President Joe Biden’s call to his people to end the uncivil war, is an advice that would resonate in many countries of the world where circumstances similar to what they are in America exist. The US stands divided after being split by Donald Trump, who pursued a divisive agenda to appease his supporters, mostly white supremacists. Now that he has gone, both Biden and his Vice President, Kamala Harris face a big challenge of restoring normalcy and semblance that has been missing for more than four years.
Trump left for Florida before his successor’s inauguration and broke several established conventions. He also must have achieved a first in organizing his own farewell at the Andrews Air Base in Maryland from where he and his family boarded the Air Force One for their last journey on the Presidential aircraft. His final hours in the office were also most graceless and provided the example of how a person holding such an important position must not behave and act.
The inauguration was a grand affair graced amongst others by three former Presidents—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, besides Vice President Mike Pence, who chose to be on the Capitol Hill instead of bidding goodbye to his boss at the White House.
Jimmy Carter, who is in 90s, was unable to attend.
Biden has pledged that he would ensure that America’s position amongst countries that practise democracy is redeemed. He recalled that despite even the worst upheavals including the two World Wars and now the pandemic, the American people have always re-affirmed their faith in self-rule every four years. He quoted Abraham Lincoln in his speech to reach out to the Republicans and lavished praise on one of the greatest Presidents in American history.
The United States is a country of immigrants where people from round the globe come to realise their dreams. It has provided opportunity to billions of people and takes pride in being a nation where multiplicity of ethnicity, races, religions and backgrounds co-exist harmoniously in order to attain greater glory for the country. It is another issue that discrimination continues to be a point of immense concern and in the last few years, the victimization of African Americans led to the movement, “Black Lives Matter”. Unfortunately, Trump was always viewed as someone who supported those who were responsible for targeting people of colour and towards the end instigated senseless violence in the Capitol. It is evident that he would be made accountable for his actions and may end up losing all his privileges if the Senate decides to convict him. The sad part is that the transition of power could have been much better; it had to take place under the watchful eyes of the National Guard and other security agencies.
In sharp contrast in India, which is the largest democracy, such a problem has never occurred whenever there has been a change of guard. It was for the first time in 1977, when the Congress lost at the Centre at the end of the Emergency and it was feared that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi would never allow the opposition to wrest power. Nothing of this sort happened and as a matter of fact, there were squabbles within the Janata Party constituents to decide who should lead the government.
Morarji Desai, who was elected as the Prime Minister eventually, was never comfortable with both Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram constantly breathing down his neck. In the power games that followed, the Janata Party, despite an overwhelming victory lost out, following a revolt from within caused by the demand of erstwhile socialists that former Jana Sangh members like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and L.K. Advani who had joined the new organization, must end their dual membership with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Sanjay Gandhi saw an opportunity in this and together with Raj Narain, brought down the Janata Party government.
In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi, surrendered power to the Janata Dal after the Congress numbers came down from 400-plus to 197. He recognized that the mandate was against him and decided to sit in the Opposition thus paving the way for the V.P. Singh government, which was supported from outside both by the BJP and the Left parties. Vajpayee never had second thoughts about resigning when the BJP was relegated to the second position by the Congress and in the game of numbers, it became clear to him that the UPA had more than what the NDA possessed.
This is where even an evolved democracy with nearly 240 years history behind it, needs to learn from a developing nation like India. Trump has shamed his countrymen and once he knew that the numbers were with Biden, he should have accepted the outcome with dignity. However, India also must draw lessons from Trump’s defeat. Divisive politics never pays in the end, and if the country is not together, achievements cannot come by easily. It is united we stand and divided we fall.
Biden is one of the most seasoned politicians of his country and has vast experience of dealing with tricky and delicate situations. He is aware of how the power levers operate in the Capitol and has a large number of friends amongst the Republicans. He commands all round respect and if he has been elected the President, it is because he is the best bet to end the widening domestic differences. This is undoubtedly the greatest challenge before him. Between us.