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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 11, March 2, 2013

New Indian Political Dialogue

Wednesday 6 March 2013, by Amna Mirza

The recently concluded Chintan Shivir of the Congress party will be etched in people’s memory for years to come for two reasons: elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the party’s Vice-President being the first and his candid speech being the second. The nation witnessed a stellar address at the Congress’ Chintan Shivir. The event began on a note of rethinking and realigning the contours of work of the ruling party. The elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the AICC Vice-President, juxtaposed with his speech, definitely compels one to ponder over some issues as we deliberate Indian politics.

These two events are of immense political significance for the ruling party which has been at the receiving end of the Opposition’s diatribe for a while now. This session not only injected a fresh impetus into the party’s ranks with the promotion of its most charismatic face, but also laid clear guidelines for its leaders. This write-up intends to bring out a line of thought over the deeper meanings attached to that address and the need to learn from it.

Rahul Gandhi’s phrase ‘power is poison’ is one of the boldest pronouncements in recent times. His speech introduced a new Rahul Gandhi to the world. It revealed a bold, mature and wise politician who is also forthright and compassio-nate. He not only outlined the roadmap to take on impending challenges, but also openly ackno-wledged the problems the party is grappling with. His speech implied a new era that the Congress has entered into, an era where the party leader himself is exhorting his members to overcome the fetish of ‘laal batti’, be austere and devote themselves to society’s service.

Politics is an act of gradual evolution. It was indeed remarkable to witness how he has meticulously learnt the tough game of running the affairs of the party with time, since his induction into the party eight years ago. Party politics is a hard-hitting game of unlimited demands but limited supply, with its own ups and downs at the time of every electoral battle from the third tier of Panchayats to the Central level, juxtaposed with the varied assorted hetero-geneous structure of the Indian Union. What was essential to comprehend how he had learnt all this with time and not all of a sudden. This is a message for those hundreds of thousands in young India, aspiring not only in politics, but in other realms also like cinema, arts, sports, medicine, management, that things happen with time. One has to carefully observe and learn the rules of the game, and then take the larger plunge.

Growth and development happen sensing the mood and tides of the time. Perhaps, leaders like Indira Gandhi could do that in the case of bank nationalisation, green revolution, Rajiv Gandhi in the case of the IT revolution, Sonia Gandhi in the case of the Right to Information Act, right to work, amongst others. Today no matter whichever unruly and delinquent situation we imagine India to be in, in case of poverty, corruption, and Naxalism, the very fact that our country has had a successful electoral democracy and Constitution for the last sixty years is indeed soothing and comforting.

Democracy also carries with itself huge expectations of the people, and the task becomes complex when looked at the mammoth numbers of ours in population contrasted with the crude economic axiom that our resources are limited. At this hour this is where the task of a public representative becomes tough, put next to the fact that a battlefield awaits you five years down the line. This irony of a perplexing political process was rightly read by Rahul Gandhi with the lens of a realist as he questioned the centralisation of power and the sentiment of being robust associated by some for those in places of power.

When we hear the saga of even the brightest brains of the country not being able to make it to elite administrative jobs, the chronicle of judicial delays, the sad narratives of marginali-sation experienced by women, minorities, amongst others, certainly these cast a bleak picture over the scheme of our living. These procedures and approaches rightly call for a new definition over the structure and classification of the affairs of our polity.

Changed contexts need new scripts. India is no different here. Today India has moved in all realms, from the era of a one-party-dominant state to that of a multi-party coalition, from a centralised planned to a global moving economy with its new horizons of soft power, cultural diplomacy, rise of information and technology, new forms of media, amongst others. The nation has to define new aspects of politics and the Jaipur sermon indeed sets the tone for it. It aptly calls for a political process which is connected to the grassroots, an exercise in democracy where the systems need to be accountable to a new vigilant India.

Dr Amna Mirza, a Ph.D from the University of Delhi, is an Assistant Professor at the university.

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