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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 47, November 15, 2014

Onset of an Anniversary

Sunday 16 November 2014, by Dipak Malik

The 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru would roll on from November 14, 2014. Had there been a Congress Government, the occasion would have been marked by pomp and show though it would not have been in all likelihood more than a poor caricature. The 125th anniversary comes at a time when a BJP Government is in power at the Centre with a Prime Minister who does not conceal his preferences that do not at all lie with Nehru or Nehruvian India.

Still the birth anniversary of the first Prime Minister cannot be altogether shelved. So Modi reconstituted the Jawaharlal Nehru Centenary Celebration Committee excluding two notable names, those of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, and Dr Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister. Modi cannot be faulted for this lapse as Mrs Sonia Gandhi immediately after the general elections had volunteered to withdraw her name from the Committee; so the wish of her was merely obeyed. Furthermore, Modi belongs to the generation of BJP politicians who had no touch with the Nehruvian era unlike Atal Behari Vajpayee who had entered the Lok Sabha as a young member in the hey-days of Nehru. This was the umbilical cord why Vajpayee wanted to keep the facade of a reluctant liberal, though in practice he was very much of a swayamsevak. Modi does not even need that.

As far as Dr Manmohan Singh is concerned, he cannot, by any strech of imagination, the called somebody who had any sympathy whatsoever with the Nehruvian perspective. Rather, he was the one who took the initiative to demolish the Nehruvian legacy aggressively. Dr Singh did all in his mite to keep the Nehruvian perspective out from 1991 till he demitted office in 2014.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi too did not take the initiative to stop Manmohan Singh from steamrolling the entire Nehruvian perspective after her reluctant entry into Congress politics. One could see that she did not have the strength of a politician who could take strong ideological issues in her stride. Besides, it must be noted that she entered the Congress polity in the era when the political management of the Congress was undergoing a change towards a sort of quasi-corporate management bereft of the essential political-ideological moorings that the Congress had gathered from the freedom struggle and Nehru era. She neither had the will of a Nehru or the training of a Mrs Indira Gandhi; yet the Congressmen kept on seeing in her an image of an Indira Gandhi. Though Mrs Sonia Gandhi was able to cobble up a progressive national advisory body as the UPA chairperson, the dice was heavily loaded against any radical initiative. The journey of steamrolling the Nehruvian perspective started seriously with Rajiv Gandhi who rejected the overall perspective handed over through succession. His strategy was focussed on updating the technology, which he did, but by discarding the Nehruvian perspective of a radical as well as approriate political economy for India.

One of the first casualties after Rajiv Gandhi’s succession was the legacy of a ‘socialistic pattern of society’, though it had already been put to mechanical application and later on was diluted and weakened during the last term of Mrs Indira Gandhi. The radical turn that Mrs Indira Gandhi took in the late sixties and early seventies was done at the cost of inviting an increasing shadow of authoritarianism and suspension of democracy in the Congress party as well as in the government. By the 1980s after her return to power the Bretton Woods ideologues had surreptitiously entered in the government.

Manmohan Singh’s assendency finally transformed the whole scenario. It was an exercise to move away from piecemeal changes towards more comprehensive measures leading to the globally trumpeted ‘Neoliberalism’. By 1991 India had joined the bandwagon of the triumphalism of Capitalism. The Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo was the zealous executioner of this mandate from the multilaterals and multunationals. The Washington Consensus was superimposed on the New Delhi Consensus. Manmohan’s accession to the Delhi throne opened the door for neoliberalism in all its aspects. Even the political apparatus of the Congress party was transformed more into an apolitical dynast-cum-corporate mode.

Political socialisation of both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi took root under the umbrella of the technology freak Rajiv Gandhi and it fully matured under the neoliberal shelter of Manmohan Singh. They have no relationship whatsoever to the Nehru legacy.

The Nehruvian framework was discarded lock, stock and barrel for the new political economy handed over by Manmohan Singh. Nehru is increasingly becoming a distant and lost figure and even more so when we enter the year of the 125th anniversary of his birth.

Manmohan Singh reoriented his foreign policy towards the West. He was in extreme hurry to move away from the Nehru era experiments, which could have been remodelled easily depending on the demands of the new situation.

With the paradigm shift we now witness, we find that Manmohanomics is providing the world-view of the Congress party. Sonia Gandhi as well as Rahul have succumbed to this view uncritically and continue with Manmohanomics rather than reopen the Nehruvian worldview.

As a matter of fact the Modi-led NDA is also continuing the same Manmohanomics but with better managerial skills and with lots of rhetoric. This is understandable as the Sangh Parivar is well aware that any sort of ‘Hindutva Economics’ would not be viable apart from being a massive dose of empty rhetoric; so they follow the IMF-WB-WTO line but with much more energy and vigour compared to the low-key pedantic Manmohan Singh. The current dispensation, for all practical purposes, is UPA III except some sparks of communal itches here and there and a well-knit Sangh Parivar in attendance with a captive mass media, particularly the electronic and social media.

The author is the Honorary Director, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi.