Ignoring an icon

What she had done for the country, no leader after has been able to even conceive so we are surprised no Congress leader wanted to write on her

The birth centenary of the late Indira Gandhi is at hand, come November 19. For those who have lived through the times of India’s tallest leader so far, it is a momentous occasion. She was someone who can no longer be expected today in the caste, religion and jumla ridden politics. If one sidesteps the much-mistaken Emergency, she had done things for India no leader after her has been able to conceive. She raised a food-scarce country into a food-surplus one. She pulled the atomic trigger on Pakistan after she had successfully truncated the country, creating Bangladesh, rubbishing Pakistan’s economy. It was “Gharibi Hatao! It was not an isolated, populist slogan. It was Indira Gandhi who laid out the agenda for poverty alleviation input by developed countries when she said at the Stockholm Environment Summit in 1972: “Poverty is the biggest polluter!”

In an age when Indian leaders seem to grovel at the feet of a ‘moron’ (not our words) US President Donald Trump, it is unimaginable that she had snubbed a powerful US president Richard Nixon by refusing to attend a dinner at the White House for not being formally invited well in time.

We at Parliamentarian had dreams of bringing out a collector’s edition on her, and had requested, personally and in writing, every Congress stalwart – from Sonia Gandhi downwards – to pen their reminiscences of this amazing lady. But barring a handful, everyone demurred! Does this mean the Congress is reneging on its most vibrant brand image today? For there is no one now who can be termed as a Congress icon, so much so that people are fond of Priyanka Gandhi as she is a mirror-image of Madam Gandhi. The Congress can do so at its own peril.

Meanwhile, the winds of change are being felt. Interestingly, the more the weather settles into the winter chill, the more grows the political heat, especially with Gujarat going to the polls. Never has a state poll evinced such a raging response across states, as the social media shows. Never has a Prime Minister shown such scare by visiting his state so many times, holding back a constitutional body from honouring its duty and responsibility so that sop upon sop upon sop is dumped on the Gujarat electorate.

No one knows if this will work. Patidars, dalits and others are mighty peeved. Will these sops be enough to smoothen their ruffled, almost plucked feathers? Some surveys say it will, and Gujarat will see a clear BJP mandate. I say that the least said about these survey agencies, which function more on the lines of ‘paid news’, the better. They are best named after a now extinct brand: HMV, or His Master’s Voice.

For surely, the rumblings are not just about caste and reservation. These are symbolisms behind more substantial anger; the unparalleled harassment after demonetisation, which has not yet taken us to the Promised Land, despite Modi trumpeting it at every meeting. The banks have started showing ‘recapitalisation’, which an economic expert has termed as a banking ‘jugaad’, just like the pumping up of GDP figures, which are at a certain level only after nixing old parameters… actually, it stands at around 3.7. Farm loan waivers are a cruel joke, and our Uttar Pradesh bureau chief writes, that in many cases, out of the Rs 36,000 crore ‘waived’ by the rabidly Hinduist Yogi Adityanath government, hundreds of farmers have received cheques of as little as Re one!

Now comes the latest engineered trauma of the Goods and Services Tax, adequately given the moniker Gabbar Singh Tax! This is such a mess that it has ruined the economy’s base, the small and medium, informal sector businesses.

Then, of course, there is another sadistic jumla, a term that needs no explanation across languages: job creation. Where are the 10 crore jobs the youth had been promised in three years?

Unfortunately, a critical media has been largely replaced – barring a few golden examples – by a captive media.