Old order changeth …


For the opportunity to make a mark is more at state level, where the administrative unit is small enough for a strong-willed and focused chief minister to be able to make a difference. No one took notice of Nitish Kumar when he was in New Delhi, but he has now made a reputation for himself as chief minister in Bihar, in just 41 months. The same goes for Naveen Patnaik (anyone remember the portfolio he held as a central minister?), who stands tall in Orissa. The examples of Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh and Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh have been touted often enough, but there are more contemporary examples too, like Narendra Modi in Gujarat—who has outshone all the BJP leaders in New Delhi who saw themselves as the inheritors after the Vajpayee-Advani era. Vasundhara Raje Scindia had a similar opportunity in Rajasthan, but she muffed it. Now there is growing recognition of Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh in Chattisgarh. Even Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was beginning to acquire star value, till Nandigram and Singur happened. (via Business-Standard).

Smooth ride ...?

Smooth ride ...?

Midnight’s children

Interesting editorial.

It brings out one interesting development. LK Advani (?) and Manmohan Singh are possibly going to be the last colonial-era Prime Ministers of India. The next generation of political leaders will be Indians who have grown in the post colonial India.

Colonialism is hearsay, propaganda, exaggerations – a second hand experience, to most young post-colonial Indians. Brought up on a diet of nation building, socialism, (opportunistic) English education, limited exposure to the rest of the world, they have seen rapid change. From an India, which was a ship-to-mouth basket case, to an emerging power, seems to be have been a facile and an easy experience – with little credit being given to Indian political leadership for managing the post-colonial Indian system.

The One Solution to all problems

In the immediate post-colonial India, for every problem, there were two common remarks. One, “The Government should do something about this.” The second was, “It is not like this in foreign countries.” Whether it was overflowing drain or a pothole on the road. Looking back, things have changed.

Over the years, Indians use this phrase less and less. These phrases are now close to becoming either extinct or may even become a parody. It may make its way into Indian films as a joke.

Success … hubris …caution

On one side it makes them brash – but more dangerously, it makes them see the future simplistically, as a case of just adopting or modifying the Western model to suit Indian requirements. This is in itself may not objectionable, but for the fact, that most of the new leaders have been fed on a staple diet of Western propaganda – where the elephants in the Western rooms have become all but invisible. Don’t believe me – look at Chidambaram saying that he wants to end 5000 years of Indian poverty.

Recycling end-of-life Western models

Recycling end-of-life Western models

Elephants in the room

Western models, which have evolved through the prism of slavery, colonialism, genocide, concentration of power are an end-of-life model. To use end-of-life products may seem like a low cost solution in the short run. The bigger issue in most cases is the  lock-in effect that these legacy systems impose on the ‘buyers’ – e.g. Singapore.

This, then may become the biggest risk in the future – the mute and blind acceptance of ‘dominant’ Western models. Aiding this risk is the English language education, which is one such legacy system, which has locked India into a high cost spiral of adopting decrepit Western models with decreasing returns.

India’s successes have been built on Indian models – and Western models have been singularly unsuccessful.

How will India’s young leader’s face up to this challenge? Will they ‘fall into the trap’ of copying successful countries or take the easier path of renewing the Indic model, which may initially, seem difficult.

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  1. galeo rhinus
    May 7, 2009 at 12:57 am | #1

    My disagreement is not with your remarks – but the piece that you refer to.

    In 1952 – Nehru, advised by his Cambridge mentors, laid the seeds of the first attempt to weaken the Indian nation. He used the stick of Hindi and the carrot of linguistic states to create language based political divisions in India.

    Despite some close calls, the Indian nation survived.

    The survival was despite difficult economic conditions.

    I sense that these strategist, who influence the Indian media, in a convoluted way, are promoting a very dangerous idea – and this piece – might reflect this new thought.

    57 years later, the “new” thought is to use the idea of growth differential to force a wedge between the states – and once again challenge the Indian nation.

  2. May 7, 2009 at 8:52 am | #2

    In 1952 – Nehru, advised by his Cambridge mentors

    There are two aspects to this. One, was Nehru’s own predilection (in some things at least), to look West-wards. His focus on English language education is a prime example.

    The other was the press-ganging by the West – for instance the population control theory. Here there were too many pressures for a mind to work independently. One forgets that economists like JK Gailbraith, Western institutions like World Bank, IMF, stampeded India (and Nehru), into some of these bad choices – which the West now claims were India’s own choices in the first place.

    A ‘free-market’ economist like Milton Friedman (of the Chicago School and the Chile fame) also got involved in the Indian exercize – and like this blog shows, the argument was more about content, rather than the planning process itself. Western aid was tied to India following such advice.

    This continued to happen till 1991 – like this incident shows. MJ Akbar quotes on how American influence was behind Manmohan Singh’s appointment in 1991.

    While the role of ‘Russian’ advisors has been well documented by Western media, the role of Western advisors is usually forgotten.

    He used the stick of Hindi and the carrot of linguistic states to create language based political divisions

    The history of states re-organization on linguistic lines goes back much longer than this. Potti Sriramulu’s death made linguistic states a fait accompli. I think this was helpful, as this helped in overcoming the asphyxiation of Indian languages under the Raj (which to some extent continued even in post-colonial India). I think the Indian nation goes much deeper than ‘divisions due to linguistic reorganization’ implies.

    The movement towards smaller states (propelled largely by the BJP) will further dilute the linguistic ‘divisions’ and will genuinely increase movement towards greater usage of Indian languages and models in the states.

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