Government is not only about changing the world. It is also about changing the local railway station. In fact, the first may be impossible if you do not achieve the second.
Why do our railway platforms have such a chronic shortage of benches for waiting passengers? One reason of course could be that the mandarins in charge of such decisions do not wait for trains, or struggle for seats. The conventional answer, however, is that Railway finances are so overstretched that there is barely sufficient to keep this humungous network in play. But it takes someone who has actually roamed across platforms because there was no place to sit before his lower class coach turned up, to find the way through alibis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows that past governments have driven our railways into a rut. But the system has money. He has asked MPs to pay for benches out of their local area development funds. And since MPs are reluctant to buy anything in the nature of a free lunch, he has told them to inscribe their names on the benches. If the people have an MP behind their back, they will back the MP in the next elections.
Switch the scenario. Our scientists are an acknowledged national pride. An unintended consequence of success, though, is long tenure and stagnant hierarchy that tends, like a banyan, to exhaust the soil for new plants in the vicinity. So where is the opportunity for young minds who will cut the edge towards the space stations of 2030? The Prime Minister has asked that a few laboratories be reserved for scientists under 35, where they have the ultimate liberty for a brain in quest — the freedom to experiment, and to learn from mistakes.
Slowly, we are witnessing the emergence of a new quality of governance. This involves the management of micro and macro with equally intense involvement, and then to chain the two into a harmony that improves the nation in both incremental ways and in massive leaps. The big does not obscure the small; and the small does not become an obstacle to the big. Suddenly we have activity where inertia and atrophy ruled. All is done transparently, for that is the surest means of challenging that suicidal curse of corruption.
Anyone with any interest in news knows that very recently Defence Minister Arun Jaitley cleared purchases worth nearly Rs 80,000 crore. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a small sum of money. Note what the headlines and news stories did not say. There was not a whiff of corruption about the decisions. There could not be, for there was none. Compare this with the history of defence deals. Delhi used to be a city swarming with fixers who arranged side benefits on defence purchases, and organised pay-offs abroad.
The Congress regime became notorious for delays in defence decisions, and tried to explain them by blaming the file-crawl system. But files moved at airline speed when VVIP helicopters were purchased from a European company because middlemen put cash into the private coffers of politicians and officers. When bargains were difficult, or there was dangerously high attendant publicity, the files were clothed in red tape. No one cared. Honesty makes decisions easier.
The Gandhi family cannot bear competition from Kamaraj and Moopanar. This is proof of insecurity, an insult to Tamil sentiment and family imperialism of the worst kind.
If you want to know why the BJP graph is rising and Congress popularity heading south, it is simply because the Prime Minister is delivering in good governance while Congress cannot escape the disease of bad politics.
On Friday, the Congress head of Tamil Nadu, B.S. Gnanadesikan, held a press conference in Chennai to announce his resignation. What was the tipping point? The state unit had launched a membership drive, and on the forms were pictures of two local Congress icons Kamaraj Nadar and G.K. Moopanar. When Congress headquarters discovered that Tamils were showing reverence for their own leaders, it sent an order that the pictures should be replaced by those of Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. We are familiar with the dynasty cult and the sycophancy that it demands, but this is bizarre beyond belief. The Gandhi family cannot bear competition from Kamaraj and Moopanar. This is proof of insecurity, an insult to Tamil sentiment and family imperialism of the worst kind.
This is the mindset that has whittled a host of heroes from the pantheon of giants who dominated our freedom movement, the principal targets being Sardar Patel and Netaji Subhas Bose.
I suspect that Mahatma Gandhi was permitted his pre-eminence only because of a contrivance of nomenclature, the family was able to claim Gandhi as a surname. The contrivance was necessary because Mrs Indira Gandhi's husband Feroze was a Parsi, and Parsis do not usually spell Gandhi in the way that the Mahatma did.
B.S. Gnanadesikan has had enough of dynasty. So has most of the country.