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BW Businessworld

Consensus Is Key To Progress

It’s important that the government and the Opposition sit down to rework the ground rules of cooperation

Photo Credit : Bloomberg


What one hopes India to be in the New Year is not what it is today. We are angry and impatient; confused about our past and unclear about our future; high on ambition to dominate the world but unable to contain conflict amongst our own people; we profess to be committed to peace but indulge in wanton violence at the slightest provocation; we are of course a great nation but we conduct ourselves as though we do not know this important fact. I would indeed be very happy if in the year ahead we could simply rid ourselves of these mill stones around our necks and shake free of the drag that has kept us from our destiny. People will ask how that is to be done. Well, it has to be a task for the leadership but no less for the people themselves. But a beginning might be made by understanding that leadership is not just the man on horseback, the Prime Minister and anyone he chooses but also the multitude of opposition leaders, the once and future executive of our country.

The last election in 2014 was billed as a game changer with the aspirational youth leading from the front. We in the Congress were obviously disappointed that our young leader’s natural constituency chose to back a much older man. But clearly, there was a break away from tradition and nostalgia, the romance of considering themselves as the children of the Independence revolution. The buzz word was opportunity; jobs and a good life is what figured most prominently in their hopes and plans. Just as in previous elections we had morphed ghareeb aadmi into aam aadmi, the BJP successfully merged the software techies with the rest of young people in pursuit of the good life. It will not be easy for anyone to meet the demand though it is imperative that this expectation not be allowed to turn into widespread frustration. The greatest enemy of India in the months ahead will be the creeping flood of frustrated dreams and it is a national obligation for all not to be overwhelmed by it. Inevitably, political parties see such moments as electoral opportunities but we must not forget that a nation that feeds on frustration cannot be great.

Sadly, the political landscape of recent years has given the national discourse an unhealthy hue of confrontation. It is ironic that the Prime Minister, still able to count on considerable public support despite disappointments, is able to reach out to neighbours whom he attacked with extreme prejudice not many months ago, and yet is unable to talk to political adversaries at home. It is all very well to speak of the responsibility of the Opposition to allow governance by the duly elected representatives but an honest admission of deliberate obstruction of the then established government might have done wonders. India deserves a break and therefore it is important that the government and the Opposition sit down to rework the ground rules of cooperation. There has to be some give and take; some signs of intent were given by the PM in his latest Parliamentary interventions but there will have to some steps to confirm that.

Breaking the ice between national leaders will hopefully be the beginning by example of a wider dialogue in the country that is compatible with civilised standards. We are several generations away from the widespread consensus of the national movement and desperately need dialogue on the understanding of national identity as well as priorities. Much as a free society should accept cynicism and dissent, encouraging inclination to question established postulates, deliberate and calculated attempts to undermine, even dismantle, valuable political heritage, such as the questioning of Nehru and Gandhi will set us adrift from our place in history. No nation can prosper that does not know its own history and no fictitious history can sustain a civilisation. It is important that the core India of India as we have known from the Independence movement until now be preserved. What Indian people embraced over the decades cannot be wiped out by a single election. Of course, there is scope to recognise elements that might not have been adequately represented but institutional memory cannot simply be wiped out and replaced with fresh material.

So let 2016 be the year of truth and reconciliation. Let us learn to forgive; let us learn to move on; let us forget what was ugly and a distortion of our values but retain the lessons that pain and sorrow teach. With growing violence and divisions in the world, we in India still have a chance to be a happy people. Let us try to be happy but that will not be unless we ensure that all are happy together, not some at the cost of others. Therefore, we will have to pursue economic policies of inclusion and not growth for growth’s sake. Let us find shelter for every citizen, food for every home, and a school for every child. The State must play Mother India, not spook its citizens in the name of imagined security threats and overzealous accountability to show that the government works. I hope that we will take a leaf out of Bhutan’s book and along with Swacch Bharat work towards being Happy Bharat. It is not for nothing that we speak of ourselves as the ‘Heaven on Earth’ or God’s own Country!

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 11-01-2016)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Salman Khurshid

The author is Member of parliament, Congress

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