Gandhi and Moral Authority: India`s Current Mess

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By Amar Yumnam
India is now characterised by a common issue seizing the mind of all cross-sections of the population. The politicians (the country does not have any statesman at the helm of affairs today) in the ruling party are cornered by it. The politicians in the opposition are working hard to capitalise on it. The intellectuals in the country are worried and disturbed by this development. The common men of all hues – taxi-drivers (the group anybody on the move first comes across in any city), the men on the streets, the middle class employees, the vegetable vendors and what not – feel adversely affected by it. Well I am talking of corruption at the highest levels and the implication of complicity in it of the key important persons running the political machinery of this country.

In every seminar and conference across the country, this is now the key issue being discussed by all on the side-lines; in every break and during dinner time and also during travels, all the scholars discuss this issue only. This is a feature true right from Manipur University to Saurashtra University, from Madras University to Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Leader Exposed: The head of the people in the centre is considered to be an ‘Economist’. The matter has now come to such a critical stage that from an original perception of cleanliness and honesty, people now conceive of this person as someone facilitating and tolerating all the corruption taking place under his own nose if not corrupt in himself. Most of the members of this community of Economists across the country, except the government Economists, now disown him. They are pointing out that he was never an economist in the real sense of the term; at best he was basically a ‘Bureaucrat Economist’. They also point out that while the heads of the people in this country have been from the Lower House traditionally, he stands as the odd man out being from the Upper House. Further, they are recalling the fact of his own election to the Upper House from a constituency far from being ‘home’ constituency.

For the non-Economists, he now represents a teasing point on the Economists. Well, as said above irrespective of whether the gathering is of Economists or of cross-section of academicians, the talking point across the country during the greater part of this year has been the issue of corruption and the incapacity of the person heading the country’s government. 

Gandhi in Different Periods: Here a distinction now very commonly made in the various discussions in the Social Sciences Block of Manipur University is of great interest. In fact, this distinction has now drawn the interest of other colleagues from outside the State when told about it. This is the distinction between the Gandhi of pre-Independence India and Gandhi in the post-Independence period. The pre-Independence Gandhi was a living human being, a wonderful persona, a leader of utmost qualities, and above all a person who gave freedom to this country. But unfortunately this Gandhi was dead and buried deep after Independence. He has emerged as the root cause of all the democratic and political crises facing the country today. This post-Independence Gandhi is not a living individual unlike the earlier one. He has no moral qualms in any dealings. This is the Gandhi we see printed in the currency notes of this country. His power rises the higher the denomination of the currency note and larger the number of it. The country has witnessed the unfolding of the power of this post-independence Gandhi during the last few years and particularly the last few months. The pre-Independence Gandhi now commands no power and relevance except as a matter of ritualistic tarpan on the second day of October each year.

Moral Authority: Now the power of this new Gandhi has cut such corners so much so that the person, who now holds the position once held by Sardar Vallavbhai Patel, is also drawn into the unfolding drama of political actors around this new avatar. In this context, I have commented to quite a few colleagues around the country that the government at the Centre no longer has the moral authority to remain in power. Two responses have come out very frequently and strongly. One relates as to who cares for moral authority in this country. The second says that at least it has the “immoral authority” to remain in power. 

My response to all these comments has been just a one liner. India can be governed only on the basis of moral authority. The sheer size of the territory is such that the government at the centre must have the moral command across the country. The hated AFSPA like approaches can never ensure the unity of the country, but the moral authority of the Central government can. Further the territorial size is coupled by the large heterogeneity of population constituting the inhabitants of this country. All these diverse groups of population can be bound together only by a common spirit founded on the moral authority of the government at the Centre.

Besides, there is also the imperative of building a strong Indian nation. As I have argued repeatedly in this column and elsewhere, India is no doubt a big country but it has yet to emerge to a strong nation. For rather too long we have taken the nation-building process for granted by allowing the post-Independence Gandhi to be the guiding principle of every political action. The country now stands at a juncture where she can ignore the needs of nation-building only at the cost of future jeopardy of the very country.

This calls for restoring the moral authority of the government that rules over the country. The ball is now in the court of the Centre to prove whether it stands for unity, cleanliness and nation-building or it cares for the post-Independence Gandhi and nothing else. The time is now for another round of parliamentary elections. 

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