Politics is a field paved with landmines and traps. It is a dangerous world and only the fittest will survive the arduous journey
Many times one is forced to believe that George Santayana’s words “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” were made after studying the political species in India. Recent history in India is proof of how narrow-minded and reluctant our leaders were in learning from the mistakes and blunders committed by their predecessors and contemporaries.
The year 1980 marked the return of Indira Gandhi to power after she was demolished in the 1977 general election by the combined might of the Opposition parties. The slogan “Indira is India and India is Indira” was torn to pieces by the United Opposition. Nanaji Deshmukh, a political leader-turned-social activist remarked that Indira was not even Rae Bareli after the then Prime Minister was trounced in the election by Raj Narayan. (It is a sad fact that how many among us remember this political comedian with the green scarf on his head!). With the Janata Party constituents fighting unitedly against each other and coming crashing down within two years, the electorate was fed up and brought Indira Gandhi back to power. Sadly enough neither Indira Gandhi nor the Opposition had learnt anything from their failures.
Indira’s third tenure as Prime Minister began in style with her promise to the nation that hers would be a government that works and in the next five years she would provide drinking water and power to all villages in the country. The first scam of her third tenure broke out within weeks. The first budget presented by the then union finance minister saw some innocuous-looking alterations in the finance act, a surreptitious manner of helping persons who stood by her during the days when she was out of power. The amendments in the finance act helped Swraj Paul, the UK-based entrepreneur to make heavy investments in DCM and Escorts, two blue-chip corporate entities in India. Paul was on the verge of taking over the two Desi companies but the intervention by Arun Bharat Ram and Rajan Nanda, scions of the groups who were the Doon schoolmates of Rajiv Gandhi saved the day for DCM and Escorts.
The period 1980 saw the introduction of colour TV in the country, India hosting the Asian Games 1982, the Non-Aligned Movement summit, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet etc and Indira Gandhi was projected as a global leader by the Congress. But her handling of the Khalistani extremism led to her downfall. The truth is that by the end of 1983, Indira Gandhi’s image had taken a severe bearing while the Opposition started lining up behind S Chandrasekhar, the then-president of the Janata Party.
Had Indira been not assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar (the Army action on Golden Temple) she would have bitten the dust in the 1985 general election. There were many scams also which dampened the image of the Prime Minister as well as the Congress party. The sympathy factor and the communal polarization helped Rajiv Gandhi to pulverize the Opposition in the election held in 1985. Rajiv too failed to learn from the mistakes of his mother and goofed up on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue resulting in him paying with his own life.
After seeing the TV images of President Joe Biden hugging Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Hiroshima, the doubt that comes to one’s mind is what would be the US President’s attitude when Modi pays a State visit to the USA. The US Government is waiting to take up with him the human rights violations in Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur. What is of concern to the US is the burning down of churches and attacks on priests and evangelists across India. All we can do is wish the Prime Minister a Bon Voyage and a safe return.
(The writer is a senior journalist working as a Special Correspondent with The Pioneer. The views expressed are personal)