Sometimes, fairy tales are possible. One is unfolding right now in Delhi.
Just as I was contemplating writing a post on the decline of democracy, Indian voters demonstrated what is really possible. It is a return of hope with a vengeance.
This one is for the world, worthy of celebration more than Indian Mars Mission and stock markets. So, I must recount the details even of this famous event, lest someone has missed.
In Delhi, the Capital city of India which is also a State, an assembly election was held at the fag end of 2013. Despite everyone thinking that Indian politics is a two-horse game - and the choice is really between heir apparent Rahul Gandhi and business-backed Hindu supremacist Narendra Modi - a new party gets the most seats. Started by a former taxman, the diminutive Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Admi Party ran on an anti-corruption manifesto, and almost won a majority.
Since the two big parties can not form a coalition among themselves, eventually Mr Kejriwal was asked to form the government, with outside support from Congress. True to his word, Mr Kejriwal runs an activist government, fulfilling his promises made without regard to the coalition politics. The Congress party, which was in power then, failed to bottle him - and eventually manoeuvred him to a position where he could not deliver what he promised. Mr Kejriwal did the honourable thing - he resigned - just as any honourable politician will do anywhere else in the world.
Two things happened then.
First, the Congress and the BJP colluded - and invoked the unlikely possibility that they may form a coalition - and kept the assembly in suspension. It was a legalistic triumph, but showed the anti-democratic nature of both the parties. They just denied the vote to the people of Delhi, despite the fact that no government could ever be formed and it would have been cheaper and easier to have this repeat election along with Indian parliamentary elections in May 2014. They treated the voters of Delhi with contempt, because they thought between them, they own the country.
Second, even more absurdly, they slapped the label of Quitter on Kejriwal. Perhaps justifiably, because in India, no one ever quits - Ministers stay in office even when they are in jail - and the concept of honour and responsibility do not exist in Indian politics. It is okay to make a promise and not keep it, but it is a sin to take the responsibility and quit when one could not deliver.
The usual politics of Congress-BJP seemed to have triumphed, when AAP failed to win a single seat in the parliamentary elections in May 2014. BJP swept Delhi, and the AAP and Mr Kejriwal were dismissed as an one-time wonder. The point was made that Delhi electorate would not forgive Mr Kejriwal for quitting, and the point that he quit because he could not keep his word was laughed at. The corporate friends of Mr Modi confidently celebrated the fact that they could buy any electorate at any time.
Eventually, AAP found its way through the Indian court system, which, lethargic and often inefficient, seemed to have become the last resort against the scheming politicians, who treat the voters with contempt and the country as their personal fief. The court forced the issue and the Congress and the BJP were called out for their coalition bluff - and the Delhi elections were called.
As the results unfolded - and I waited to celebrate till the point the results were in (exit polls have been wrong before, and were wrong this time) - it seems that the voters have seen through the Congress-BJP nexus. They have been swept out, and AAP is heading towards a famous win, with at least around 60 seats of the 70 seat assembly. This is a revolution - not in the sense of bringing a new party in (AAP was there before), but in the sense of voters seeing through the schemes of politicians and choosing independently.
The wise commentators immediately argued that the voters have forgiven Kejriwal for quitting because he said sorry, but it may equally be that voters did not mind an honourable politician. As for the Parliamentary election wins of the BJP last May, it was not the obituary of AAP - as has been proved now - but just a demonstration of maturity of Indian democracy that voters choose most appropriately. Congress failed, and was therefore swept out at the Centre. But the elections this time was fought on a different agenda.
So, concerned as I am for democratic future (as India has taken its democracy for granted), I shall postpone my gloom and celebrate today. I shall celebrate a different kind of revolution, of quiet will, peaceful resolve and of coming together of people, of the kind we have forgotten to talk about. I shall celebrate the triumph of democracy against political scheming, big money vote buying and showmanship. I shall celebrate resistance to the dreams of hegemony by a few and a return of the republic. I shall celebrate the man on the street, who seemed to have displayed wisdom and courage everytime they have been given the vote.
For all the countries, who seemed to believe that people with money and culture are best left in charge, this is one bit of evidence that democracy works. It is messy, slow and imperfect, but nothing better has been invented. This is its moment.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.