Godhra incident. But during the last ten years, “Post the Internet” news and rumours have started spreading fast with the advent of social media. The significant aspect of the Internet is that Government cannot hide any news from people. But at the same time rumour mongering is rampant. The courts intervene whenever they can at a reasonable speed. During the recent CAA event, there were 99 litigations entered with the Supreme Court. The court quickly acted upon these by clubbing them together. They told the litigants that CAA could not be stayed legally, at the same time they informed the Government to have all India campaign to share with people the detailed information about the law. The court told the political litigants to stop the riots first before the litigations would be heard.
Now let us talk about the government from 2014. The government took actions on many issues and went away from the status quo norm. It has been acting fast and is seen to be implementing many schemes. Aadhar Card, GST was the action started by the previous government but was implemented by the Modi government. When massive all India changes of this nature are being implemented, problems do crop up. The opposition must question the government for errors but should give support in the process. Article 370 was a similarly swift decision by the government. Ayodhya Ram Mandir decision was handled with finesse by the government!
Similarly, NRC has been in discussion for more than a decade. The Supreme Court had intervened in 2015 and had given the directives to the government. But one thing is sure; the current government is taking fast actions and not maintaining the status quo! At the same time, people have changed. During the emergency in 1975, the people of my parent’s generation were not brave enough to show dissent, openly. “Post the Internet” information flow has speeded up. It is a good thing that people of my generation express disagreement openly, now. The young people of today have been trying to push the government effectively. After all, these are young people, so they behave like young people. In their enthusiasm, they go overboard and make significant mistakes. They are, after all, young folks are with hot blood. It is the responsibility of opposition parties to ensure that harmful elements of the society don’t take advantage and create an unhealthy atmosphere by rioting and arson. It is the responsibility of every adult irrespective of their political allegiance to help make these demonstrations peaceful! Demonstrating against something which we don’t approve is our right given by the democracy.
Governments usually act when their backs are to the wall, or there are elections around. Current governments tenure is till 2024! So these actions were not crucial for them to act.
In a diverse country like India, it is difficult for any government to take action which will please everybody. Now with BJP losing elections in many states, there will be strong opposition at the state level, which is essential. But state governments must remember which laws are in the Central Government list and which ones are under state government list. They should not take an unreasonable stand like eight or ten states have said that they will not allow CAA in their states! The position is legally not tenable because it is under Central Government list. By taking such a stance, these states are starting unavoidable fights.
What is my preference; a government taking actions or status quo governments? Status quo is a big no, no! Any entity that acts is likely to make mistakes, like Indira Gandhi’s emergency. Such acts are known immediately to be vicious. But the effects of other actions would be known after twenty or thirty years.
But one thing is for sure that all governments should be benevolent and be soft on people, especially the young ones. They should ensure that society does not get divided. It should not be us versus them under any circumstances. Words like revenge are not acceptable. The UP government recently used this term. But at the same time, the UP government is the first state government in India which has shown the guts to use the Supreme Court ruling. The ruling allows the authorities to fine rioters to reimburse the property damaged. Today it is easy to prove the participation in riots because of video recordings.
Action, softness with people and non-divisive methods will lead to vibrant and better India! There will be some unhappy people whatever you do! But one thing is sure. There will be tough decisions, there will be fights but my country will never be divided! There will be Prime Ministers who take actions, but there won’t be dictators!
India’s tallest flag at Guwahati!