hi INDiA Copyright 2020
Lutyens’s Delhi has to change (Khan Market Dialogues-I)
Post-election analysis is a part of every democracy. It’s just 10 days since the Narendra Modi-led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to an even bigger victory than its triumph in 2014. Today the party has a simple majority on its own and a near two-third majority through its coalition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
I was sure of this victory though with a lesser margin. In the past few years I often had arguments with several close friends in the media, arts, academia and business and was often accused of having sold out to the Saffron Brigade or even being a closet Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) sympathizer. I have always prided myself of being a rational and independent thinker. The only anathema to me is Left or Socialist economic philosophy which has failed the test of time the world over.
Since 2014 the chatterati, media and academia closed ranks very conveniently and dubbed everyone who did not agree with them as right wing, as if being a rightist and being liberal are mutually irreconcilable. A chant went up with a singular agenda. Modi and the BJPare a national disaster. This led to a cleave in the media on public discourse.
Obviously, a larger proportion supported the new government and a sizeable part of it became bitter critics. The irony is that this group complained the most about loss of freedom yet went about damning the government by the minute. However, during the past five years, as I lauded various steps taken by the Modi government or defended actions like demonetization (I am still one of the few who still believe and with reason it was a good step) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), I had the opinion of various experts thrown at my face.
Left-wing academics, biased articles and mothballed doctrines and partisan intellectual debates irrelevant data were cited. Dissent was the only qualification to be considered the right (left actually) interpretation all progress and social mores.
But this piece is not about me or my beliefs. It is my observations why Indian thinking elite (a bit of an oxymoron) repeatedly failed to read the tea leaves and why outdated metrics no longer work in 2019. The genesis of this goes back to the early years of our independence. India, consciously under the leader of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru chose the socialist economy. Unlike some, I am an admirer of Nehru who definitely laid the foundations of several institutions and in a way led to resurgent post-colonial India. Nehru was quite a paradoxical person. While by upbringing he was an aristocrat, by interest a renaissance man and by political though a Gandhian turned socialist. Yet one thing which Nehru (and a trait followed by all his descendants) was to encourage Darbaris (courtiers). However, he made some fatal mistakes as well.
His futile quest of a Non-Aligned World Order led to a flawed diplomatic thrust including his mishandling of the Kashmir situation. He relied on an oversized Civil Service (with some remarkable officers though) inherited from the British together with some leftist (he was a Fabian socialist himself since his young days) intellectuals drew up the road map of Modern India. On the cultural front this was still fine but it was a monumental economic disaster in the making. By aligning too strongly to a flawed Soviet style planning he was hell bent on taking India India to commanding heights of Economy from where a free fall was the only exit. An aside here while a self-confessed agnostic Nehru may not have supported religiosity but was happy to be totemically seen to participate in rituals when politically expedient. In fact, he even supported a dubious Congress initiative called Bharat Sadhu Semaj. Secularism was more of a dream than a reality.
Nehru and later his daughter Indira Gandhi had a predisposition of working with coteries. Dilettantes and bon vivant(s) both promoted academia, intelligentsia and an upper crust English speaking social elite. Those who profess of the wonders of Pax Nehruviana forget that he has imprisoned a whole retinue of Communist ideologues, artistes and writers, He was friendly with some journalists but hated others including some eminent ones like.
Those who complain of censorship and Sanskari Film certification board should go and check records of how Nehru too banned books, films and other journals in his time. Of course, Mrs. Gandhi’s infamous Emergency diktats and excesses needs no recounting. There were always the ruling elite, intellectuals and writers born out of a peculiar amalgam of colonial and Marxist values. All important leaders who dared too dissent – Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Maulana Azad died early – C Rajagopalachari, Acharya Kripalani. Jai Prakash Narayan, Minoo Masani, Nath Pai, Piloo Mody, PC Joshi, Acharya Narendra Dev were successfully neutralized. Nehru was erudite and polished but he was fallible and two lost wars, famines and poverty are some of the relics of his legacy as are some fine institutions he set up.
His daughter though was more imperious and often naive At least Pandit Nehru was not vindictive, his daughter as time would reveal herself to be was quite Machiavellian. Be that as it may, both the father and daughter did many good things for the nation but also must share blame for what India turned has out to be in subsequent decades. The famous Hindu growth rate of sub 4 per cent in 1950s,60s,70s and 80s for one. A largely deprived, illiterate country with dozens of perpetually haemorrhaging public sector. A bloated bureaucracy and Soviet style state control of enterprise kept India wallowing in want. To her credit Mrs. Gandhi led the country to victory in 1971 war with Pakistan. When it suited her, she turned vicious and volatile and blatantly partisan.
(Amit Khanna is a media personality and reconteur)
(To be continued)