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Periscopic View Of India 2047

Consequently more and more people in this country are going to reject anti-majority secularism that has been professed

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More than four decades before a periscope became a proper noun and a fashionable App, I and a high school classmate got drawn to making a small one for our physics practical examination. Our periscope was assembled from cardboard, small mirrors and lenses, easily available in our small town where drawing and other physical instruments were manufactured — because the idea of a periscope appealed to us. Even though our submissions were barely a foot-and- a-half high, we discussed how fascinating it would be to see through a big periscope especially if it emerged out of a submarine’s hull. The idea of sitting unnoticed somewhere and watching others at another place have fuelled many juvenile imaginations.

When I was asked to visualise India of the future — its characteristics in 2047 to be specific — I was reminded of our fantasy of possessing a periscope that could be turned at will in any direction for a peep into spaces out of bounds. If this imaginary periscope can be pointed by all of us to the eve of Independence Day in 2047, I am sure the sight will be different for each one. We can also use the art of crystal ball gazing for a foresight into a future when a large number of us — at least the fifty plus group — will no longer be around. Crystal balls, manuals tell us, not only do not have magical powers, but also do not foretell the future. For practitioners of the art, they are mere enablers to unlock the subconscious parts of the mind and give concrete shape to images buried within the clutter of daily worries and chores.

Over the past several decades, I have often found that writing reflective pieces or those that are not reportage, was akin to the crystal ball gazer’s sessions. No one should ever be certain about the future because it involves the imponderable called life. The future thereby, is always a set possibilities.

There are two distinct scenarios of August 14, 2047 —the first that it will be celebrated with great enthusiasm and the second that it will be treated as just another landmark, the way the 150th anniversary of 1857 was marked in 2007 — with a commemorative session. Which one of these possibilities will be enacted in the India of 2047 would depend on which event of greater importance overtakes 15 August 1947, the way the First War of Indian Independence was superseded by the eventual decision of the British to leave the country after partitioning it. India is no longer under foreign rule and because our political system displayed remarkable maturity unlike our neighbours on the west, democratic elections have  ensured seamless change of not just regimes but also basic political equations.

Consequently, there is no unfinished political agenda in India for its completion to become a bigger and more significant milestone in Indian history. The only way 15 August 1947 can get relegated to a remote event like 1857, is if there is a transformation in the fundamentals of the nation: geography, development priority or even political system. It however, is futile to speculate on the unforeseen and it is best to stick to the possibilities given the present state and situation of the nation state.

There is a growing consensus that barring odd electoral setbacks, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains the unchallenged pivot or fulcrum of Indian politics. Dominance of the Indian political system by Prime Minister Narendra Modi matches, if not overtakes, the hegemony of the Congress — under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. This dominance currently is based on perception that policies pursued by Modi have the right intent and growing support for the political ideology — articulated by him simplistically as anti-minorityism. If one projects the current supremacy of Modi’s BJP and even discounting for a surprise reversal of electoral fortunes in the next parliamentary polls, emergence of an alternative ideology appears indistinct for a long time to come.

Consequently, more and more people in this country are going to reject anti-majority secularism that has been professed by several parties with an eye on enlisting winning social coalitions. There is thus, little doubt that the essence of BJP’s political belief will remain the guiding beacon of the Indian state, regardless of whether the party is in government or out of it.

The Congress party inherited the national movement and was considered the legitimate party of governance. It was not until two decades later in 1967 that the people expressed marginal lack of confidence in it, resulting in the party clinging on to a majority by a small margin. Yet the first phase of one-party dominance, by the Congress in that instance, continued till 1989. The second phase in Indian polity — the coalition era — that started with the rise of V. P. Singh, ended with 2014 which kick-started the third, or the episode of BJP dominance. Because in no political system is there place for permanence, challenges and upsets for the BJP will come between now and 2047, but it will take a huge effort and for unforeseen developments to take place to push the party into the periphery. It must never be forgotten that the BJP is backed by a bigger network of workers, swayamsevaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the commitment of its cadre has been more ideological than personal pursuit of power and glory. In India every party and leader has displayed preference for political centralism and decentralism and the BJP and Modi are no different. Despite worries over his democratic quotient, Modi has repeatedly professed faith in the democratic system and it is tough to visualise its subversion even if the BJP is in office after his fading. Governments between now and 2047 have to focus on social development, making India more egalitarian and protect national interests in the conflict-ridden world and if these tasks are accomplished, it should be a glorious run to the centenary of independent India in three decades from now. At least, that is what my periscope shows!  

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.


Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist and author. He wrote the much-appreciated, Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times

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