Gurgaon and Kokhrajar represent “Maino Bharat”, a country that has significantly degenerated after undiluted Sonia Gandhi rule was established in 2004. Of course, her influence on matters of governance has been present from the 1980s, since the passing away of Sanjay Gandhi. It was from that time that Ottavio Quatrocchi became a feared name within the dovecotes of state power, bagging contract after contract. During 1992-96, not all recommendations from the Italian branch of the Nehru family were acted upon by P V Narasimha Rao. About 25 per cent of her orders remained unfulfilled, with the result that the PM soon became the target of attack by colleagues such as Arjun Singh whose daily routine was to visit 10 Janpath. 1998-2004, was the period when a well-wisher of the Maino family, Brajesh Mishra functioned as the de facto executive PM.
Thanks to him and to the kindly nature of A B Vajpayee, Sonia wielded a great deal of influence during the NDA,an alliance that she has been relentlessly condemning. Many were the good deeds done by Mishra towards Sonia Gandhi and her acolytes, who enjoyed pride of place in getting patronage from the official setup just as they do now. Small wonder that the man who functioned as the kingpin of the NDA administration for six years has been honoured by the UPA.
However, it was only after a former civil servant was sworn in as her proxy PM in 2004 that undiluted Maino rule began in India. In genuine democracies there is a clear line between the civil service and the political leadership. It is the function of the politician to provide the impetus and the context for decisions and to ensure that these be in accordance with an overall vision and strategy. In the UPA, the fact that the Sonia-appointed “political” leadership of the administrative machinery is bureaucratic rather than political has had a severe impact on the economy. Instead of the 15 per cent annual rate of GDP growth that the versatile population of India could easily achieve,were it gifted sound policy and effective implementation, the country has seen far lower rates of growth. Over the past two years,the level of GDP increase is approaching the pathetic rates of growth of the Jawaharlal Nehru period. Unless there be a clear political direction to the bureaucratic machine, the trend will be to avoid bold policies and to underperform, the way Team Maino has been since coming to office.
Politics and strategies that flow from it,need to be rooted in the needs and traditions of the country for it to be effective as change agents. Jawaharlal Nehru was technically political, but in a British rather than an Indian way. He was open about the fact that he was Indian only in skin colour and had as deep a mistrust of the people of the country as did the British civil servants who studied at the same institutions that Nehru, Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi attended.
Only such a mindset can explain Nehru's decision to continue the colonial-era administrative and legal structures in their entirety after 1947. These constructs give enormous power to those who get their salaries from the exchequer, leaving the citizen at the mercy of one or the other minion of the state. British officials who had served in India would have approved the wholesale copying of their methods and structures by so-called “democrats”. At the all-important level of the district all power has been funnelled into the hands of the Collector, despite the huge increase in the complexity and number of issues that need to be dealt with as compared to the period of the British raj. Even the methods of selection of civil servants has remained the same in “free” India that they were in the Haileybury days of the East India Company.
The preservation and continuance of the colonial structure has been hailed as the essence of democracy by apologists of the Nehru family such as Amartya Sen and Sunil Khilnani, both welcome guests at 10 Janpath and at the numerous (state-funded) institutions controlled by the family that rules India. Given the way in which the British colonial influence has infected the ideology of the Nehrus, it is fitting that an Indira Gandhi Centre should come up not in any city in India but in the spiritual and intellectual home of the Nehrus, the UK, naturally at a huge cost to the impoverished Indian taxpayer. That Oxford University gladly accepts largesse from a nation where more than 300 million people starve each day is a testament to its social consciousness. However, it is not only the Government of India but sundry High Net Worth individuals in the country who have gifted vast sums of money to affluent countries while facilities in their own are in a rotten state. To them as to Nehru, anything Indian is reactionary and retrograde. Even ancient classics were communalised. Such masterpieces as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Jataka Tales and the Panchatantra, which ought to be taught in primary and secondary schools across the country as part of the heritage of this country, are considered by Nehruvians as not worthy of such attention.
Muslims,Sikhs,Jains,Buddhists and Christians are as much a part of Bharat as Hindus, and the history of this land—all of it—belongs equally to all its citizens. One of the most pernicious effects of Nehruism is the forced separation of Indians into self-contained streams, exactly the way Morley-Minto intended more than a century ago.
It is a disservice to Muslims and Christians that some self-appointed leaders of these two vibrant communities call for reservation on communal grounds. During the Mughal period, there was no discrimination against Muslims. During the British raj, Christians were not subjected to any extra discrimination. In fact, they were favoured by—for example—the grant of vast tracts of land in the cities for the setting up of churches, a show of benevolence that was not extended to those wanting to set up gurudwaras, mosques or temples. Despite the lack of discrimination against them, Nehru insisted on setting Muslims and Christians apart from Hindus, marking them off through policies that divided the people of the country into “majority” and “minority”. Although “freedom” came to India in 1947, the great works of ancient India were barred from school and college curricula because they were seen not as Indian but as “Hindu”. If Julius Ceasar belongs to the entire people of that ancient civilisation, Italy, and Alexander to the whole of the gifted people of Greece, Sri Ram belongs to the whole of India, not to just a portion of the citizenry. Learning about ancient India and absorbing the wisdom of its classics would enhance rather than detract from the spiritual power of the Christian and Muslim faiths, the two most powerful religions in the world. But it would appear that to Nehru, anything that was from ancient India was retrograde, an attitude borrowed from Sidney Webb and Vladimir Lenin.
