Critique of Govt is not anti-national, supreme leader cares only for himself: Tushar Gandhi


KA Johny

Interview

Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi visited Mathrubhumi office at Calicut on October 15. In an interview with K A Johny, Senior News Editor, Mathrubhumi, Tushar Gandhi spoke at length about the political scenario of the country. Excerpts from the interview :

You raised concerns over the collapse of the democratic institutions in the country while addressing the Mathrubhumi employees on October 15. It is a fact that all the constitutional institutions including the Parliament are feeling the heat. What is the way out?

What worries me most is the fact that the general public has been indoctrinated with a very false idea of what democracy is, so they do not realise the danger this poses to our democratic fabric. Unfortunately for various political reasons, education about democracy has been compromised in our country. The citizens have been separated completely from the democratic process very systematically. That is why it becomes so easy for the watchdogs of democracy to be so compromised. There is also ethical corruption in these institutions. This is why the people who manage these institutions have been able to compromise these institutions which should be guarding the foundations of democracy.

Your observation about ethical corruption is very relevant. The country used to be led by great persons like Gandhi and Jayapraksh Narayan whose moral force was never compromised. Do you think that the absence of a moral force is one of the most significant crises that the country is facing now?

Absolutely! What India is missing badly right now is the presence of moral and ethical leadership. Everybody who showed sparks of this greatness has not been able to sustain that promise.

One major factor that differentiates today's political scenario from that of the emergency period is the scale of popularity that the PM enjoys. There was stiff opposition against Indira Gandhi during the emergency. But now, there is a huge population that stands by the PM supporting whatever he does. What is your take on this contrast?

During the emergency, although there was an iconic leadership, the awareness of democracy was really strong in the society. They knew what real democracy meant. That is why they turned against Indira when she deviated from the path of democracy. They rebelled against her. Again I am coming back to the original point. The very idea of democracy has been corrupted. That is how the present PM is able to get away with his anti-democratic acts.

Here we come face to face with the ideology of Hindutva. The present regime is banking on the strength of this ideology. And that makes the difference. What is your view?

Very much! They have been able to corrupt the ideal Hinduism with the malignant Hindutva. Today people fail to distinguish between Gandhiji's Sanatani Hinduism and the present-day version of Hindutva. To make it more apparent I would say that Hindutva and Hinduism are as different as Christianity and Islam. Hindutva is a politically motivated corruption of Hindu idealism which has exploited the flaws that kept creeping into Hinduism from time to time.

Congress, the major opposition party, has failed to tackle this issue?

Everyone has failed. Each and every political party has to be held accountable for this failure. They have not bothered to educate the people about the corruption of this idea. Since Congress has been the principal opposition party for quite some time it must share the major part of this blame. Today we don't have a democratic party left at all. They are all now after power. They are not bothered about the democratic process. They don't care about the inner values of democracy. This is where ethical corruption comes in.

Congress leadership claims that the party is trying to regain inner party democracy through the ongoing presidential election. Do you feel that the presidential election will be a turning point for Congress?

I think Congress has to reinvent itself much more than these token gestures. They will pay dividends. But how sustainable those dividends will be, I have my own doubts. I appreciate the Bharat Jodo yatra, I view it positively. It seems the yatra is getting a spontaneous response from the public. But I am not sure if Congress as a party has any strategies to sustain this excitement and support. I don't know if they will be able to convert this support into a mass vote bank. These days the concept of a vote bank has been much abused. But to a political party vote bank shouldn't be a bad thing. BJP has demonised the Congress's vote bank. But they have successfully created their own decisive vote bank. If you look at the policies of the BJP, they are all aimed at sustaining this vote bank. But they have been able to convince the general public that whatever they do is in the interest of the nation.

Both the contenders for the top post of the Congress - Kharge and Tharoor- have stated that they have their own strategies and vision to revive the party. Do you think that the winner of this election will be able to transform congress and regain its past glory?

I don't believe that individual leadership is going to revive Congress. Congress has to evolve collective leadership to tackle this present crisis. During the times of Gandhiji and Nehru, there were strong leaders but still, the party was led by a collective leadership. A group of leaders can truly revive the party. I don't think either Tharoor or Kharge will be able to deliver. The only thing they will be able to do is creating dissidence. And Congress has a history of damaging itself from within. The organisational strength of Congress was its collective leadership. Congress must regain it. Even when Pandit Nehru was such a strong leader there was a group of leaders along with him. Unfortunately, Indira Gandhi destroyed this collective leadership. Maybe the circumstances which led to her rise caused this. But being an iconic leader she could carry the party on her shoulders. Today Congress doesn't have that kind of individual leader anymore. In this scenario, if Congress really wants to revive the party it should abandon this process of electing an individual leader and evolve a leadership of equals to guide the party through the next 10 years. You see, the seeds of destruction in the Sangh Parivar have been sown, where a megalomaniac is trying to grab absolute power.

Could you elaborate on this point a little more? Do you mean to say that the seeds of disintegration have already been sown within the Parivar?

The megalomaniac leader is very effectively creating himself as the supreme leader. The friction will increase more and more. You are seeing the signs. But we can not sit back and wait for the destruction to happen. We have to create a situation which will encourage the disintegration of that party and ideology.

Some years back, while speaking at Thiruvananthapuram, Gopalkrishna Gandhi made a remarkable observation that there was fear in the nation's atmosphere. He said that the fear was very palpable. These days we do witness the level of tolerance going down. Any criticism of the Govt is seen as anti-national activity. We do miss the golden days when there used to be vigorous and vibrant debates and arguments between Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru and Ambedkar. What is your reflection on this?

Again I am coming back to the original concept of democracy. The idea and definition of democracy have been diluted and manipulated. That is why these elements have been able to brand even constructive criticism as anti-national. You are portrayed as anti-national if you criticise the Govt. It is the most false kind of projection of nationalism. We have to dissect this very dangerous infatuation with strong leadership. Strong leadership means a leader who is always compassionate and empathetic. Look at Indira Gandhi. Although she tried to become an authoritarian leader, at some point in time she also had the knowledge of what was more important. That is why restoring democracy was much easier during her time.

Did she go for public elections revoking the emergency?

Yes. She did it knowing fully well that the public sentiments were against her. That is missing today. The megalomania of the supreme leader is so malicious that he doesn't care for the nation any longer. It's just him, nothing else matters. Fortunately, history has proven that when a leader reaches that stage of insanity that becomes the cause of his or her destruction. That is the only hope. But we can not wait because the damage that happens till that destruction happens may not be repairable.

You mean to say that you are still optimistic and see some light at the end of the tunnel?

I can see a sliver of hope. But it depends on us, the public, as to whether it turns out to be a flame or if it is going to be extinguished.

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