Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On Gandhian fetishes

If the pre-poll sound bites are to be believed, one thing looks clear.
Irrespective of who wins the general elections in 2009, centers like mumbai will find things getting grimmer.

For no political party wants to focus on fixing things, choosing to fall back on tired, ruinous ideas and shibboleths.

The Congress has promised a return to nehruvian economics.
Which means incubus like state smothering that slows everything in its path to a crawl.,
Fair enough, we've lived under that with the UPA.

Not to be outdone, the BJP too wants to take india back to the stone age by resorting to Gandhian economics.

We leave the readers to enjoy the fruits of some other Gandhain policies. The reason gandhian policies fail is not because Gandhi was not a good man. Far from it.
The reason they fail is because the world is not full of men as good as him. Hence, they are motivated by baser notions like greed, fear etc. Gandhian policies fail because they're designed for an ideal world, not the real one.

1. The Gandhian fetish of "rural-ism" that posits that india is a country of villages.
Sure it is, but most villagers dont want it to be that way.
That, is immaterial to policy planners, who focus on choking cities of infrastructure..
The result: Mumbai today

2. the Gandhian fetish of "do-it-yourself" or swadeshi.
The result:

3. The Gandhian fetish of "Non-violence", even when facing a murderous enemy.

Not one political party is talking about stuff that matters: such as making our institutions accountable for one.


iamfordemocracy said...

AGworld, I share your angst. The situation might not be as hopeless as we feel though. But first, a coule of points about your comments about Mahatma Gandhi.

A typical Indian mind thinks in terms of good person and bad person.

Mahatma Gandhi cannot be classed as bad as most would object to that, and he was better than many anyway so he must be good, and that is what your verdict seems to be, but I would beg to differ.

We must move away from good-bad classification and look at situations in which a person will behave like a bad (or a good) person. M. Gandhi could be trusted to behave like a good person in most situations, not all. Most commoners are 50-50, he might be 95-5 good-bad.

India and Indians have got themselves into big traps by reposing their faith in 'good' leaders and thinkers. I could quote dozens of examples. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the old post-independence examples, Vajpayee was new, Rajeev Srinivasan is an example from the blogworld. All these three examples could be in the 95-5 class. The trouble is that the 5% of their bad judgements and views take the country or group or society down a ruinous path. Worse still, their iconic status does not allow any scope for correction of their hubris. That is why every party and organisation in India quickly moves towards a clanlike structure.

The way to cure this is to promote a culture of robust debates. The rest would follow.

AGworld said...


Gandhi has made invaluable contributions to india.

Unfortunately, not all of them are good.

The three examples are the not so good ones. And they've made life quite hellish. We're about to consider a fourth. Simply because Gandhi is, well, Gandhi.

The pictures are to prompt people into exactly the kind of debate you want.
We're probably more in agreement than you think.

By the way, what's with the Rajeev fetish :-))?

iamfordemocracy said...

Rajeev blog (fetish) is just a test case. It is virtually impossible to penetrate the hold of the political bosses and it is not for an individual or a small group anyway.

By posting comments about Rajeev blog, I am testing the blog readers' love for democracy and freedom. Of late, there have been too many posts on the Rajeev blog with those themes, yet readers have failed to notice the irony. If a blog with supposedly intelligent followers can kill freedom with such impunity, what chance do we have of finding it in the vast country where millions are more worried about their next meal? They have little time for ideas like freedom and democracy. If the educated don't care about freedom, why should the poor care? It is only fair that they do as the moneybag around them asks them to do....(shout, convert, or whatever)

sanjaya said...

Again, I come fresh from my reading the biography of Sardar Patel! Gandhi's ideas went through the accurate filter of Sardar Patel in the pre-independence phase, and only those that made sense went through. In fact, Patel has brusquely dismissed Gandhi's more harebrained ideas on multiple occasions (See "India's Bismarck - Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel" by Balraj Krishna).

The successful Indian model to rule the world has always been the Thinker-doer dualism. Krishna and Arjuna, Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya, and even Raja Todar Mal + Birbal as thinkers and Akbar as the doer, were successful models.

Even in the early stage of the freedom movement, Gandhi was the thinker and Patel, the doer. The model got distorted with the advent of Nehru. Nehru became the face of the model, Patel the arms and legs and Gandhi the heart and brain. As Gandhi drifted to Vanaprastha, Patel increasingly became the brain as well as the arms and legs of the operation, Gandhi remained the heart and Nehru the face.

However, Nehru thought he was the brain. Post Gandhi's demise, he became increasingly assertive, and brushed aside an aging Patel's concerns. Patel eventually left the world, leaving Nehru without a mentor, a living conscience and an anchor.

Nehru lacked the political maturity to filter out Gandhi's more harebrained schemes, and hence, picked and processed the wrong inputs with an already inadequate CPU. Worse, Nehru's measure of success was the instant adulation he received in the eyes of the world community - him being the foremost exponent of the Indian desire to be endorsed by someone outsider to increase ones own self esteem. (Patel had none of this, and was essentially the "Gaauti".) Hence, massive Garbage in garbage out happened, resulting in the present mess. JMT.