by Anish Gawande
“Would Nehru ever have courted the support of an Imam or stepped into the Ganga?”
Ideology is dead in Indian politics. Nurtured for over a hundred years by stalwarts ranging from Tilak to Nehru, it has been beaten and bruised time and again by our very own representatives. Yet, the core ethical, moral and philosophical fabric of this nation has survived these multiple onslaughts; attacks which threaten the idea of India – till now.
Around the nation, politics has become dirtier than ever. Never before has the electorate had to face such uncouth and shameless leaders – those who openly sympathise with rapists, garland rioters and welcome those who steal from the widows of our nation’s martyrs. Never before has the public discourse been this vindictive and foul. And never before has every political party brazenly discarded its ideology in the name of short term gains, compromising its identity for a few extra seats.
There was an India once, one that I grew up listening stories about, which was represented by intellectual giants like Dadabhai Naoroji and Mahatma Gandhi. An India where one would tirelessly fight against all odds in the name of ideology, in the name of beliefs and in the name of values for in that India the means were as important as the ends. That India is dead.
Disillusionment, disgust and despair. Three emotions course through my mind as I see what has happened to the spirit of Indian democracy. On one hand, I see the Congress – a party whose ideals I staunchly believe in – discarding its secularism and commitment to social reform in the name of crony capitalism and politics of appeasement. The party which nurtured this nation has today succumbed to the excesses of power, combining dynasty with corruption to put forth a dangerous mixture of inefficiency and arrogance.
On the other hand the BJP, which promised a collective effort to rid the nation of dynastic politics has become an authoritarian behemoth which sways on one man’s word. Inherently communal in nature, its core beliefs (emphatically put forth in the shocking works of the leader of its ideological guru, former RSS supremo MS Golwalkar) is the antithesis of the secularism promised by the Indian Constitution. The BJP’s gradual decline from a party of patriotic intellectuals to mob-drawing rhetoric-spewers only points to dark days ahead for India as a nation.
Ambedkar would indeed turn in his grave many times over if he saw the politics being played out today. The rampant wooing of Dalits and tribals in the name of caste and protection, especially in key states like UP, only serves to underscore why Ambedkar himself was disappointed with the functioning of India’s democracy even as Law Minister.
The one ray of hope, the AAP, too has disappointed with its shaky ideological foundations. Right from its concept of “Swaraj” which seeks to convert India from a representative to a participative democracy (with all the dangers of mobocracy and populism involved), to its confused economic policy which sways like the breeze on Mumbai’s dusty roads, the AAP is a party of committed individuals bound together by no firm core values.
Disillusionment, disgust and despair. The lack of choices is appalling, but what adds salt to the injury is the complete apathy of the people of this great nation. We don’t seem to mind that authoritarianism might lead India astray, or that the “Grand Old Party of India” is tossing the values that built this nation into the wastepaper basket (instead of an ordinance that protects criminals in politics), or that caste and class are being misused to entrap the underprivileged in the same cycles of poverty and oppression.
Disillusionment, disgust and despair. The lack of choice is appalling, but what adds salt to the wound is the complete apathy of the people of this great nation. We don’t seem to mind that authoritarianism might lead India astray, or that the “Grand Old Party of India” is tossing the values that built this nation into the wastepaper basket (instead of an ordinance that protects criminals in politics), or that caste and class are being misused to entrap the underprivileged in the same cycles of poverty and oppression.
What India needs today is not an AAP or any other citizen-led movement. It needs to rethink the idea of India, based on ideology. For without a blueprint of beliefs and values, a stable and effective roadmap for the future is absolutely impossible. Where would America be without distinct Republican and Democrat ideologies? Or the UK without the differences between Labour and Conservatives?
The politics of roti, kapda aur makaan needs to stop – because India deserves better, India needs better. I had hoped that the political class will rise up to the occasion and provide the nation with concrete, ideologically different alternatives. But 2014 has only filled me with disillusionment, disgust and despair.