Two events occupied headlines recently. The first one was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary, which was celebrated on 31 October. Sardar Patel was a personality whose life and works are in people’s hearts and minds. He is not an ordinary leader who needs government’s endorsement to be remembered. Indeed, his biggest achievement was the merger of 500 princely states into Indian dominion. When the British left India, they divided the British India into two – India and Pakistan – and left the princely states to decide their own fate. The princely states were free to join either India or Pakistan, or remain independent. The British thought that India would slide into anarchy. But India got Sardar Patel, a man of exceptional resourcefulness, as the Home Minister. He independently signed merger treaty with every raja, maharaja and nawab. At the same time, Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of India, contributed immensely by giving go-ahead to Sardar Patel in his efforts. He did it because he loved India and wanted to see India prosper. No maharaja or nawab can ignore the fact that the police and the forces were under his command. But the most important virtue of Sardar Patel was that he understood the psychology of every maharaja and dealt with them accordingly. He resolved the issue amicably and with immense dexterity, barring three or four princely states of which Kashmir is still a problem and Nizam of Hyderabad came along very late after police action.
Now the BJP is trying to appropriate Sardar Patel as if he was member of the BJP or RSS. However, diametrically opposite was the case. After Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination RSS was banned by Sardar Patel. He was perturbed that Gandhi-ji was killed in the name of religion. Appropriating Patel, in fact, is the BJP’s election tactics. They want to project Nehru as a villain, as if his becoming prime minister was detrimental to the country’s wellbeing. They believe that Nehru dynasty reign in India, and Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are part of that dynasty. This is an absolutely wrong claim. How can a dynasty survive in a democracy? Elections are held at regular intervals. If a dynasty was ruling the country, how could Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister? Then, is it that you wish to interfere into the matter of another party? Generally, one who attracts votes becomes leader of a party. BJP chose Narendra Modi as its leader in 2014 surpassing seniors like L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar only because the party men thought Narendra Modi was more popular among the people. The argument in his favor was that that his connect with youth was better than anyone else. There was nothing wrong in that. And today If Rahul Gandhi pulls crowd for the Congress, do you think Ahmed Patel should be made president? If they think they can damage Congress by chanting Nehru-Nehru ad nauseam as if it is a bad word or invoking dynasty, then they are mistaken. No one will buy their arguments. The public is very smart.
Rahul Gandhi was given warm welcome in Gujarat, which is considered BJP's stronghold. It is not because of the fact that Rahul Gandhi has suddenly become popular there. It is because the people are fed up with the BJP. The government has not fulfilled the promises it has made. Its policies are bad and lopsided, and on many counts it is steps ahead of the Congress. Congress has never spent as much money as the BJP is spending on elections. It gives rise to the question as to where does this money comes from? Good governance requires seriousness. Elections and governance are two different things and require different approaches.
The government is said to be installing statue of Sardar Patel. Interestingly, it is being made in China, and installed in Gujarat. Why so? Why they evoke Sardar Patel at this point in time? He died in 1950. Let's concede that until Nehru was alive, the Congress did not give due attention to him, but where were you? Why did you people not say that Sardar Patel was being treated unfairly? Do you know who honored Sardar Patel with Bharat Ratna? It was our government under Chandrashekhar-ji in 1991. Chandrashekhar-ji was the Prime Minister, I was a Minister of State, and Subramaniam Swami was with us. We did not honor Sardar Patel in order to enhance his stature, but we honored him to correct a longstanding mistake. By invoking Sardar Patel now, they are behaving in a manner as if they have invented something new.
The second event is related to the World Bank's Index on Ease of Doing Business. According to this, India has improved its ranking from 130 to 100. Whereas, it is being said jocularly that the World Bank has mistakenly used the phrase “ease of doing business”, it should in fact be “cease of doing business”, as trade in India is on slide and businesses are closing down. As for the ranking, it may be proper, because such study is done on some technical and theoretical assumptions. If India improves its ranking from 130 to 100, what difference does it make? Improvement in ease of business is not yielding results. Not to speak of foreigners, even Indians are not setting up their plants and factories.
Let us juxtapose this index to the Social Security Index. In terms of social security of elderly people, all western studies give India poor ranking. They bemoan that the government does nothing for the elderly people. America and other western countries provide pension, necessary provisions and old age homes to elderly people, but here in India a son’s house is old age home for his parents. Only dumb can found this ranking relevant for India; in India parents have not to go anywhere until their last breath, the son and daughter-in-law will look after them. This is the country we live in! Do they think that we need to see our country through western prism? We have a government which talked of Hindu culture. When they rose to power in 2014, it was apprehended that they might impose Hindutva on this country. Leave Hindutva aside, now they are hell-bent on transforming India into America. Now the government wants to open the old age home here, so that son admits his parents in it, and India can improve its position on Social Security Index. In this backdrop, what is the benefit of this index? There is no need to pay attention to these things. The government should worry about providing livelihood to the masses.
I also run NGOs and stay in touch with people. During the last six months, I met three persons who were looking for matches for their daughters. They were ordinary village people. Although dowry is a social evil, even today people believe in giving dowry to their daughters. They arrange the money through all their means – by selling land or by taking loan. However, those three people told me that if they can get a boy with a government job, then they will feel that they have found suitable match for their daughter, and their lives will be settled once and for all. The government longs to change this mindset, and talked of “Standup India” and “Startup India”. The government cracks cruel jokes on the people, saying instead of seeking job they should provide jobs to others. It means every person is supposed to open an industry and provide jobs to others. In what world are they living! There is couplet of Nida Fazli:
Pundit-Mulle mujhe achche nahi lagte
Jitney ham hain utne sachche bhi nahi lagte
All in all, the thing that an ordinary person can understand is beyond the government’s comprehension. The government controls all the recourses in the country and still wants people to become job providers instead of becoming job seekers. A union minister went a step ahead. He maintained that reduction in job is indeed a good sign, because those who lose jobs will open industries. What a bottomless buffoonery is it!
Whatever abuses the BJP hurls at Jawaharlal Nehru, even they cannot deny the fact that Nehru has spent almost 10 years of his life in prison. Neither Gandhi, nor Patel and nor Maulana Azad spent that much time in jails. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech in Gujarat boasted that Nehru too feared the RSS. Today the whole population is under the spell of fear; will you call it an achievement! The outcome of the elections does not make any difference to me, because I am not in the Congress. But this country belongs to all of us. Our responsibility is to leave the country in better shape for future. If we cannot make it better, at least we should leave it as it is.