Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wanted: An Obama for India

Till many years after India was born into equal suffrage democracy, the black minority in democratic America did not have voting rights. And today, a skinny black man is headed for the White House. Barack Obama vanquishing the Grand Old Party is about the common American slaying many demons cached in crannies of his mind. All nations of the world take interest in the American elections, for America is not just a country but also an idea, a dream surpassed only by India.

The idea of India is far more audacious than people anywhere else can possibly imagine. In spite of a Raj Thackeray here and a Lalu Yadav there, we stand as a country bound by that idea. Cynics had written us off soon after that midnight birth, preceded and followed by bloodbath. Sixty one years later, India has grown up to be a country that can now look into the eyes of most nations. It's no small feat.

Can India, the world's largest democracy, produce a Barack Obama? Can we find one leader who can inspire a whole nation? Can we ever again have a political revolution of the scale of Obama mania. Well, yes, we can. This is where Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru were born. Indira Gandhi stirred the nation after the Janata period. The Janata rule itself was the outcome of Jai Prakash Narayan’s clarion call. Rajiv Gandhi could do the magic. I would add even Atal Behari Vajpayee to that list for he enjoyed pan-Indian love and respect, in spite of his party.

But India never needed an Obama like we do today. The last decade has been devastatingly divisive for a nation tied together by just an idea. The gap between majority Hindus and minority Muslims and Christians has never been wider. The constant curse of caste refuses to leave us. The Thackeray brand of regionalism has brought mainstream states on collision course. India needs a leader who inspires its diverse people into burying these differences. Where is he? Where can we find her? The answer: we do not have a true leader in our midst and not even on the distant horizon.

When Obama overcame all obstacles including a very popular Clinton to run for the President, parallels were drawn with an Indian leader who has overcome bigger obstacles. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's rise reflects the strength of our democracy as Obama's victory reflects that of America. Mayawati did not even have the privileges that Obama enjoyed, like growing up in a secure home, with prosperous grandparents, Harvard Law School and so on. What Mayawati has achieved is far greater than what Obama did. But then Mayawati is far, and I would go so far as to say too far, from being an Obama. Her politics is divisive in spite of the recent sarvajan cloak. Her politics is casteist at heart. Bringing Brahmins and Dalits together in itself is casteism. Her image is also of a vindictive and corrupt politician.

Sadly, no one from the present crop, young and old, shows any signs of ‘change’ we can believe in. Our politics is a game of numbers where parties take calculated risks. Obama did not win on black votes or white votes. Obama won because he made a better proposition to the American citizen. Obama won because he is inclusive, not just in what he wants for America but also in what he seeks for the world. Especially after George W's eight divisive years. America found a man who can save it from becoming a country universally hated. Americans hope Obama would take every American along and every country along.

Anyone here to take everyone along? Advani ji, aap to rehni hi do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't be so pessimistic..If Obama is affirmation of American democracy, Indian democracy might also spawn someone as worthy. Prior to 2005, how many of us actually thought Obama could win? or, for what matter, how many in India knew Barack Obama existed?
Yes, Obama won not because of race or colour but because, in your words, he made a ``better proposition''. Bigger truth is he won also because he could sway the electorate with his poll rhetoric. Power of speech, they call it.
Please, let's give hope another chance.