I believe our country must remain democratic and be governed by its current Constitution. I worry about the rising employment and costs of living. I feel concerned at the divisive machinations and hatred that are being sought to spread through whatsappery and other means. I wish the opposition to be visible out on the streets. And, yes, I am pro-Rahul – what he embodies and stands for, for his convictions and courage.
But I am, as yet, sceptical about I.N.D.I.A.
To begin with, the nomenclature itself, and particularly the word “Developmental” therein. Right now, “Development” is not the country’s most urgent current concern. A country can be theocratic and be governed dictatorially – and yet it can be “developed”, since the market and GDP are the applied yardsticks or parameters for judging that.
It is the erosion of Democracy and dismantling of the Constitution that are at the heart of our problems today.
No doubt, Mr Modi, the BJP and its supporters talk about development ad infinitum. But, as has become more and more clear, it is really a term that can be interpreted any which way. “Democracy” is what they are more wary of uttering. Why, even in the USA, when our Prime Minister, with poker face, seeks to clarify about democracy being in India’s DNA, it was taken with a pinch of salt and actually seen through.
Perhaps, by choosing “Democratic” over “Developmental”, the opposition collective could have not only exposed Mr Modi’s feigned claim to democracy but also underlined that core threat to the country. A question arises – by choosing “Developmental”, has the Group of 26 underlined that to be its most important concern, narrative and priority? Or is it that deep within, the democratic credentials of the opposition parties too are equally suspect. Congress may appear to have taken a small step towards inner-party democracy, and if its elders, cronies and hangers-on don’t manage to force otherwise, the party may yet make more progress on it.
So, how is the acronym I.N.D.I.A. being played out? A visit to the social media news portals, particularly the ones which are outside the Godi media frame, there seems to be a great sense of euphoria over this acronym. In a world increasingly being dominated and influenced by copywritten words, I.N.D.I.A. is having its ample share of being used in puns and punches. Among the Group of 26 or the analysts in these news portals, there is glee that in the battle between the Government and the Opposition, the latter has won the first round, and claimed that it has put the ruling party and its supporters on the mat! The cavalier claims are euphorically being stretched to the 2024 outcome. However, what the Opposition appears to have so far won are perhaps some Brownie points.
But how do we look at the I.N.D.I.A. collective’s long-term existence? The collective’s action holds promise, yes, but then how strongly does its longevity stand up to scrutiny?
Certainly, democratic urgency abounds as fascism has thrust open the door and taken steps inside. Yet, one cannot dismiss the most elementary reality check that the current political scenario in the country is a politically do or die situation for most of the members of I.N.D.I.A. both, in their capacity as individual leaders and their respective parties to survive as political entity. In a democracy, as has been, they are or have hitherto been each other’s rivals – and more often than not, bitter rivals.
But, as the phrase goes, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I.N.D.I.A. is exactly that.
What I.N.D.I.A. is seeking to achieve is to defeat or at the least, restrict the BJP (and its re-gatherred NDA) at the 2024 parliamentary polls. And the strategy broadly being talked about is to have one-on-one against the BJP. It is not clear yet, whether this one-on-one is being thought of at the State or the individual parliamentary seat level.
The aim to relegate the BJP to the second position, is really a defeatist strategy. It is aiming low, rather than high. Is it too unrealistic to think of not just winning against the BJP but actually pushing it to the third place? Otherwise, one would be merely attempting to trim its wings and actually ensuring that it continues to remain a viable force – which is a rather dangerous prospect. So, why this hesitancy in I.N.D.I.A.? Is it a lack of self-confidence? Or is it actually a lack of trust among themselves?
Deep within, most of the I.N.D.I.A. partners realize that their own track record vis-à-vis the BJP, Sangh and the Hindutva outfits has been nothing to write home about? With the exception of a few at the state levels, most have done virtually nothing to confront and stand up to these forces. And they are actually riding piggy-back on the path forced open by the Congress in general and Rahul Gandhi in particular – who they actually continue to be wary of. Which is why, far from taking courage from him, they are still hesitant to come out on the streets and catch the bull by the horns, so to say.
The next question arises – though still a work in progress, does I.N.D.I.A. promise a long-term existence? Do its various components hold a long-term vision? One cannot yet say how the political scenario will evolve, but a post-2024 scenario, whichever way it goes, is at the moment still replete with despair. The Janata Dal experience is still not too far in the past to forget. Also, even if I.N.D.I.A. does well at the hustings, the situation is not going to turn overnight, and could well pose even worse happenings. Only, it will provide some ground for a re-beginning and “by God!” that will demand infinitely more good sense, courage, sacrifice and persistence. Will the current generation of political parties, which are in good measure also a product of deceit and conceit, be up to it?
Such questions I.N.D.I.A. will need to honestly ask of itself.
Biju Negi belongs to Hind Swaraj Manch