For how long has Nehruvian socialism dominated Indian politics? Even ten years of a ‘right-of-centre’ government have failed to make a dent on that political culture and its several spin-offs, in particular the marriage of ‘socialism’ with caste, community and race politics. It has derailed in many ways the basic direction of the Constitution, with a high point when, without the necessary mandate, the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ were introduced in its Preamble. So, special interest groups – basically pursuing personal agendas – began to label themselves ‘socialist’ to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of the voters.
This socialism basically emphasises government and bureaucratic control over most human activity, and considers it necessary to ensure private enterprise and wealth generation are discouraged. It is no surprise, therefore, that whichever cause they may be supposedly serving, the hatred for the wealthy remains a common factor. Not only are business persons required to pay taxes, they also have to pay the ‘cut’ money to political parties and kowtow before bureaucrats. The recent emphasis on the ‘vulgar practice’ of wealth generation has greatly cramped their style. It is no wonder, then, that those who benefited from the past practices are rabidly against the new dispensation.
These many decades of restricted economic growth, which adversely impacted the general quality of life, can only be corrected through at least that many years of corrective action. This will become possible only if people are made to realise that all the lamentations about human and democratic rights are just an attempt to regain control.
Most interestingly, it is the bureaucracy that is caught in the middle – it instinctively desires the glories of the past, but is required to pursue the objectives of the present system which diminish its hold. This is one of the reasons why the sympathies of most bureaucrats lie so strongly with the opposition, no matter of which hue. So, it is imperative that India’s so called ‘steel frame’ is transformed into a professional institution instead of continuing in the colonial mindset. Those presently in power should ensure there is a radical change in the selection process and the training regimen. The rules should be reformed to ensure they cannot go beyond their brief or become victims of the rivalry between political parties. Clarity regarding their duties at every level would go a long way in better preparing them for the more representative form of governance that should emerge in the future, out of the shadow of socialist hypocrisy. Unless this is done, the task of transforming India will remain incomplete.