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Celebration of democracy

Celebration of democracy
Highlights

Celebration of Democracy. It was all there. The pomp, the glitz and the glamour on an evening that saw the heads of government/state of India’s neighbouring countries sharing space with saints, sadhus and spiritual leaders at the forecourt of majestic Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.

It was all there. The pomp, the glitz and the glamour on an evening that saw the heads of government/state of India’s neighbouring countries sharing space with saints, sadhus and spiritual leaders at the forecourt of majestic Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday. The very presence of 4,000 and odd people – who’s who of India -- at the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as the 15th Prime Minister of India on May 26th was awe-inspiring.

The eclectic mix with once the British seat of power in the background could be mistaken for coronation of a king. Indeed, it was, the way the oath-taking event was organised and executed with clock-work precision. Watching live on the TV could not have given millions of viewers in the sub-continent the feeling of being an actual witness to the smooth transition of power in an orderly and democratic way. But the visuals were more than gratifying to be a part of history that was in the making.

In fact, it was more than a change of guard in the Indian capital city. Monday the 26th of May, 2014, marked the beginning of a new era and the end of the most illustrious political dynasty in the country. Defeat in the hands of a ‘chaiwallah’ in an ignominious way was not what the Grand Old Party had prepared for. Congress could have seen a silver lining in its rout at Lok Sabha hustling had it secured a respectable number of seats to earn the title of opposition – officially. But thrown into the dump at states’ and central levels, the party that fought for the country’s independence with its leaders making many sacrifices, it is rather tragic to see Congress decimated to a non-entity both at regional and national level.

On Monday, those who had watched the crowd at Modi’s ceremony on the TV would have spotted the faces of the vanquished. Unless cameras zoomed in, they would have lost in the gathering. Loss of political power means fade-out from public memory and it is painful for those who had steered the country’s destiny for a decade uninterrupted.

But they have invited the fate upon themselves. Modi’s blitzkrieg campaign, surely, was a factor for his rise and his oratory and charisma had lifted the BJP, a feat neither Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor her son and party vice-president Rahul could match. However, to think Modi’s rise is Congress fall is to not see the wood for the trees.

Congress would have been defeated, anyway, not because of the reasons the party bosses had identified –anti-incumbency; poor publicity for the UPA-II government’s welfare schemes; scams; corruption; inflation; arrogance of power, among others – but because of its failure to evolve itself over the years and refusal to shed the worn-out Nehru-Gandhi tag.

For a whole generation of people, the Independence heroes are no more than historic figures that were instrumental in breaking the country’s colonial shackles and laying the foundations for a modern India. Their legacy should be respected and policies could be followed; but to ride into the future on their suffixes?

How long will the practice go on? The introspection and post-mortems that have been going on from village to national level for Congress rout may be coming up with solutions to rebuild the fractured organisation. But the results of such exercise that has been done so far have suggested only cosmetic changes. Those who have called for scalpels and knives for an intensive surgery without incubating the party in ICU for recovery that may take as long as five years, if not more, are at daggers drawn. It won’t help. In fact, the party should reinvent itself without Gandhis if it wants to move forward.

The impression one gets from the goings-on in the party post-poll drubbing is it can’t survive without a Gandhi at the top. That is servile mentality and reluctance to take up leadership but ready to share the spoils of power. By the time the party thinks that it is ready to take on BJP -- five years from now – it has to search for its mojo and its adversary will have made inroads into every nook and cranny of the country. If it wishes for its funeral who will object?

Whichever party is in power, it needs an opposition to point out the ruling party’s course of direction. In its absence, parliamentary democracy looks incomplete. Even in the Indian context, a raucous obstructive opposition is better than not having anything. Congress was humbled, all right, but could it bounce back is the question we wait for an answer.

Meanwhile, let’s celebrate the voters’ victory in the world’s largest democracy that has ushered in a new era, seamlessly and without hassles. Monday’s oath-taking ceremony bore witness to the people’s exuberance. For the first time, after Independence, the public must have felt that it is part and parcel of the government. As someone has rightly pointed out, the ceremonial event had been transformed into a people’s celebration with representatives from every walk of life and regional leaders who matter in full attendance.

Now, we can proudly say, Yes, We did It! Despite many odds, geographical constraints and logistic nightmares, the voters had reaffirmed their confidence in the democratic process and made it a model for others. It is our strength that should guide us in future.

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