Dr N Bhaskara Rao
The way a “new India ” is being talked now in the wake of the incumbent Prime Minister completing nine years of rule, reminds me of my college years in Bezwada when a New India Cafe baffled the youth with “Iranian tea” in a coffee heart land and belittled longstanding local restaurants. I heard latter that tea had opium traces. There is of course far more widely known “New Lux” campaign with cute film stars recommending the soap with a perfume smell. I was expecting that someone will explain what the “New India” claim is all about. A new building for the Parliament House of course is understood and could be appreciated. Even claims like “transformed India” or “modern India” could be understood and acknowledged. New India makes waves only when explained and many more people are involved in that process.
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Even a political party could be “new” as in the case of BJP in many respects. Dr Nalin Mehta has illustrated in a 840 page book, “The New BJP”, how it has become a New BJP. I even reviewed this fascinating book couple of months ago for PrimePost. A nation could be before or after a regime as we had several books on “India After Nehru”. And there will be many more books on “India after Modi” whenever that is. But no leader before claimed a “New India” as now.
Also there could be a “New India” when the constitution gets scrapped whatever way. And when a new Republic gets constituted or whatever the system that a new constitution adopts when the country may even be described as second Republic. Without any such a process of political transition, or twist and turn in the country’s fate, how can there be a “New India”. Unless a foreign power claims a New India after an annexure in whatever way. Nothing of that sort has happened. Not even any signals for such situation. Nothing of that sort is even in any one’s imagination. Now nothing is even outlined as to what the New India is all about, nor the authors have come up as a proposal before any of the legislative forums of the country, not even of the party in power. In the absence of any such, it could be a “new identity” pursuit, as another senior leader of the same party indicated last week.
Now to know what the “New India” is all about one has to piece together several utterances of leaders, or go more by political affiliations. Of course, the “New” should not be by erasing or disclaiming political past or what already achieved or existed as some kind of foundation, unconcerned of merits and moralities in a democracy. For, foundations of a country not by any one elected leader or regime but by series and overtime. Unlike in the case of a soap or a cafe or a consumer brand backed by a publicity blitz ticking
Piecing together the utterances of claimants of new India idea, one could come up with several notions, many may be unfair. Like it meant a more centralised country or a more religious one or polarised and parochial one, where the “little republics” of yester years are on vanishing trick or becoming colonies and people becoming more and more dependents on governments and victims of hatred and blind beliefs, where it is fake and planted news dominate public media driving a illusionary future. There is danger of infusing with such blurred picture in the absence of an explanation of what “New India” is all about. But such interpretations are bound to be with political blinkers with political parties unleashing their electoral strategies. In such a context, what happens if another political party too comes out with yet another idea of a new India.
But if, on the other, parties come up with claims or propositions as a national poll draws closer new deal like “just India”, “inclusive India”, and the like are explained. Instead, of such ideas, diversionary tactics seems are relied more. With more impressive claims that could be talked about the incumbent is indulging in erasing or blurring the past instead of pursuing solid ideas for sustainable development. This obviously amounts missing a lifetime opportunity coming out of such a riddle.
It is natural for a popular leader to distinguish from earlier governments. Even more so for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But this should be by going beyond slogans and rhetorics. In less than a decade his Government on record has accomplished more than previous decades and regimes. There is enough to claim without getting into false narrations, as if a past does not exist or matter, or, as if, that is coming in the way of showcasing tall talks and claims. I recall in 2018 in my book, “Sustainable Good Governance, Development and Democracy”, five fundamental issues that PM Modi had already pronounced which could be harbinger of good governance, were described. I said they would change the face of the affairs of the country. These five ideas could be the core of the “new deal” that Narendra Modi is trying to suggest now as “new India”. He could change the glass half empty syndrome if only his ideas could be pursued and followed up by the party and the government but beyond an electoral context.
(Dr N Bhaskara Rao is a longstanding research based analyst of public issues).