Celebration Kis ki Aur Kya?
By Poonam I Kaushish
How does one begin an epitaph of the year gone by? Uncork the champagne and roll out the drums? By welcoming 2019 on the wings of new hopes, dreams and promises? Or twelve months of steady downhill with no barrier to stop the slide? Clearly, 2018 will go down in history as a mixed bag.
Politically, our netas followed the dictum ‘might is right’ and operated like Warlords of Bharat with an inured sense of justification peddling grandiose dreams of a dysfunctional system choreographed to suit their vote banks. 2018 will be remembered as a year wherein Parties gerrymanded vote-shares to appease voters with the sole objective of the winner taking it all!
The BJP’s electoral defeat in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh along-with by-polls earlier in four Lok Sabha and 11 Assembly seats spanning 11 States where the NDA won just three of 15 contested spells bad news for the Party and signals to the Opposition that local-level unity can defeat it. Ditto was the case in Karnataka where Gowda’s JD(S) along-with Congress outwitted it. Worse, the NDA has lost two allies, TDP in Andhra and RLSP in Bihar while the Shiv Sena, JD(U), LJP and Apna Dal etc are wanting a larger share.
Undoubtedly, the Saffron Sangh is to blame for the mess it is in today. Perceived as a “fundamentalist Party” which revels in cultural intolerance, minority lynching and cow politics, its goodwill of ushering in achche din slowly dissipated as its Government fell short on promises: Economy performed below expectations, dissatisfaction in rural belt, urban apathy and angry youth for Government’s inability to generate jobs alongside communal polarization and erosion in its vote-share which might not pay electoral dividends.
Questionably, is Modi vincible? Is the Hindutva card past its expiry date? Is anti-incumbency and Opposition’s arithmetic of unity putting brakes on BJP’s electoral machine? Were these polls a dress-rehearsal? Or will they be prophetic?
Certainly, 2018 belongs to Congress’s Rahul who transformed from ‘Pappu’ to President and wrested three heartland States from the BJP. Also, Opposition Parties bandied together showing they could bury rivalries for electoral gains. Be it UP’s Bua-Bhatija Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh’s SP or Rahul’s Congress and Gowda’s JD(S) in Karnataka and Congress-TDP in Telangana. But whether this will hold in 2019 might not be easy, given the disparate aims and agendas of Parties that will have to pull together: Should it be led by Rahul or a regional Mahagathbandhan?
Amidst this political aakrosh, the common man continues to struggle for roti, kapada aur makaan with an increasingly angry and restive janata demanding answers and yearning for change in the New Year. Sick of the crippling morass of our neo-Maharajas with their power trappings and suffering from Acute Orwellian syndrome of “some are more equal than others” and Oliver’s disorder, “always asking for more”.
On the social front things are depressing. Seven decades post Independence, after spending trillions on education, health and food, 70% people continue to be hungry, illiterate, unskilled and bereft of basic medical care. Increasingly, we are getting more casteist and communal whereby a distraught India is searching for her soul under the increasing onslaught of intolerance and criminalization.
Tragically, nobody has time for the aam aadmi’s growing disillusionment with the system which explodes in rage. Turn to any mohalla, district or State, the story is mournfully the same. Resulting in more and more people taking law into their own hands and borne out by the increasing rioting, looting and burning of buses. Capital Delhi is replete with gory tales of road rage resulting in murders. The system has become so sick that women today are being raped in crowded trains with co-passengers as mute spectators. Sporadically converting the country into andher nagri.
From ‘ghar-wapsi’ programmes of reconversion of poor Muslims and ‘love jihad’ against Muslim boys enticing Hindu girls professing marriage to Me-too India stood singed as beastly tales of Her Story tumbled out of sexual harassment, molestation and assault by politicians, celebrities, actors, authors, admen, musicians et al. Clearly, in a society which lives with the regressive mindset that freedom and equality for women tantamount to promiscuity, we showed utter disregard and disrespect for women, whereby they continue to rot at the hands of lecherous, predatory or pedophile men despite talk of women empowerment.
Indeed, ironic post the Lok Sabha passing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill criminalising the practice of triple talaq. The legislation is a game changer which will have rippling effects for times to come. Not only will it unshackle 21 Century Muslim women trapped in archaic medieval Personal Laws but also give them a leg up to equality before law and protection against discrimination on the basis of her gender by underscoring Islamic feminism as modern, notwithstanding Opposition objection of targeting a minority community.
Not only societal changes, our economy too needs a new disha and resurrection. Undeniably, post demonitisation, NaMo and Co seem to have lost the way and appear directionless and at wits end. They have failed to address the central problems of inflation, agrarian crisis (agriculture production has dropped) and rising unemployment. Will ending the financial year with GDP growth of 7.2-7.5% alleviate the misery of the people, crippled by the onslaught of rising prices?
Worse, two RBI Governors and Chief Economic Advisors have quit in a span of four years. Disillusionment and discontent among farmers is spiraling with rising suicides, even as the Government readies a grand farmers relief package. A classic case of too little too late.
A recent Gallup survey found Indians rated an average of 4 on a 1-10 scale down from 4.4 in 2014. While 14% felt they were thriving four years ago, only 4% echo the sentiment today. People unable to afford roti-subzi rose from 28% to 41% in rural poor and 18% to 26% in urban areas. Sadly, the aam aadmi continues to be fed on ‘jumlas’ in the hope empty boastful rhetoric will satiate his hunger.
Alas, there doesn’t seem to be a rainbow on the political horizon. People are adrift clutching at straws seeking an alternate, which is elusive and ethereal. The BJP-led NDA is down in the dumps but whether the Congress or in-the-air Mahagathbandhan is in a position to provide an alternative is still in doubt.
True, we get the leaders we deserve. But at the same time are the netas worthy of us? Are we going to mortgage our conscience to ‘small minds’? Either way our leaders need to curtail the peoples’ angry torrent. The time has come for the masses, especially its silent majority, to think beyond the country’s petty power-at-all-cost polity, throw out the scoundrels and bell the political cat of convenience. Time to bring probity and morality into our national life.
As India enters 2019 our netagan need to stop getting their shorts in knots over excessive trivia, get their act together, take responsibility, amend their ways and address real serious issues of governance. The people want jobs, transparency and accountability. Enough is enough. We need leaders with grit and determination who can and are ready to build a new India. Tough times call for tough action. But the moot point: Who will emerge victor? Is he capable of tough action? Does he have the will to assert: Yes, India will in 2019! —- INFA