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Rahul, please do not trash the India Story

opinionRahul, please do not trash the India Story

On his annual sojourns to other countries in the 21st century Anglosphere, Rahul ought not to come across as having a visible and visceral dislike not just for Prime Minister Narendra Modi but for the Republic of India itself.

This columnist confesses to a bias in favour of the two children of one of the nicest individuals he has ever encountered, Rajiv Ratan Birjees Gandhi. Before his mindspace being taken over by both the Congress Party as well as the official bureaucracy that began during 1983 and was complete by 1985, Rajiv sought to free India from a rut that dated back not just to the British period but even sooner. Among the achievements of this interlude of relative freedom from control by the politico-official machine, Rajiv sought to adopt Mani Shankar Aiyar’s plan to broadbase governance in India by strengthening the panchayat system, a move that the Mahatma would have approved of. Satyen Pitroda helped ensure that our country’s first steps towards a communications revolution took place, and there were a few other transformative moves as well. In a way, Rajiv’s backing away through the Muslim Women’s Bill from Arif Mohammad Khan’s desire that the Supreme Court verdict giving justice to Shah Bano be affirmed marked the moment when things started going sour for him. No longer was Rajiv seen as a harbinger of change, instead he was seen as having been co-opted into the pit of the status quo. The tragically shortened political and administrative career of Rajiv Gandhi, which began with another tragedy, the death of his brother Sanjay in an air crash in 1980, ought to have been the foundation of the political education of Rahul Gandhi, who is clearly the choice of Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi for the role of Prime Minister of India, to form for the family a quartet together with his great-grandfather, grandmother and father.
The advice given to Rahul seems not to include the imbibing the lessons from the trajectory of the three Nehru family Prime Ministers of India mentioned earlier. On his annual sojourns to other countries in the 21st century Anglosphere such as the UK and the US, Rahul ought not to come across as having a visible and visceral dislike not just for Prime Minister Narendra Modi but for the Republic of India itself. It is for him not just Modi who needs to change, but the whole of India. It’s always the refrain of India being in a deep moral, even existential, crisis because voters in 2014 chose the BJP led by Narendra Modi rather than the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi to rule. Even in a matter as consequential for a country that our leaders in 1947 allowed to be partitioned on the grounds of faith, Rahul appears to many to question the very meaning of the Union of India by giving the impression of believing that the model he favours for the country is that of the European Union, where independent countries have formed a loose confederation. To Rahul, present-day India appears as a dystopian hell, ruled by an all-powerful autocrat who was presumably therefore responsible even for ordering that the BJP lose 17 state elections and counting since 2014. A Prime Minister who in Rahul’s words has choked to suffocation democracy in India, such that the country has become what Italy or Spain was in the first half of the previous century, a fascist state. Certainly the BJP has overreacted in some matters, such as in its blocking of a tawdry cut and paste BBC hit job on not just Modi but the whole of India, or in the way in which punitive laws capable of being applied in myriad ways to deprive a citizen of his or her liberty continue being used by officials in the manner they have been for the past 75 years. However, India is very far from being what Rahul daily describes it to be during sojourns in countries where the well-heeled send their children to study and themselves to settle down in.
Rahul needs to get a tutorial from the maestro in the use of colonial-era penal laws, Palaniappan Chidambaram, the Home Minister who sent Anna Hazare to jail in 2011 and whose tenure, among other things, saw the wrecking of a thriving domestic exchange that had gone global, to the relief of another exchange familiar to Chidambaram that was feeling the heat of competition from the felled rival. Not to mention the energetic use during successive governments including the UPA of the very agencies that Rahul claims are being used solely to harass individuals that include Abhishek Banerjee, Lalu Yadav and others, most of whom remain unknown. Does Rahul believe that none of the HNI targets of the CBI or the ED have made a rupee more than what they get as salaries. Of course, he would be aware that some of his relatives in Italy saw massive changes in their lifestyle beginning with the 1980s although of course, this must have been a phenomenon entirely unrelated to a hugely influential relative of theirs long resident in India. Unlike Modi, who as PM has eliminated more than half of colonial era restrictive laws, the ten years of the UPA saw the frequent use of such laws without any discernible request emanating from Rahul that such laws and practices be abandoned. There definitely remain more than a few dystopian features to the post-colonial structure of governance in India, but almost all of them were around during 2004-14, the period when Rahul Gandhi had a somewhat greater influence over the workings of government than he does these days.
In 2014, and then in 2019, his family would have been delighted to see Rahul ascend to the Prime Ministership, a view of his capabilities that he does not appear to strongly disagree with. Which is probably why he is working so hard to challenge Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, KCR and Tejashwi Yadav in being the politician who is the most vocally dismissive of Modi’s achievements. Unlike Rahul, however, the others have not so far thrown out the baby that is their country from the bathwater that is their differences with Prime Minister Modi. In an era where India bids fair to drain away a lot of the investment flowing away from China, the verbal interventions of Rahul Gandhi seem aimed, perhaps inadvertently, to prevent tens of billions of dollars of investment needed for jobs and higher incomes from relocating from China into India, rather than going only to Vietnam, Indonesia or Thailand. Fortunately, while his audiences enjoy the repartee and the barbs so frequently flung by Rahul at not just Modi but in effect the country of which both the Prime Minister and the MP from Kalpetta are citizens, much fewer take his opinions as gospel. Many know India better, and despite (or perhaps because of) the clearly Hinduphobic hysteria spewed by the BBC, CNN, NYT or the Manchester Guardian about India, people across the globe sense that this is India’s time. Please don’t try and stop that bus, Rahul, but hop onto it. The India Story is real.


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