Don't fix history, look at the future

, 30 August 2009

Sometimes, i wonder if television channels pay politicians to enact drama in real life. After all, how else can we have top leaders of a leading party spending days discussing a historical figure, banning a book and firing the author from his job of 30 years. I have no ill-feelings for the BJP (or the Congress party for that matter).

In fact, i’d like to see both parties as strong as possible, so that the Indian voter gets to choose between two good alternatives. However, the post-poll, slow-suicide path the BJP has chosen for itself, is harmful not only for their party, but for the nation. With no credible second alternative, a democracy runs the risk of turning into a one-party monopoly, which may not be good for the country in the long term.

The reality is that despite its best intentions, the BJP is out of touch with the current generation. The recent Jinnah book/Jaswant Singh episode confirms this fact like none other. The BJP is screaming that Mr Jinnah was not indeed as secular as claimed by Jaswant Singh. Experts on TV are citing events in 1932 which prove that Jinnah was a good person; countered by an equal number of experts citing historical events which prove that Jinnah did terrible things.

To answer the Jinnah question from the point of view of the young generation — Who cares?

Really, whether Mr Jinnah did wonderful things or he did horrible things and whatever point of view your party likes to take — who gives a damn? How is this relevant to the India we have to build today? Are we electing leaders for the future or selecting a history teacher?

The strange thing is the media buys into this pointless debate — about Mr Jinnah being good or bad and spends hours discussing it. By doing so, it gives legitimacy to the whole exercise.

Meanwhile, the young generation fails to understand why do our politicians become so passionate defending these relics of the past? Why don’t they have a fanatical debate about how fast we will make roads, colleges, bridges and power plants? Why don’t people get expelled over current non-performance rather than historical opinions? Why don’t we ban useless government paperwork rather than banning books about dead people?

Every Indian student learns about the past leaders. We read their biographies, celebrate their birthdays and see them as inspiration. However, what made these people great was the fact that they brought about change for a better future during their time. Do our politicians realize this before they claim to be fans and devotees of past leaders? Or is it simply easier to debate the past than roll up your sleeves and make change happen. This old Indian mentality of non-stop discussion and no action has cost the nation dearly.

The BJP, however, seems to be out of touch with the above. They actually feel what their party thinks about Jinnah drives the voting process of Indians. They feel people will only vote for them if they somehow present a hardline Hindu (which means anti-Muslim) stance. Maybe such was the mood of the nation in the past, after the September 11 attacks and the attack on Parliament closer home.

However, today, the young generation does not think so. Any pro or anti-rant against any particular community by a politician is seen as a ploy to win votes without doing real work. In this scenario, the BJP scratches its head on what it could do. Well, it still can do a lot. The BJP is not just a Hindu party. It is also a right-wing party from the point of view of economic policy. And right-wing economic policies typically involve higher privatization, lower subsidies, better financial management, focus on growth in business and employment and attracting private capital for national development.

The right-wing economic agenda is so long forgotten that in India, people associate the right-wing with a communal agenda, which frankly is not what the right-wing is about. Right-wing economic policies can greatly benefit the country but the question is how do we make the young generation believe it. Well, if the BJP can do that, it can bridge the gap in votes and it can hope to come back with more seats.

A word about the RSS as well, the so-called BJP backbone. Well, maybe the RSS’s ideology has been to defend the Hindu cause. At present, however, they have a massive image problem. Any educated, young, urban Indian — often the opinion leaders — views the RSS sceptically. A lot of people do not, and will not, vote for the BJP because of this issue, even though most will acknowledge the good development work done in Gujarat or MP. The RSS needs to take a tough decision — will they support the BJP even if the BJP no longer hates Muslims? I think the RSS can make this switch and promote a Hinduism of tolerance and acceptance, which is more relevant in the India of today.

Meanwhile, let’s let Mr Jinnah rest in peace. Let the book be there, as banning a book in the time of the Internet is silly anyway. And let’s not worry too much about this subject called History; let’s create a new subject called The Future.


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