Deteriorating State of the Nation – 2017

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(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

We are living at an unprecedented moment in history. Academic fashion of jargon is that “India is perpetually stalled at “Cross-roads”. Perhaps, a better description of the “State of the Nation” may be “India is like a rudderless Ship caught in a Tempest; Sink it will eventually unable to manage its internal mutinies.”

People in 2014 elections opted for strong and decisive leadership to take the nation to traverse on an even keel.  After three months, three years will be passed.  “Demonetization” is the only decisive initiative taken by Modi.

In the remaining two years, Modi faces Himalayan challenges to overcome. Some of the realities include: negative state of politics; institutions defaced and destroyed; and, nation traversing on the course of permanent or perpetual turmoil and crises. Systems atrophy is real.

Reforms – Election, Social, Administrative, Police, Judicial and military – identified in almost all fields since 1960s are stalled.

Many suggest pragmatic and small steps as remedies to resolve crises situations.  In retrospect, people did not opt for ‘small steps, mostly cosmetic’ but decisive ones in all fields. And, time is running out for Modi.

Either Modi effectively enforces reforms (catch the Bull by its Horns) or he too will be consigned as an “End Note” in the pages of history. There is no other alternative left for him. Modi just cannot afford to fail people’s faith.

Holistically viewed, India is under “seize from within”. Tectonic fault lines persist in society. Massive shifts are, therefore, inevitable. Optimists pray and hope for resilience and endurance of society to withstand the surge of disintegration forces, which is also a false expectation.  There are no simple ways and means to end the proliferating internal security threats.

Let me briefly cover the social dimension. Social gridlock is due to inherently fractured geographic, ethnic and intra-ethnic fault lines. Social unrest is exploding nationwide. Angry young divided India is on the streets in the nation’s capital. Forces of aggressive nationalism are challenging pseudo leftist secularists.

Majority fail to realize the seriousness of the current communal crisis. Following a series of terror attacks, Islamaphobia and violent extremism has skyrocketed. Float a rumor it reverts back to you as a real story later.

Most important, traditional religions are failing while academic philosophy remains paralyzed by reactionary skepticism and superficial idealism. Entire populations are being blindly led by thoughtless materialistic forces while the followers of traditional religion are becoming increasingly aggressive in their fight to preserve ancient religious superstitions.

Its natural fallout is political gridlock – bitter partisanship and hate filled politics. Delhi power struggles are intensifying. Political vendetta, conspiracy, witch hunt and hate-games are exploding. The fault squarely lies at the door steps of political leaders, who in pursuit of self interest are callously pursuing narrow political agendas at a time of rapidly degrading national security.

Of course, Indian politicians, like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, are mostly consummate liars: promise the “Moon” to gullible voters; and plunder the nation. Political diatribe is often caustic and insulting. Their history of corruption, inequity, injustice and intrigue is phenomenal.  Political witch hunt is all pervading.

In manifestos elections after elections, political parties ask people to believe in things that don’t exist and then promise that they will make policy as if they were real. Also, they have mastered the science of stirring up discontent by many ways and means. Politicians are either deluding themselves or insulting people’s intelligence.

Political leaders have also mastered the art and science of propaganda – oft repeat enough times, no matter how disconnected from truth or logic; other people will begin to believe it. Sloganeering has reached its zenith.

No wonder, traditional political parties like the Congress and Left Parties have lost their appeal as populist. Skepticism and cynicism is growing even against Modi led NDA.

Large-scale social system failures, ideological polarization based on reckless political posturing, outbursts, controversial statements, corruption, growing inequality, and globalization of corporate and financial elites will be the growing factors in accentuating system sclerosis or paralysis.

Next, crisis of leadership – rudderless – is real in all fields. Democracy has bred mediocre leadership. Absence of dynamic and responsive leadership makes the nation a most dangerous to place.

Heir apparent of the Congress Party, as per Sheila Dikshit, still remains immature at the age of 46. Congress Party reality is nothing but dynastic propagation from President to Panchayat making dynasty exceptional.

Leftists are mentally, emotionally and morally ill-equipped. Mamata Beaneries is a maverick street fighter. Mayawati is mostly restricted to UP. Jayalalitha is dead and gone. Yadav duo – Mulayam and Laloo Prasad – are spent forces. Akhilesh by aligning with RaGa may pay off tactically in a short term context; but unlikely to pay off in a long term context.

Kejriwal, self proclaimed ‘anarchist’, megalomaniac, narcissistic sociopath and authoritarian, is an agent of chaos. His maverick brand of politics or demagogy abandoning any pretence of good cannot lend hope for his rise.

Ipso facto, with 24×365 elections, political leaders are indulging in empty moral rhetoric to strike chord with sentiments and emotions of majority and misguide gullible people – vicious politics of polarization. They are resorting to highly divisive rhetoric involving ideology, race, gender, and national identity. Rhetoric, mostly vicious, can produce polarizing effect on opposition, separatists, minorities, tribes, SCs, STs etc thereby feeding xenophobia, paranoia and frenzy.

Seldom has one witnessed such boisterous outbursts or acrimony of youth on the streets of Delhi and Chennai. Surge of tribalism and supra tribalism of all sorts infects our politics and pushes us apart.

Leaders are indulging in demagogy instead of political discourse. Meaningful debates based on modicum of courtesy, decency and dialogue is quite uncommon. Contentious and rancorous cacophony even in the so called “temple of Democracy” is a reality. Soon, protestors on the streets may pay them in the same coin.

Leaders must make choices: between “constructive criticism vs. destructive criticism vs. creative criticism vs. pragmatic criticism vs. realpolitik criticism.” What is needed is constructive and creative criticism.

Modi appears to be an exception even now. That is why he lends hope for posterity. But the flock around him fails to inspire confidence due to their past baggage.

Viewed in the prevailing extraordinary cantankerous and acrimonious no-hold barred exchanges, the prospects of civilized behavior appear bleak.

In retrospect, political leaders and parties are pursuing short term end objectives in pursuit of power.  If they pursue to traverse on such a vicious course, sooner than later populist authoritarian leadership may hijack the system.

Yet another key issue concerns pessimism over economy, which remains fragile, sluggish and almost stagnant due to its monsoon dependency, political instability and other factors. GST remains deadlocked. Should economic conditions deteriorate, it would end in destabilization of regimes.

Principled “Media” to safeguard its freedom enshrined in the Constitution is an anathema. Media is partisan; naturally, it toes “His Masters Voice”. “Fake or Paid News” instead of pursuing truth appears real. The price media pays is that it not only loses its credibility and relevance; but also emerges dangerous as it orchestrates and sways peoples moods, sentiments and feeling in a negative ways.

The more I reflect, the more I am convinced that “meekness breeds weakness; weakness breeds Chaos; and Chaos breeds paralysis, stalemate, political blunders paving the course for eventual disintegration. So, Modi must shed his pretensions of a conciliatory and consensual type of leader and boldly implement dynamic reforms in all fields. At least go down fighting valiantly!

The fate of India or how India would traverse in 2017 to 2019 rests on the people of the States in the current round of elections.

Let me also highlight the issue before the majority including me: “do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?” My answer is “hope”; hope out of conditional optimism. It is in the hope that India one day in posterity would emerge from the past 70 year’s long political darkness into brighter days ahead!

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