The comprehensive nationalisation of Indian industry carried out by Nehru and continued by Indira Gandhi revealed their mistrust of their countrypersons. Nehruvian ideology did not want any agency to become so strong that it would have the potential to challenge the monopoly of the state, the way a large conglomerate might. Even the British before them accepted that Indians were entrepreneurial and productive, and did not stand in the way of a Jamshedji Tata, for example. Had the post-1947 dispensation in India shown at least this level of tolerance towards domestic private industry, India would not be in a situation where multinational companies rule even in villages with their offerings of soap and toothpaste. Just as Korean companies have become market leaders across the globe, so could Indian companies have.
Indeed, since 1992, domestic industry did seek to spread its wings,but when it emerged as a possible challenger to European entities, Maino policies ensured the steady emasculation of Indian industry that has taken place since 2004,with restrictive policies and sky-high interest rates hobbling domestic companies that just years before were emerging as world leaders in specific lines of production. The Leninist control of the state over the means of production ( called the essence of democracy by apologists of Nehruism) was in the name of the poor.
However,the state denied the poor of India access to such effective instruments of self-help as the English language. Even today, those educated in government schools are placed under a severe handicap vis-a-vis students in private institutions. While the Nehru way of dealing with this is to bring private school education (run by Hindus) down to the level of state schools, a government genuinely interested in the public weal would have sought to raise the standard of state schools upward. However, a downward trajectory is natural to the Maino era.
While there is a strong case for positive discrimination in favour of Dalits (including tribal people), there is no rational reason for including minority faiths within the ambit of such measures. The state ought to be impartial and equal as betwen all faiths, for such a mindset is at the core of secularism. India is the only democracy on the planet where religious structures of a single community have been taken over by the state. It is government control of temples in India that has led to the systematic theft of idols from temples. It was expected that the NDA would take an inventory of the idols that have been stolen from temples during at least the past two decades and take steps to ensure that an Interpol alert gets issued to prosecute those who were responsible for buying and selling such assets. Such an inventory was not even attempted. Indeed, a close look at the policies of the NDA would show that it followed the ideology of “Nehru Lite” i.e. Nehruvism in a diluted form.
The steady worsening of relations between communities in India is directly traceable to the policies of exclusion followed by the state since the post-1857 period,when the raj decided that the best way to avoid a second rebellion was to ensure that the people of India got divided into the same warring groups as had facilitated British takeover. India needs to become a genuinely secular republic i.e. a country where followers of different faiths are given equal rights and responsibilities.
Manmohan Singh's plaint that recent killings in Assam are a “blot” on India is similar to Jawaharlal Nehru's 1962 lament that “Our hearts go out to the people of Assam”. A Prime Minister is not expected to moan but to command, not simply to commiserate but to act. Unfortunately for Manmohan Singh, he has a boss who is interested only in what may be described as “agronomy”. All that Sonia Maino expects from her satraps is that they send copious quantities of “US potatoes”, Swiss “cheese”, European “chocolate” and other goodies to pre-determined locations.
Expert farmers such as Vilasrao Deshmukh have remained favourites precisely because of their skill in cultivation. Coming to the economy, it may be said that the “agro leakage” to politicians during the 1980s was 15 per cent, with the rest of the spent money going either for productive purposes or to other hands. In the 1990s this rose to 30 per cent, which is why those who came to power during that time can afford to send their families abroad and to live on a scale that a pre-1947 maharaja would envy. Since Maino raj descended on India in 2004, the leakage to the political class has crossed 50 per cent. Add to that a proportionately high share to officials and hangers-on, and it will be obvious why the country's institutions and infrastructure are entering a phase of terminal decline. The Congress Party has been transparent in making the outstretched hand its symbol. After all the hands have taken their share of the fruits, what gets leftover is meagre indeed.
Were Gurgaon and Kokhrajar the exceptions, there would be less need of despair.The horrific reality is that they have become the norm. Law and order has disintegrated across India,including in once well-run states such as Karnataka and Maharashtra. Across much of the country, local police units have in effect become auxiliaries of mafias,registering false cases against those falling foul of gangsters and protecting criminals. Meanwhile, law after law gets passed, each with stringent provisions that are susceptible to misuse. Only the uncomplicated mind of an Anna Hazare would believe that yet another bureaucratic monster in the shape of the Lok Pal would stanch the spreading slime of graft. In India, the anti-corruption agencies have themselves become the most corrupt of the spectrum. The ethos of India is liberal.The tradition of India is inclusion. Whether it be the sari-clad village belle bringing home water from the well, or the jeans-clad city dweller having a drink at the pub with a male friend,both need to be respected. Since 2005, this commentator has warned about the collapse that Maino rule would bring India.That forecast is coming true in such starkness that even admirers of Sonia Gandhi understand that things are amiss. Hopefully, 2014 will see a release from Maino raj. Hopefully,what comes afterwards will be a dispensation that has faith in the people of India,and which loosens and removes the colonial-era restraints that have hobbled this country for so long. Hopefully, what comes afterwards will be an ideology of tolerance towards those with different views, so long as they desist from violence. What is clear is that just five more years of the misrule that the country is witnessing now will prove terminal to the future of India
(The writer is former editor of Mathrubhoomi and Times of India and presently a columnist with a number of publications).