The season of goodwill is over, or perhaps we should now say the season of good governance. There is no prospect of either lasting beyond this short season. Now we are on to the season of good resolutions — New Year. I have made several resolutions for myself. One is to set aside time to improve my Hindi. I also have a few resolutions I would suggest for India’s politicians, resolutions which I believe might do something to dispel the cloud of ill will which hangs over India.
First I would suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi resolves to stop trying to ride two horses at the same time. He appears to be failing to discipline Hindutwavadis such as Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj. That path leads in the opposite direction to his stated aim ‘sab ka sath sab ka vikas’, together with all, development for all. Bihar showed him that divisive Hindutva is not the electoral trump card. Yet it appears that the Ayodhya temple may be resurrected as a major issue in the UP election.
My second New Year resolution for the prime minister would be: Speed up your act. By this time next year he will have completed more than half his term in office and history shows that thereafter it’s downhill all the way. India climbing a few pegs up the business-friendliness ladder doesn’t have wide appeal outside the business community, especially as so much of the investment that this improvement is likely to attract will not, as Arvind Panagariya, vice-chairman of the Niti Aayog has pointed out, create many jobs. It’s jobs that most Indians want, along with money in the millions of bank accounts Modi has opened, education that is considered worthwhile, and a government health service that keeps them out of the clutches of quacks.
My third resolution for Modi is delegate. He should learn from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who delegated and sought advice. Modi might recall that his own political career would have come to an abrupt halt after the Gujarat riots in 2002 if Vajpayee had not taken Advani’s advice and allowed him to stay in office. The lesson from Indira Gandhi is that centralising power leads to disasters like the Emergency and Operation Blue Star. Yet Modi has concentrated so much power in his office that he has created a file-jam.
What should Rahul Gandhi’s New Year Resolution be? Well, maybe he too should think about the dangers of the absolute power he and his mother wield in the Congress. That power stifles the development of talent in the party, stultifies thinking, and spawns sycophancy. He should certainly be wary of the sycophants who try to persuade him that the party’s performance in the Bihar election indicates its revival has started. Winning 27 seats in a 243-seat assembly, and winning them on the back of your two former arch-enemies and now tenuous allies, seem to me a pathetic performance for a party that dominated India for so long. Rahul should look around India, where he will find he can count the number of states in which his party has an effective leader on the fingers of one hand. Those states do not include the two crucial sates of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In both of those cases the Congress appears to be leaderless.
Rahul might also resolve that this year he will pursue new tactics to challenge the government in Parliament. Demonstrating the power of your lungs to disrupt Parliament only leads to the assumption that you are stalling debate because you have nothing to say. Members of Parliament of all parties might resolve to restore dignity to the house by telling their leaders they are no longer prepared to behave like school children. Surely they must recognise how detrimental to their own dignity bawling and brawling is. The Congress excuse is that it is playing tit-for-tat, but that is a children’s game.
It was a group of ladies selling cheap necklaces on a Goa beach who made me aware of the need for politicians of all parties and all ranks to make New Year Resolutions. My conversation with them went like this. Have Good Days come? The reply: No. Will you therefore vote Congress? The reply: No. Who will you vote for? The reply: No one. That’s a vote of no-confidence in politicians of all hues, surely something to think about.
The views expressed are personal