Is there a future for India?
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Politics, of course, is completely out of bounds for anyone who has only merit.
The election campaign seems to have got entangled in footnotes of history. I do not know how many people in Indian politics, let alone the Congress, know of or care about Shyamji Krishna Varma (whom Narendra Modi got confused with Syama Prasad Mookerjee). He fought for Indian independence in London by providing housing for Indian students and inspiring them to carry on the struggle. There were others like him — Madam Bhikaiji Cama, who flew the Indian national flag for the first time, in Stuttgart at the Socialist International meeting. They fought for India from abroad.
The question we ought to be asking is not who was who back then, but why is it still the case that any Indian who wants to rise by dint of merit will prefer to go abroad than be at home. Politics, of course, is completely out of bounds for anyone who has only merit. He (and rarely she) needs a family already in the business to get an entry.
There is no debate in this election about what sort of future the parties promise for the majority of Indians who are under 35. Will India have a proper democracy with political parties open to entry by merit and selection of candidates by primary contests? Is any party willing to lay open their finances and declare how they finance election campaigns? Indeed, how many parties are willing to subject themselves to an RTI inquiry? Why do politicians think that there is one law for everyone else and no law for them?
Will the next generation have a fiscally responsible government or will it have to live under a populist bazaar where each party promises to outspend the other on the flimsy grounds of helping the poor — while knowing that half the money will end up in their own pockets? There is no discussion in Parliament about the state of public finances. Why does India spend ten times as much on paying interest on national debt than it does on health? Will any party promise to reduce debt or the interest rate? Why do targets of disinvestment repeatedly fail to be reached? Do they even think about such things?