TAKING A LEAF OUT OF OUR GRAND HISTORY

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When a man who is our next Prime Minister espouses ideals that the Mahatma and C Rajagopalachari stood for and promoted, it is time to give him a chance

Respected Shri Gopal Gandhiji,

Though an ordinary and unknown Indian, I have gathered courage to address you an open letter primarily because I once belonged to those countless Bengalis who were deeply moved, when you declared, at the gates of Kolkata Raj Bhavan, that you would essentially be a “people’s Governor”. I was, therefore, disappointed to discern a certain superciliousness in your tone when you addressed an open letter to a man who — himself risen from the ranks of the ‘people’ to adorn the high office of the Prime Minister of India — has earnestly vowed to run a ‘people’s’ Government.

When I saw Narendrabhai, a former chaiwallah, empowered and speaking in the Central Hall of Parliament and moving the hearts of millions, I recalled the words of one of your illustrious grandfathers, C Rajagopalachari, who had observed that “swaraj is not worth the trouble we took to achieve it, if we cannot make it possible for a worthy but poor man to get into Parliament”. Listening to Narendrabhai, I could almost see your grandfather wiping his tears of joy.

To stretch memory a little, in an Independence Day issue of a leading national weekly, CR had lamented that unfortunately, “self-Government in India has not yet produced good Government, and that people would not be satisfied indefinitely to have one without the other”. I cannot help being reminded of this when I saw how people rejected the political party with which you have aligned yourself and how they responded to Narendrabhai’s call for the need of good and maximum governance. I see in him a long awaited heir to the legacy of your grandfather from the South.

When Narendrabhai declared, in the hallowed portals of Parliament, that his Government would essentially be a Government for the poor, I was deliriously ecstatic because I could see how he had internalised your grandfather’s, the Mahatma’s talisman — where every action would be made on the weighing balance of whether or not it benefitted the poorest and the weakest man [woman] and whether it [would] lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions. I am puzzled as to how an astute and erudite mind such as yours could have failed to draw this unique parallel.

When, for the first time in India’s history, a Prime Minister bowed on the steps of Parliament, signifying that he was the first servant of the people who had reposed their faith and destiny in him, my joy knew no bound, because I was again reminded of the words of the Mahatma. Drafting a Constitution for the princely state of Aundh, whose raja Bhawanraoji had voluntarily accepted to undertake the experiment of democracy and swaraj, the Mahatma had clearly enunciated the attitude he expected of him when he wrote, “Shriman Rajasaheb is the first servant and the bearer of conscience of the people of Aundh”. Won’t you agree that through the unprecedented act of bowing before Parliament, Narendrabhai has, in fact, translated before the nation, the Mahatma’s directive for a small princely state?

You have referred to the need of reflecting on the concept of ‘desh’. This concept too I saw clearly enunciated by Narendrabhai in his acceptance address when he said that his Government would work with all for the development of all. I am reminded of Sri Aurobindo who had described how the “new nationalism” overleaping “every barrier”, envisaged the “desh”. This vision of desh, wrote Sri Aurobindo, reaches out to “the clerk at his counter, the trader in his shop, the peasant at his plough; it summons the Brahmin from his temple and takes the hand of the Chandala in his degradation; it seeks out the student in his College, the schoolboy at his books, it touches the very child in its mother’s arms, its eyes searches the jungle for the Santal and travels the hills for the wild tribes of the mountains”.

It is up to you to reflect on whether you and those whose politics you espouse have truly succeeded in the last so many decades, given to you all, in truly bringing to fruition such a vision.

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