Time to embrace winds of change
Dec 16 2013
— Nelson Mandela
These words inspire us to hope. India gears up for general elections next year and the results of the recent state elections have shown us that we Indians are eternal optimists. As William Arthur Ward had said, “The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sail.” In in the Delhi polls, the Indian voter has placed himself somewhere between the optimist and the realist — and that’s a good place to be in.
The elections in Delhi broke many long held beliefs. We have all participated in debates on Indian politics where the conclusion seemed to be that there is no alternative, that Indian politics will continue to be dominated by the old guard or newer generations of the old guard, that idealism and issue based politics may be nice to have, but cannot win votes.
The triumph of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) shows that people are willing to explore alternatives, that an agenda for clean politics can win votes, that professionals from all walks of life who have a genuine desire to serve the country do have a chance and that the people of India may finally be getting tired of a small group of people who have in many ways ruled the destiny of the nation. People who have held the country to ransom; not attending parliament, but boycotting it. Wonder whether there is any sense of accountability?
For years now, Indian politics has been caught up in debates, drama and inter-party bickering. Economic growth has taken a back seat as decision making is stalled. Corruption has been eating away at the roots of the country. Bureaucracy, archaic laws, lax governance practices and overly aggressive tax authorities have all contributed to eroding India’s image in the eyes of Indian and global investors. There is ample evidence of the fact that there is little respect for the life of its common citizens; while this applies to all, women seem to be at the receiving end of poor security and policing. The long winded ways of our judicial processes and the fact that justice, if at all achieved, can take decades and by then may not mean anything, adds to making us citizens who live in fear in our own country. The gap between rich and poor is at an all time high in the urban areas and has risen in the rural areas. All our ambitions of achieving inclusive growth seem far away.
We have gained a lot since Independence. But we are far away from our potential. The great Indian dream is still alive in our hearts and we want to achieve it. In the words of Ang San Suu Kyi, “Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it.”
For years, that’s the kind of democracy we have been. Tolerance is an important virtue that is ingrained in our DNA but it has a negative side as well. Dorothy Slayers has said, “In the world, it is called tolerance, but in hell, it is called despair...the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with...remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”
Today I rejoice not because any particular party has more seats than the other. I rejoice because the people of India have finally shown that they will not tolerate evil. It is nothing short of a crime to tolerate evil. For once, Delhi can proudly lead the way as the capital city in demonstrating that people will come out and vote and that people want change. Our freedom fighters of today are the people of India. The vibrant media in India, social media and the internet revolution has ensured that our citizens are empowered with knowledge of their rights and of the responsibilities of those that govern us. We are at an inflexion point in the history of India and I pray that people will rise to this challenge and take their destiny into their own hands.
I am not just a supporter of good governance, the people of our country and their right to economic, social and political security and freedom; I am also a supporter of those positive changes that will lead India to fulfil its destiny.
Democracy has been called, “a marvel that has nothing to offer, at once a nation’s paradise and its tomb” by Emile M Cioran.
With such a strong vote in favour of positive change, it’s a shame that Delhi may still be left without a government. Re-election, in my opinion, will be real blow to the people who came out to vote. I hope that a democratic compromise will be reached. But then again, let us remember Nelson Mandela’s spirit and not despair. Whichever turn the saga of Delhi elections takes, I am hopeful that the public has finally been awaken from its slumber and will fight for its rights. As Bob Marley said, “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, and don’t give up the fight.” I hope that people will keep this lesson in their hearts.
(The writer is CEO of KPMG India)