Local bodies must feature permanently because without them, the whole practice of democracy is rendered meaningless
Before its complete takeover by Bhartiya Janata Party, India had been a practical manifestation of the Nehruvian vision that subscribed to the notion of ‘unity in diversity’ succinctly elaborated in the Nehru’s books: Discovery of India and The Glimpses of World History. Therefore, Indian nationalism had a plural character, in which religious or ethnic specificities had nothing to do with one’s qualification to be an Indian citizen.
Theoretically, Indian nationalism was egalitarian, at least in its spirit, even if at times that did not match the way it was practically executed. Indian national narrative had a designated space for the Muslims along with other minorities. But ever since the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo was catapulted into power, the Nehruvian vision has steadily been eroded. Indian nationalism is being re-invented in the light of Hindutva ideology one of whose zealots assassinated Gandhi.
A BJP leader has gone on to say that if Godse’s pistol is put on auction, the money it fetches would reveal the true extent of his popularity. (He was probably pitting Godse against Gandhi in a popularity contest). Are the Indians looking for new founding fathers in Savarkar, Golwalkar and Nathuram Godse? Will the modern Indian history be written afresh with a new pantheon of heroes and freedom fighters?
These are remarkably interesting questions for Ramachandra Guha to contemplate. But given the complexity of these questions, only time will reveal satisfactory answers.
Pakistani nationalism may have many pitfalls, but it does not renege on the postulates Muhammad Ali Jinnah propounded and advocated. In every political-constitutional debate, Jinnah’s statements are invoked and interpreted. He is undoubtedly the most revered personality in Pakistan.
His ideological adversaries have been consigned to absolute insignificance. Thus, Pakistanis are in no quandary to look for new founder(s) or Desh Bhagts. Hope is what lies ahead of Pakistan and its citizenry. Even though Pakistan’s record on its (mal)treatment of the minorities, rooted in the state-sponsored religious extremism cannot be defended, the Pakistani state seems to have reviewed and rinsed its policy imperatives.
The shift from Pakistan as an ideological state to a nation state has begun. Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan has been quashed; Hafiz Saeed and his organisation have also been tamed; the wind was taken out of the sails of garrulous Khadim Rizvi; and Sipah-e-Sahaba is struggling for survival as an electoral force in Jhang.
The biggest challenge staring both Bilawal and Maryam in the face is that the PPP and the PML-N have not been run like modern political parties; patronage has been the main ploy of Zardari and the Sharifs.
These developments indicate that Pakistan has reined in the non-state actors. Liberal views are gaining traction through social media, which too augurs well for Pakistan where the over-riding influence of ultra-religious elements is on the wane. India under Modi-Amit Shah is moving in the other direction, from a nation state to an ideological state, whose ideology is embedded in Hindutva and not in Sanatam Dharam. Yogi Adityanath being the chief minister of the largest and the most populous state, proves to a hilt as to what direction India is moving in.
The second point made by Guha was about the Gandhi family having been rendered more of a liability than an asset for both Congress as well as India. In other words, the days of dynastic politics are over not only in India but also in Pakistan. I fully concur with Guha’s assertion. Rahul Gandhi has not delivered and Bilawal does not seem to have the potential to deliver either. He is ill equipped to communicate effectively with the electorate, has a poor comprehension of the convolutions of local politics. A tangible dearth of vision characterises both the political dynasts.
As a prospective leader, Maryam appears to be equally clueless, particularly in the crisis that her family and the PML-N are mired in. The biggest challenge, staring both Bilawal and Maryam in the face, is that the PPP and the PML-N have not been like modern political parties. Patronage has been the main ploy for Zardari and the Sharifs. Democracy gets only a lip service when it comes to electing the party leadership. Both of them are ill prepared to act like their respective fathers.
One may find the patronage pattern everywhere in the post-colonial world when political leadership, particularly from middle classes, emerges without any ideological moorings. Such political organisations mould their leaders in a reactive frame. This makes them ruthless in their beliefs as well as in their actions. They flout the rule of law, merit and trash the process of accountability.
Aggressively harassing their adversaries is deemed legitimate and physical assault is resorted to without any compunction. The MQM in urban Sindh, Shiv Sena in Mumbai and Bajrang Dal in New Delhi and its surroundings, are stark exemplification of such organisations. Unfortunately, such practices have also found their way into the ranks of both the PPP and the PML-N.
Ironically, parties with a nation-wide appeal have succumbed to the modes and methods peculiar to ethnic political organisations; they have not subscribed to larger-than-life objectives. More importantly, one may safely infer that dynastic succession in the parties cannot be perpetuated without a distinct patronage pattern. No one from the party cadres can call into question the candidature of the likes of Bilawal or Maryam (other than her own uncle, Shahbaz Sharif).
Lastly, I strongly favour legislation requiring that those aspiring for a role in national politics spend a couple of terms in local government, either at the municipal or the district level. That will not only make them adequately aware of the ground realities, but also serve as an essential tool of instruction in the realm of practical politics.
For that, particularly in Pakistan, local governments must be a permanent feature because without them, the practice of democracy is rendered meaningless. Any youth catapulted to the National Assembly without proper grooming, is bound to be a butt of mockery.