New India, new ideas

The young care about achievement and opportunity, reject fear mongering

Written by Rama Bijapurkar | Updated: May 19, 2014 8:18 am

The young care about achievement and opportunity, reject fear mongering.

Mani Shankar Aiyar is right when he says that the idea of India is not “Hindudom” (‘The dying light of freedom’, IE, May 17). Each of us who loves our country (and there are multitudes outside the Congress, too) must rise up in arms and fight if it threatens to become so under Narendra Modi’s regime. Like most middle of the road Indians who happen to be Hindu, I agree with him on the sacredness of the secular and inclusive idea of India. But I also know that Indira Gandhi’s wearing a rudraksha in her later years or Sonia Gandhi doing a puja before filing her nomination does not make either any more secular, and Modi’s forehead tika and Ganga aarti does not make him any more communal.

However, Aiyar, like the rest of his party, especially its leaders, needs to have a more complete understanding of what’s going on in India. The Congress must know that there are additional ideas that define the new India and they are equally embraced by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, Dalits, Baniyas etc. One such idea is the ability to achieve upward mobility in income and quality of living based on merit and ability, and not what your surname is or how many of your forefathers held high positions. Talk to young people and you will find that their heroes and role models are those who have made it through sheer hard work and performance, gone from modest origins to global halls of fame. The cricket heroes, IT czars, astronauts, winners of India’s Got Talent-type shows, etc. The Congress needs to expand its idea of India to include this dimension as well.

The idea of new India is also about equality of opportunity and the decline of feudalism and the “bade ghar ke beta-beti” having an exclusive, default first right of refusal on everything merely because of the accident of their birth. The new idea of global India is also about confidence in the Indian way. The next generation of minority community youth find the journey from chaiwala to prime minister a better example of inclusive India than Priyanka Gandhi’s story of her father’s almost exclusive claim to greatness and martyrdom. The minority community Gen Next would welcome education, opportunity, financial inclusion and a vibrant job market and better access to public goods over rhetoric from any quarter about the imminent danger they are in. And in the new idea of India, upward mobility will trump divisive talk and action.

At an informal meeting, one of many that Rahul Gandhi had with groups of business people, he suggested that our country would implode if Modi came to power because most Indian Muslims would feel unwanted and insecure, and wonder where they should go, and be prey to external destabilising forces. I heard this and asked a young, lower middle-income Muslim who belongs to India’s urban aspirational class, a self-employed micro-entrepreneur, if he wondered where he should go in the light of the rise of the BJP. Why should I wonder where to go, he asked. This is my country. I asked another Mumbai Muslim why he didn’t vote for the Congress. He said, “Have you seen how costly life has become, and no one did anything about it? I send my daughters to a convent school and the fee and swimming lessons are expensive. The whole family can’t afford to go to a mall and eat once a week like we used to.” So maybe there’s more on Hindu and Muslim minds than religion.

It is difficult to see how the Congress, whipping up sentiments about about how Muslims ought to worry and panic, is not divisive or communal. It is also hard to see why preserving the idea of India should include preserving dynasty and feudalism.

In the previous Parliament, only 5.4 per cent of Lok Sabha MPs were Muslim, despite the Congress having 206 seats. In the new Parliament, despite the number of Congress seats decreasing by 162, the number of Muslims has decreased by six. This means that Muslims make up just 4.4 per cent of the 16th Lok Sabha while being 13.4 per cent of the country. And women make up just 11.2 per cent, while accounting for half of the population. Both numbers are disgraceful and indict all political parties. It is time to focus on the idea of an inclusive new India, and hang all those who are divisive, whether in their efforts to be secular or communal.

The writer is a market strategy consultant

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    Chinta Hari
    May 19, 2014 at 6:59 pm
    Agree with you. I would like to add a couple of more points here. As Mr. Kamal Nath of the Congress party commented: Congress party ignored the "aspirational" aspect of the youth. This aspiration knows no bounds, no caste, no religion. Today's internet has made it clear to the youth what is possible and so the natural next question is, "If them, why not me?" When they looked at the world with these gles on, all other issues became irrelevant. People figured out that the economic advancement, which will come with education advancement, is the surest way to get rid of bigotry. Give the voters some credit
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      Kerala Varma
      May 19, 2014 at 2:25 pm
      A Nehru-hi phobia seems to outnumber other considerations in Indian politics; the fact of the matter is the party representing the Nehru-hi legacy is not of the Nehru-hi making. We as a nation of 126 crores ought think bigger; may be we get a PM from central India think less of the war mongering vis-a-vis stan, China or even lesser neighbors. Let us get on with the lives of the youth, women and the down trodden. Why do we need a 63 year old man as PM and why can't we have someone much younger; can the ruling party find someone , man or woman much younger to lead and usher in a generational change!
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        kvjayan
        May 19, 2014 at 4:36 pm
        "It is also hard to see why preserving the idea of India should include preserving dynasty and feudalism." In fact, preserving dynasty and feudalism is the only idea of India for MSA and other feudal slaves. Their w livelihood depends only on this.
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          narahari
          May 19, 2014 at 6:46 am
          Under the guise of "secularism", people like Mani Shankar Iyer are practising the most dangerous form of communalism - namely, dividing Indians into majority and minority and scaring minorities into fear and isolation. This suits his party because that way they can lay claim to a large % of Muslim votes. Unfortunately, India has moved on from that feudal, ideny-based thinking. Today's youth, regardless of religion and caste, want upward mobility, jobs, roads, opportunities and a good standard of living. If Modi delivers that, without whipping up any anti-Muslim right-wing agenda, then the youth, including the Muslim youth, will vote for Modi again and again for the next 2 or 3 terms.
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            N. Raghunand
            May 19, 2014 at 6:36 am
            In 1947 power was transferred from the British to English-speaking Indians, and over the past decade and a half it has been clear that power is further being transferred to all Indians. Modi on the right, Kejriwal on the left, and Amma and others elsewhere in the spectrum have led this change and it is obviously a very good thing. But will the "Shatranj Ke Khiladi" in the Dynasty and in the National Advisory Council see the writing on the wall?
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              Sudheer Thaakur
              May 19, 2014 at 7:45 pm
              No one has quarrel with notion of inclusiveness. How are we going to measureit? Are we going to measure Muslim inclusiveness by how many of them are elected to Lok Sabha? Are we going to measure it by how many muslim candidates are given tickets to contest election by political parties. If this is how we are going to measure then the easiest way to achieve that is to have separate electorate which will be the first step for splitting the country once again on basis of religion. Educational and economic inclusiveness based on equality of opportunity is worth while inclusiveness goal but not forced political inclusiveness.
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