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The Idea of India

Highlights

The Idea of India, S Madhusudhana Rao, Jawaharlal Nehru, Idea of India. If an opinion poll is done on what the youth think about their ‘Idea of India,’ surely, we will have many surprises and shocks.

From the first Prime Minister of independent India Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira Gandhi and her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, everyone has propounded his/her own vision of this country without radically differing from each other. Since all of them belong to the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, their ideas of shaping India on socialist and semi-capitalist lines coalesce at one point or the other and the Congress party leaders too have followed the same path in implementing the policies and programmes that are basically aimed at uplifting the masses from penury and illiteracy and improving their overall socio-economic conditions.

However, the 1990s had witnessed a radical shift when the country opened up and in the last two decades India’s assimilation with the rest of the world in matters of trade, commerce and investment is more or less complete. With a youthful population that is raring to go and conquer the world and a Diaspora that is bringing laurels to the land of their origin in all fields of human activity, what is the idea of India in the 21st century? Individuals, intellectuals and political leaders have different ideas; some are vague and impractical while others are utopian and idealistic. But what concerns ordinary citizens is their relevance and their long-term effects on the overall quality of individual life.

Despite India being projected as an economic power after China and the US by 2025 or ‘35, and the most populous nation on the Earth (every fourth person will be an Indian?), has anybody given a thought to what kind of India the people of this country want? Conversely, have the political leaders who are not tired of exhorting people that they will dole out more sops to the underprivileged if they are elected ever described what their vision of India is.

They would, perhaps, if they have one and focus on the future of the country instead of feathering their own nests and trying to keep the flock together. As we celebrate the 65th Republic Day on Sunday, and vote for the 16th Lok Sabha in about three months’ time, the young generation would like to have a comprehensive view of the idea of India. Those who were born at the time of Independence are past their prime and there is no point in talking about the past – glory and gut and gory and rot – because the new gen doesn’t live in the past. Its idea of India may be completely different from what the current leaders are imagining and pushing forward in the name of party manifesto for the coming parliamentary elections.

If an opinion poll is done on what the youth think about their ‘Idea of India,’ surely, we will have many surprises and shocks. Nevertheless, in the last few days, the two main contenders to the prime minister’s post have let the people know what is in store for them if they come to power at their respective party conclaves in New Delhi.

When Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, the unofficially anointed prime ministerial candidate if the party wins the people’s mandate later this year and the BJP’s best bet Narendra Modi have unveiled their visions of India, they reflected individual course of action and an attempt to break with tradition in tackling the country’s gargantuan problems. Their roadmaps for development are expected to set the agenda for the next five years. But the question is will they and whether they will come anywhere near the ‘Idea of India’ concept?

First, Rahul Gandhi, who is going to spearhead the Congress campaign. The scion of Gandhi family who sounded the poll bugle on Friday last has little to offer on how he is going to reshape the country. His rhetoric is quintessentially political aimed at infusing a new vigour in party cadres and win as many parliamentary seats as possible. His promise of getting anti-graft and women’s quota Bills passed, women chief ministers in half of the Congress-ruled States, selection of candidates for 15 Lok Sabha seats by party cadres and raising the subsidised LPG cylinder quota from 9 to 12 per household per annum is no more than poll talk.

However, the Congress Vice-President, off and on, has been insisting on clean politics, rooting out corruption, women’s empowerment, social justice, bringing youth to the fore, among other things. If Rahul Gandhi sees these as stepping stones to create a new Bharat full of promise and vitality, we have to wait for some more years to see his Idea of India emerge from his thought process.

On the other hand, Modi’s ideas for India are based on five Ts – Talent, Tradition, Tourism, Trade and Technology. Will they really build a ‘Brand India’? While none disputes talented manpower is a prerequisite to build a modern advanced nation with the help of technology and trade and tourism play complementary roles as four pillars, where does the fifth pillar ‘tradition’ find its place? Presumably, at the centre? If tradition is seen and considered as reviving some old values, norms and principles of living as practiced thousands of years ago, it is a dichotomy between old and new and will lead to clash of interests. Moreover, what traditions to follow are individual, family and community-oriented preferences and their scope and application should not be widened as to include the state.

In any case, narrowing down the Idea of India to five Ts or six Ps is putting the Vision of India in a straitjacket. This country is the melting pot of many cultures, civilisations, languages, religions and races and the Idea of India whoever conceives and conceptualises should reflect what the country is made up of.

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