India’s moment of truth

-Uday Dandavate On June 12th, 1975, the Congress government lost Gujarat assembly elections to the Janata Morcha. On the same day Allahabad High Court declared Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s election to the Parliament invalid based on an election petition filed by socialist leader Late Raj Narayan. Indira Gandhi was defiant. She imposed a State of Emergency and put all the opposition leaders in prison for the next two years and suspended civil liberties of citizens in the country. The underground movement against emergency provided the impetus to the noncongress opposition parties to unite for the first time against the monolithic congress party rule and to eventually displace it from power in 1977. Due to lack of ideological cohesion and personal ambitions of the top leaders the Janata Party, a by product of India’s fight against corruption, splintered and India’s electorate brought Mrs. Indira Gandhi back to power within a short period of 18 months. Upon disintegration of the Janata Party, Jayprakash Narayan, the architect of the “anti-corruption movement” of 1974-75 and the author of the “Total Revolution”- a dream that drove youth to the movement against corruption lamented, “A garden (a metaphor for the dream of total revolution) has been destroyed”.

The situation today in many ways is similar to the year 1975, yet the differences need to be understood. Congress party finds itself in a similar situation- it is today

presiding over the most corrupt edifice and stands discredited in the eyes of India’s citizens. Anna Hazare, who often credits Jayprakash Narayan and Mahatma Gandhi as his inspiration, has stirred the conscience of the nation and appealed to the youth of India to pursue a new vision for a corruption free India. Unlike Jayprakash Narayan, Anna Hazare is today vary of approaching the next parliamentary election with a half-baked political alternative and has therefore decided to part ways with some of his key lieutenants in the anti-corruption movement, who are more eager to fight the system in the electoral arena in 2014. Anna Hazare and his team have expressed greater interest in building a long term grass root level cadre of committed youth for transforming India. Am Adami Party, led by Arvind Kejriwal is in the meanwhile gearing up to fight the next parliamentary election against both the established parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress Party, terming them both as part of the corrupt system. The enthusiasm generated by the movement for Lok Pal Bill in the country resembled the movement against corruption in 1974-75, yet the scenario before the 2014 elections to India’s parliament is radically different from the pre-election scenario of 1977.

In 1977, compulsions of fight for civil liberties brought the Congress (O), Jan Sangh (now BJP), Socialist Party and Swatantra Party under the umbrella of the Janata Party. Jagjivan Ram who had only recently separated from Mrs. Indira Gandhi to form his own Congress for Democracy (CFD) merged it into the Janata

Party as soon as the Lok Sabha campaign began. The constituents of the Janata Party could never arrive at a shared ideological platform for building a sustained political alternative.

The Janata party was torn between the Congress (O) -rejects of the congress culture, Socialists- who had championed an egalitarian society since separating from the Congress Party of pre-independence era, and the Jan Sangh- who had relentlessly pursued the dream of Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). After the collapse of the Janata Party, Bharatiya janata Party decided to go back to its original agenda of harnessing the religious sentiments of the Hindu majority as the central plank of its political agenda.

L.K. Advani led the rise of BJP with his Ayodhya movment, by embarking on a pilgrimage to Ayodhya in a chariot. He led a frenzied crowd of a million people towards the Babri Masjid, which led to the destruction of the historical monument and installation of a temporary idol of Ram at the site. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement brought dividends to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the next elections. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister of India. Many of the more progressive and socialist leaders from the former Janata Party/ Janata Dal, joined the bandwagon and became a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which became an alternative to the congress led (United Democratic Alliance (UPA).

While Atal Bihari became the conciliatory face of the National Democratic Alliance, which allowed the parties with secular beliefs an excuse to overlook the communal agenda of the BJP, L.K. Advani was sidelined due to his overt association with a hardline religious stance. L.K.  Advani  had  to  make  way  for  Atal   Bihari  as  a  Prime  Minister  ue  to  compulsions  of  accommodating  the  secular  leaders   into  NDA. NDA became a new version of the ideologically disparate coalition of parties from 1977 era.

In the meanwhile, Narendra Modi emerged on the scene as the voice of the hardliners in the BJP. Narendra Modi tapped into the popular anger against Pakistan sponsored terrorism and Global sentiment against activities of AlQaida   to establish a new political platform that promised a new brand of politics that combined promise of development with a chauvinistic passion. He ruthlessly capitalized on the anger against Muslim minorities and presided over the most heinous genocide of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. The liberal mask of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, advised Modi to assume responsibility for the riots by demonstrating his “Raja Dharma. Vajpayee’s advice was ignored. The opportunity for cashing on the popular combative passions helped BJP gain a foothold in the minds of Hindu Majority. Gujarat became a laboratory for Narendra Modi to start a new revolution of fanatical nationalism.

Today Gujarat has turned another page in the history of India’s political evolution. Narendra Modi has emerged victorious for the third time in the assembly election and has twitted- “its time to move FORWARD”- clearly indicating his wider design of taking his approach to the national level. Modi’s pilot project in Gujarat is ready for a national roll out. The people of Gujarat and many supporters and admirers of Narendra Modi are excited at the prospect of seeing him as the next prime minister of India. Many of them are excited at the prospect of linking the politics of religious identity and development and of making deep inroads into the religious sensitivities of India for long term political gains. In Narendra Modi’s leadership they see an opportunity to reverse the “pandering of muslim minority” (a common belief amongst the conservative population of India) and getting rid of “Pseudo Secularism” from the political discourse.

Narendra Modi’s ascendance to the political center stage is a moment of truth for India and for the coalition partners of the National Democratic Alliance. It is a time to choose between the true beliefs in democratic system of governance, in India’s belief in secular principles, in the need to maintain religious harmony and in tapping into the cultural diversity as a source of innovation and development. In the coming months the youth of India will be faced with a difficult task of choosing between ascendance to a fanatical and autocratic development model or gradual evolution of a democracy that allows for its diversity to be nurtured.

It is India’s moment of truth. My choice is clear- I am for following a more arduous path because that is how India will prosper with a sense of confidence, security and spirit of free expression and respect for each other. I trust Anna Hazare’s intentions and Arvind Kejriwal’s impatience over Narendra Modi’s clarity, energy and vision.

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