There might not be a lot of Indians who have not hummed these lines a few times in their lives.
But I seriously doubt India has the political maturity yet to see that dream come true.
Many Indians have rather romantic notions along the lines of “politicians must wear khadi like Mahatma Gandhi did”, ” politicians should not have any personal comforts” and so on. If a politician is seen wearing an Armani suit – he is immediately thought of as a bad guy. If a politician is driving around in a BMW , she must have had questionable past, and so on.
Today morning, I saw this article in Times of India. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/compare-my-house-with-sheila-dikshits-arvind-kejriwal/articleshow/28345884.cms The newly elected Chief Minister of Delhi is planning to move to a duplex flat close to his office – and that is government issue. Before election, he had apparently said that he would denounce official residence and stay in his own home. His own home apparently is in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. Big question – is it better that he spends a few hours commuting to work every day? or should he stay in the government housing next door to work and use that commute time for actual work? Should he sacrifice efficiency for better optics? The fact that he had to say he will denounce use of government housing itself shows what kind of promises politicians have to make to get elected in India.
The popular trend in India is for young people to become full time politicians straight from student life. You join a party in school or college, and then work your way up from there. This would be pretty good IF these people would get out of school , do a job or start a small business, and then come to full time politics. Instead, they start to wear khadi from college to identify themselves as politicians. And once they hold office – they won’t let go. What is the rationale for Rahul Gandhi being the Chair person of National Students Union of India ? Is he a student ? Was he active in student politics?
Mahatma Gandhi wanted a self sufficient India – and he also wanted a non violent way of getting the message across. He was shrewd enough to know that if Indians denounced western apparel, it would be an economic pinch to Britain as well. He wanted Congress leaders to wear clothes that they knit themselves. That is not the spirit of khadi any more – now it is a mere uniform that has lost all symbolic meaning. Look at someone like Shashi Tharoor – who is an accomplished diplomat and author. Now he walks around wearing a congress colored shawl around his neck to identify himself as a politician. Why is that necessary ? Who are these people trying to impress so hard ?
Then there is Dr.Manmohan Singh. He grew up as a world famous apolitical economist before being tapped by Congress PM Narasimha Rao for political office. India went through a lot of progress (relative to its own past) under his leadership . Yet, he failed in Loksabha elections from Delhi, Every time he held office, he had to brought in as a representative of Assam legislature in Rajyasabha. If that is not political immaturity of the country, I wonder what is .
And now he is relinquishing power to Nehru family’s heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi – who is a career politician. His claim to fame is strictly his family name. He entered politics around 2004 and just 9 years later, he is now the PM candidate for Congress. India has a billion plus strong population – and the venerable elders of congress fell over each other to throw Singh under the bus and get Rahul Gandhi projected as PM. Very mature indeed.
And on his way out, Dr Singh tried his best to show his opponent Narendra Modi in as bad a light as he could have – by associating him to the Gujarat massacre. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Modi-will-be-disastrous-for-country-as-PM-Manmohan/articleshow/28352899.cms What the PM conveniently forgot to say was that his own party and its leader were responsible for an even bigger massacre of Sikhs in 1984. Talk about kettle calling the pot black .To give credit where it is due – Modi, despite his awful record during the Gujarat riots, did rebuild Gujarat significantly since then. And he was cleared by the Supreme Court. If he sets aside his extreme hindutva agenda, he might make a decent PM for India.
Rahul Gandhi has been trying incredibly hard to show a different face to traditional congress politics. He was instrumental in getting Lokpal bill passed by the parliament – despite in a rather watered down form. He also tried to reverse the Maharashtra government decision on Adarsh flats scam. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-01-02/india/45797859_1_adarsh-housing-society-prithviraj-chavan-maharashtra-government . But his is an uphill task – even if he has the best of intentions, it is a large party with lot of powerful leaders who might find it hard to change their ways.
Is AAP the new bright future for Indian politics? I sure hope so, but I am no longer holding my breath for a few reasons.
First is the tactical question of whether they can scale the organization across India quickly for the upcoming parliament elections. With social media and traditional media help – may be AAP can pull off a miracle and get enough people interested and enough funds raised to compete, but it remains to be seen. But when quantity increases at breakneck speed – quality almost always suffers. The last thing India needs is AAP becoming another BJP or Congress.
Second, while I applaud the social and political outlook of AAP – I am in utter dismay of their economic policy. One of the first things AAP did when they came to power in Delhi was to announce a 50% subsidy for utilities. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kejriwals-new-year-gift-to-delhi-50-power-subsidy/article5522873.ece
Last but not least, while it is good to audit the past acts of Congress and BJP and the executive – AAP runs the risk of being a reactionary government. My worry is that all the energy and time will be spent in figuring out who did what wrongs in the past that they won’t have enough time during their time in office to do something good that is forward looking.
While definitely a populist measure, I have a bad feeling that AAP might take India back to its pre-economic reforms days in a hurry. It took 20 years to negate the effects of past uses of subsidy, and interfering with free markets seem to be a really bad idea. I hope their economic policy is not strictly about subsidizing everything. Next generation in India is already heavily burdened by past economic policy mistakes – no more actions should be taken that will break their (economic) backs.
But all said and done, AAP is the best thing that happened in Indian political scene since independence. I wish them the very best in showing the country how to govern well.
Constitutionally, India is a sovereign socialist republic. Parliament needs to debate whether socialism is the right model for India for the times we live in now. Socialist policies have held India back for several decades before Rao government started to liberalize it . What India needs is not just progressive economic policies – it needs the social policies to go with it. Vast segments of population does not have access to education even today. Where is the political will to change it ? Kerala proved that 100% literacy is attainable for a state. Why are the other states not doing the same ? India does not have a common or unified civil code either – in fact, most of the laws are not updated for a modern society. What about the rights of women ? When will the LGBT community get equal rights ?
Politics everywhere is local – especially so in India. There are so many regional parties in India, and that makes the central government run by an alliance which generally has no common agenda. It is a brittle marriage of convenience. Regional parties have little to no reason to do something that is outside the scope of their states. Election season has always been horse trading season in India for politicians.
The solution is with the voting citizens of India . They should start getting more active in the political process. At a minimum – try to go out and vote on election day. Don’t vote just for your favorite party – vote for the actual candidate you like to be represented by. And hold them responsible once they are elected. Don’t get influenced by the khadi uniforms. And don’t penalize someone for their success – if a candidate ran a successful business or held a high paying job, don’t hold it against him. If anything – they might be less corrupt if they already have enough kept aside to live off. Encourage non career politicians to run for office – new ideas are always in short supply when it is the same people who get elected time and again.
I hope that “Ek Din” is not too far in future – Jai Hind !