By Vijay Darda | 02-01-2017
When dealing with events it is best to savour the pleasant moments of the past and hope that time the great healer would provide a balm to the wounds. It is with this sentiment that I wish a good bye to 2016. As for 2017, I look ahead for smoother ride that would usher us in to an era of better overall life, and a world that has fewer tensions, and an immediate neighbourhood that exchanges human warmth and not gun fire. Domestically, we wish that all the promises made about the long term gains of demonetisation are realised and the people have the satisfaction that the 50 day pain ( that shows no sign of subsiding) was worth it.
Mind you these are not idle dreams. These are tangible realistic goals that can be achieved given the right kind of leadership and its ability to perform as per its promise. In fact, in any democracy, the people have only one minimal expectation. They want the leaders to deliver what they promise as part of their political rhetoric. The world would awaken to Right Wing triumphalism in 2017. After Donald Trump’s election as American president, the US has already discovered this phenomena. Now as elections take place in other western countries the emergence of the majoritarian Right Wing could become a regular phenomenon. The ideal of a Western liberal society with established institutions providing the checks and balances could crumble.
In this respect though it was not noticed as such then prime minister Narendra Modi’s election in 2014 heralded the arrival of the first Right Wing majoritarian government in India, and at that time the world. A significant feature of such a government is that the leader considers himself above the party. This endows the leader with an authoritarian streak. This asserts itself more with leaders like Trump and Modi who believe that the mandate is for them personally and not for the party they represent. Politics is a dominant part of our life, in so far as it not only decides as to what kind of dispensation would govern, but as a consequence also shapes the social milieu around us. The kind of debates that we have witnessed over the last two half years since the advent of the Modi Sarkar tell us a lot about the direction in which the government wants us to go.
But there is something called the beauty of democracy. It rests in the freedom of choice that the people exercise at every stage of their life. Democracy does not consist of merely exercising the voting right once in five years. It involves the day to day choices that individuals make. When a government imposes its own choices on the people whether it comes to food or spending habits, or the way they transact the business of their daily lives, then it commits an anti-democratic act. Only when the citizen has an unfettered choice in every respect can a democracy have a smooth ride. Let us hope that in 2017 we move in this direction firmly.
There is a direct co-relation between development and the degree of freedom of choice enjoyed by the citizen. Development leads to the empowerment of citizens and this grants them a wider freedom of choice. In this respect considering the status of our physical infrastructure, the spread of the optical fibre network as the backbone of digital network, the availability of power in rural and semi urban areas, we have a long way to go. Propaganda rhetoric may make good media headlines but is no substitute for real substantive work on the ground. The zest to eliminate black money is almost like the Biblical zeal to root out evil from society. The fact remains, that after everything is said and done, evil still survives. This does not mean that the fight against black money should be given up. It only implies that the black money war has to be an on-going battle and not a one off effort like demonetisation.
In a sense, the Right Wing’s emergence as the ruling dispensation also poses a challenge to its lords and masters. From mere propagators of one-sided ideology, they now have to ensure that they provide a governance framework that does not create fear, hatred and despair in the society. The social and political consequences flowing from any dispensation that creates fear, hatred and despair would be too heavy to bear. The right wing dispensation can go all out to correct the wrongs of a liberal rule, but without in the process creating a fresh set of wrongs. The right wing dispensation when it adorns the governance avatar has to make this shift from demagogy to responsible oratory. Or else it shall fail the test of governance in a democracy. This applies equally well to leaders like Trump and Modi.
In some ways politics is like cricket. In the sense that the batting is almost as good as the bowling makes it look. In politics the aura of invincibility around the ruling party has a lot to do with enfeebled status of the opposition. For the last two and half years, the Congress has hardly shown the signs of a revival that could pose a serious challenge to the BJP. It has asserted itself in fits and starts but has shown neither the stamina nor the energy to politically upstage the BJP. Hopefully, things would improve in 2017.
Climate change is a global challenge and the unity of purpose shown at Paris needs to be translated into action, and the participating nations have to live up to their promises. There is not much time left to avoid climate related catastrophes that would visit people indiscriminately if the proposed mitigating measures are not taken. The greenhouse effect and the heating of the earth shall continue disastrously if the great polluting powers do not respond to the need of the hour. This could certainly disrupt a smooth ride in 2017. But at this stage let us be optimistic and step into the New Year with the hope that this will be a smooth ride in time. Here is wishing you all the very best in 2017. Happy New Year.
Before I conclude…
Elections are the life blood of a democracy. In 2017, we shall see elections in three important states. The border state of Punjab, the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, and the prime minister’s home state of Gujarat. The outcome in each of the states would reverberate far beyond their boundaries. The prime minister is advocating for simultaneous state assembly and parliamentary elections, but till that ideal is achieved, the regular cacophony of state elections adds to the spice of democracy. We look forward to these elections in 2017.