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Mr PM, Indias image needs better leaders

By: Bandyopadhyay Arindam
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Our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thinks India"s global standing will diminish and its image as a liberal, secular democracy take a beating if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whom the BJP has projected as next-in-line to LK Advani, ever becomes Prime Minister. Let it be clear that when he said global, the PM perhaps meant the western countries and USA and may be the oil rich Middle eastern nations and not Zimbabwe or Rwanda. It is interesting that the Prime minister did not find it against the standing of the office that he holds, to denounce a Chief Minister of his own country who has been democratically elected for the third time. The PM probably does not realise that by uttering a statement like this he is insulting the 5.5 crores Gujaratis who have elected Mr Modi. Perhaps in his preoccupation with "India"s global standing" from a non Indian"s perspective, the PM got disconnected from the ground reality of his own country and his own people who have elected Narendra Modi the best CM of the country for three years in a row.

This is not the first time that the PM have voiced statements that are disconnected from his countrymen. Starting from his unnecessary glorification of the British Raj of India, to his undue praise to President Bush that the people of India love him, to the unwarranted rationalization that Pakistan is also a victim of terror or the undemocratic and unethical declaration that Muslims have the first claim for the country"s resources, the Prime Minister had, on many occasions, blemished his office and his position as the leader of his country.

The global standing of India unfortunately is much more diminished because of her near 40% illiteracy rate, because of 42% of her population living under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day (one third of the global poor now reside in India) and because of 46% of her children under age three suffering from malnutrition (larger than any other country in the world). The Prime Minister could have been more concerned about the fact that India ranks 85 out of a 179 countries in Transparency International"s Corruption Perceptions Index.

If the PM was really concerned with the global standing of the country, he would have worked harder and taken more concrete steps to eradicate poverty and illiteracy for the mass and concentrated on health, education and building infrastructures. Perhaps he could have been less preoccupied with the dubious Indo US nuclear deal, the only unquestionable beneficiary of which would be US and European companies that supply nuclear technology and help build reactors. It would have been understandable if he had bargained for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, but to spend months on a nuclear deal that required alleged horse trading for a controversial trust vote and that might arguably push India into the Nuclear Non-Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) hardly increased India"s global image.

Mr Singh"s concept of liberalism and secularism has also been tested on numerous occasions. As a head of the government, he cannot wash his hand off the incidences like reversal of land donated to the Amarnath Shrine board or the controversial stand of the government in relation to the Ram Sethu, including the affidavit, questioning the existence of Ram.

Mr Singh should realize that, despite being a leader and representative of the Congress who took over the reign of divide and rule politics from the British, his office holds the responsibility to all citizen alike and cannot promote blatant minority appeasement and divisive vote bank politics. Such caste, creed and religion based politics hardly justifies the Congress" claim of secularism and does little to improve the image of the country. Neither is a country"s global standing glorified by blind imitation of the likes of its former rulers. India"s history is not restricted to the history of its invaders and intruders and her image cannot be enhanced by alienating its majority community. India is different from any other country of the world because of the Indian ethos, which is based on the ancient civilization of thousands of years, that is essentially the majority Hindu"s history. It is that civilization, based on the concept of Dharma, that once extended from Indonesia to Persia (now Iran) , and influenced other civilizations belonging to the Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Chinese, spread not by the sword, but by wisdom, knowledge, spirituality and commerce.

It is that civilisation, on which Mark Twain once commented, "India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects; she had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soul. India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only! "
That is the image that is recognized by the knowledgables as belonging to India.

Unfortunately that is the image which the post-independent Indian leaders have failed miserably to develop and nurture. The Hindus who once open heartedly accepted the early Christians, Parsees and Jews because of the in-built secularism in its plurality are now fighting for their own equal rights in their own country. They are stereotyped world wide as backdated, superstitious, mythological and anti-modern. And it is some Indian leaders and the Indian government who are helping to promote the concept that all things deplorable in India is attributable to the Hindus and needs to be liberated if India is to progess and modernize. A government who can stoop down to the level of putting a cross in its coins in the disguise of promoting unity in diversity, hardly needs any further testimony.

India"s image needs to be improved but not in the frame provided by the western world. We do not need permission of the west to progress as a nation, to restore our pride, to return to our glories.

But we do need leaders. We need leaders who belong to our country and who put the country first. We need leaders who can stand up to the world and say that India is not for sale anymore. We want a leader or a government who will project that we are a happy country, with perhaps differences in opinions and problems, which we are perfectly able to solve ourselves. We want to improve relations with other countries but only in equal terms. We do not appreciate any intrusion into our sovereignty be it terrorist, military, religious or otherwise. We want leaders who can stand up and say we have enough spirituality of our own and do not need it to be imported to change our fate. We do not want leaders who would meekly accept vested accusations of western religious authorities as "national shame" without putting up a fight or permit religious vigilante state body from the US to sit in judgement on India"s religious freedom.

We want leaders who can assure us that an attack on our country will be dealt with promptly and with equal might and will not be dependent on anybody"s approval.

Our leaders will be chosen by the people of the country through democratic processes and will not be thrusted upon us by any superpower. They will have the approval of our own people, unfazed by deceptions, lies and half truths. And Mr Singh can remain assured that being denied of a US visa will not be any parameter of non-acceptance of an Indian leader in his own country by his own people.

Bandyopadhyay Arindam

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