Irresistible and chastening thoughts from Pratap Bhanu Mehta:
Never before was such immense possibility held hostage to mightier pettiness, great historical hope stymied by little men.
Independence, it seems, was the project of replacing the shackles of being colonised by the shackles of our own politics.
Time is not a free good. Each year’s delay wastes the prospects of another generation, squanders another possibility.
It is possible that the world is our oyster, but we cannot transcend the narcissism that cannot see beyond the nose.
The party of India’s Independence is also the source of its deepest corruption and monumental stupidities. It acts as if it did not lose the last election, but the election was stolen from it.
Every pathology that India suffers from — a vulnerable banking system to corrupt cricket to the agriculture crisis — has the active connivance of that party. If anything, the brief debate in Parliament reminded us why India was right to boot it out.
The Congress even pooh-poohed one of the rare occasions where India’s industry actually made sense and appealed to Parliament to function. It will be said of the Congress under Gandhi — in victory it displayed corruption and hubris; in defeat, pettiness and destruction. This is the party that carried the flame of independence.
Whatever the prime minister’s politics and psychological makeup is, it is not parliamentary. The PM is incapable of handling an assembly, with its rough and tumble questions.
But you almost get the sense that there are insuperable psychological obstacles in dealing with the Opposition. It also comes from the party’s own narrow conception of strength. It confuses strength with bombast, not recognising that artful compromise can add to strength. Like the Congress, it has also not understood that our besetting vulnerability is declining institutions. No ego, whether it comes from dynastic entitlement or a plebiscitary mandate, can substitute for institutions. The PM could have so easily occupied the high ground. Instead he took the low road and reduced himself to the level of his opponents.
Instead of matching idea with idea, leadership with leadership, tactful coalition with interesting alliances, political adversaries match sin for sin, abdication for abdication, and obstruction for obstruction.
For a brief moment we will enjoy that marvellous spectacle that a Parliament lit up for Independence Day presents. But we will also wonder whether the glitter is there to deceive.