The return of the Congress is imperative for the preservation of India as we have known it since Independence. Of course, there are forces that are fundamentally opposed to that very idea and have convinced themselves that the 2014 electoral verdict was the final repudiation of the Idea of India and conclusive validation of their dream. The good thing about democracy though is that it is like the flowing river that flows across time and space; it is only the myopic who begin to confine it to moments and static form.
The biggest mistake that PM Modi has made (amongst the many) is to misread the election results that brought him to power at the Centre and indeed have periodically nudged him along the mistaken path (with the exception of Punjab, Delhi, Bihar etc.) He really believes that India unchained itself in 2014 and that the real celebration of Independence should have waited till he unfurled the tri-colour at the Red Fort. It has taken the good people of India less than four years to reject that reading of the 2014 election result (and I do not just mean no longer believing that Rs 15 lakh will be put in our bank accounts or that the young people will have jobs).
It is hardly surprising that we in the Congress, stunned by the magnitude of the defeat, might have sounded a bit confused even as people from high business to the streets lent themselves to a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. The popular reactions stretched from determination to euphoria accompanied by predictions of doom for the beleaguered Congress party. But would one be wrong in saying that four years have taken a sweeping toll of support for PM Modi undoubtedly assisted by the ham-handed demonetisation and ungainly haste in implementation of a far from perfect GST.
Contemporary India under PM Modi would be in a fine state if we had been able to ‘persuade’ Pakistan to give up dreams of hurting India, convinced China to pursue partnership rather than pay lip service, turned terms of trade in favour of agriculture, gave universities the freedom they thrive under, ensured administrative reforms to address the challenge of modern governance, made the right to justice a companion right to RTI, RTE, NRHM, Food Security.
But all we got in three years was an earful of words, from the heart or otherwise. The very people who enthusiastically voted for Shri Modi have turned into familiar adverts for lost souls: “Mother seriously sick, please come home. All forgiven.”
On a more serious note, the unchecked violence in our daily lives from assaults against love jehad, a phrase coined without noticing the irony, to lynching in name of protecting bovines is but the tip of the volcano building up in our polity. Many, and growing number of people are saying that they did not vote for this, that this is certainly not the change they sought.
So, the wheel of public opinion is turning slowly but surely and the wheel of fortune will follow suit. Yet, we in the Congress know for certain that we cannot just wait to let the wheel take care of the future. There is much to be done by us and so must we. It is not just a matter of bringing the sun to shine on the Congress once again but to question the premise the BJP derives from their victories that India has changed permanently and fundamentally. It is therefore a civilisational reaffirmation that is expected from the Congress and the party will not be found wanting.
Smt Sonia Gandhi has admitted that the BJP had the better of us in marketing their manifesto in 2014. They had worked on perceptions for several years and one might fairly admit their expertise in perception building. So, our work is cut out for content as well as perception of our politics. Since the Independence our leadership and cadres would not have been required to make an effort of such enormity and urgency. But how indeed will we do it? By making politics once again more than a vocation and pursuit of personal ambitions: rediscover the commitment to sacrifice for the greater good.
Modern day politics is all about the art of story telling: a combination of economic efficiency, administrative capacity, accessibility and imagination. The strongest urge amongst citizens is to balance welfare and liberty. Sometimes people forget that the two rather than competing attributes of modern governance are indeed inseparable dimensions of the good life. This truth is what the Congress must and indeed will persuade the country to absorb as we endeavour to steer it away from the deluge of broken promises of the BJP and mend the self-inflicted cracks in our syncretic social fabric. From where words do not match the deeds to a national existence of words sublime and deeds transparently noble; from darkness of imposed certainty to the exhilaration of discovery of a new world shall be the destination of our leadership.
Francis Fukuyama speaks of the End of History but we shall work to end illusion. Achhe Din remained a mirage but Congress is determined to bring Sachhe Din. The hate propagated through ignorance and organised dissemination of falsehood must be replaced by love and bonding based on our common heritage and destiny. Young India must turn to its rich shared past to build a prosperous future.
Our unique place in the world rested on the pillars of soft power inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s ahimsa and satyagraha. Those principles must not be deserted in the quest of military power for often they are more powerful than physical might that inevitably had limits and constraints. Every generation rediscovers and represents eternal truths and so must we for Gandhji. India must take rebirth wrapped in the peace message of that great soul. Even as we usher in the dawn of AI (artificial intelligence) and take the digital revolution to unimaginable frontiers, we must retain our core humanity: the incredible India that we presented to the world must now be the indelible India in the hearts of humankind.
The torch has been passed to a new generation of Indians and the era of Rahul Gandhi knocks on the door of history. Like spring in Nature, the arrival of a youthful leadership brings the essential ingredient of Hope: hopeful we all are for happiness and fulfillment but not oblivious of the trying and testing challenges of the times, exacerbated by narrow minded manipulation of impatient minds.
Time calls us to redeem the pledges made to destiny: complete the social security net of education, health, housing, food, jobs for all as the core of a just society; conflict resolution through easy and cost effective institutional access; pro-active preservation and promotion of diversity; pursuit of a knowledge society. Every nightmare of our times shall be replaced by a noble dream. Equality and equity shall inform our engagement with the disadvantaged, marginalised and those whose voice is not heard.
This land belongs to all Indians and all will be secured the right to equal respect and participation in our democracy for anything less will leave the soul of India unacceptably truncated. Congress shall return to unleash a moral and social revolution.