Mamata Banerjee did all she can to see that the Tatas do not set up a factory at Singur, in West Bengal, to manufacture the world'sfirst nono-automobile. She succeeded. In Maharashtra, a young man belonging to the Thackeray clan has been pushing his goons to attack Bihari workforce in Mumbai, while the vast Maharashtrian Middle Class has been maintaining a painful silence, suggesting strong backing to the growing divide between north India?specifically Bihar?and Maharashtra that may have damaging consequences.
In Tamil Nadu, M.Karunanidhi all but threatened to withdraw support to the UPA government over the issue of giving protection to the Tamil civil population in north and East Sri Lanka, against the government forces invading LTTE territory. The Prime Minister had to pacify him to maintain some semblance of unity in Delhi. The UPA government sends ?advisories? to the Congress-led government in Maharashtra, of course, to no avail.
The UPA government threatens to introduce President'srule in Orissa and then backtracks. What does all this show? Plainly, it indicates a lack of leadership in Delhi. We have no national leaders, barring BJP'sL.K.Advani and he has to bear a heavy burden. After Indira Gandhi?and even she could seldom command the kind of respect, even affection, that her father attracted?there has been no national leader, barring Atal Bihari Vajpayee. So, petty Prime Minister have come and gone and India has been no better off for their sudden arrival and precipitous departure. It is not the leader but the administrator who runs the country. Prime Ministers are no longer in touch with the vast public. There is no emotional contact between the leader and the led. Audiences get paid to attend public meetings. The Congress Party spends a fortune to bus people from villages to cities to fill the grounds in order to make it appear that Sonia Gandhi is popular. When Mahatma Gandhi came calling, villagers from places as far as twenty to thirty miles would come by foot just to get the Mahatma'sdarshan. Security was unheard of. Jawaharlal would move freely among the people just to make them feel he was one of them.
Why were leaders like Jawaharlal, Subhas Chandra Bose or even Jayaprakash Narayan such venerated icons? The answer is simple: they gave the nation a sense of vision, of unity, of a nation on the road to greatness, if only the people would all get together. Neither Vallabhbhai Patel, nor Rajendra Prasad nor, for that matter, C. Rajagopalachari, national figures all, spent time travelling round the country to address rural audiences. But they were noted for their patriotism and for the spirit of sacrifice to which their lives were openly dedicated. They lived in the heart of the people. Where are the leaders of yesteryears?
Today we only have our Deve Gowdas, our Bal Thackerays, our Karunanidhis, petty men all, basking in their chauvinistic glory. Who would want to hear Karunanidhi in Rajkot or Raj Thackeray in Ernakulam, or Mamata Banerjee in Thiruchirapally? It is to such a pathetic situation that we have arrived. It is said that the times proclaim the man. Would there he a need for Mahatma Gandhi today, the cynic may ask. The answer is Yes, there is. Very much so. For the Mahatma stood not for politics, but for principles. Not for power, but for plurality. He spoke of the poor and the deprived and not for the Marathi manoos or the Bihari manav. To him they were all one, needing to be helped.
Today'sleaders, so-called, have reduced Great India into a set of linguistic principality. Who or what have we to blame? The media? Television that brings ?leaders? to our living rooms? Lack of a great aim?like Swaraj?to live and die for? Think of those who died for a United India: Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Batukeshwar Dutt, Mallappa Dhanashsetty, Jagannath Shinde, to name just a few who were hanged, scores who were killed and tortured, thousands who suffered imprisonment?did they make those huge sacrifices that Raj Thackeray'sgoons may beat up Bihari poor seeking to earn a decent living in Mumbai? What have we come to? Did Mahatma Gandhi trudge Naokhali to safeguard some parochial interest? Do we think of Vishwanath Anand as a Tamilian first, a Sachin Tendulkar as a Maharashtrian first, a Ganguly as a Bengali first? Does it matter who Kumble is or Dhoni, so long as they bring credit to India'scricket?
Did Shankaracharya have to take anybody'spermission to travel all the way from Kaladi at the tip of India to the four corners of the land? Do we have to identify him as Malayali? Why are Maharashtrian economists, sociologists, educationists, thinkers and philosophers?and Maharashtra is a highly intellectual state?silent? Are they afraid to speak out? Is Raj Thackeray going to claim sole monopoly of Nivratti, Jnandev, Sopana, Muktabai, Eknath, Namdeo and Tukaram and keep out the saints and savants from the rest of India, be it a Mirabai, a Kanaka or a Purandaradasa let alone a Ramakrishna Paramahansa, a Vivekananda or a Sri Aurobindo? Will non-non-Maharashtrians be barred from paying their respect to Vithoba in Pandharpur? Uddhav Thackeray is warning Biharis not to ?meddle in Maharashtrian affairs?. What is happening in Mumbai is an ?affair? concerning all Indians. For this information, Maharashtra is part of India and if Maharashtra is hurt, the nation bleeds.
Similarly, if people anywhere in India suffer poverty, it is the duty and responsibility of people from all other parts of India to come to their rescue and open their doors and hearts to them. What is distressing is that there is a deadly silence even in Delhi to shocking events in Mumbai. The shooting of 23-year old Rahul Raj Kundan Prasad Singh who was trying to draw attention to the plight of Biharis in Mumbai by aiming a pistol at fellow passengers in a Mumbai bus is symbolic of a nation at odds with itself. We should handle the situation before it gets out of hand.
This is the special responsibility of all parties, especially of the UPA government even if it is now on its last legs. Something has gone seriously wrong with the Marathi psyche. It needs to the immediately attended to. Neither Dr Manmohan Singh, nor Sonia Gandhi has any excuse to push the matter under the carpet. Do they want to see the break-up of this great country called Bharat because of some misplaced values being advocated by a demented section of a mindless party? The killing of Rahul Raj Kundan Prasad Singh is a wake-up call to everyone interested in standing up for the concept of One India, one People.