What Rahul Gandhi wants

Feb 11 2014, 10:19 IST
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SummaryHis vision of devolving power, empowering panchayats, is lost in the din.

Why the most superficial anchor in English TV should have been chosen for Rahul Gandhi’s maiden interview is really for his media managers to explain. But every time Rahul attempted to drag the programme from banality to depth, the anchor stubbornly brought it back to the trivial and the episodic. This particular anchor has done more than all the other channels combined to dumb down the political discourse among the twittering classes. When I ask people why they watch him, the standard answer I get is, “Not for enlightenment, just for entertainment”. And that is really what the nation needs to know!

So, it is hardly surprising that the interviewer bristled when Rahul gently suggested that he was being “superficial”. Of course, he was. It is not in this anchor’s nature to plumb the profound. I hope Rahul finds himself a more reflective anchor when he goes beyond the tiny English-speaking audience of that channel to the broad masses in Hindi and other Indian languages. Rahul valiantly tried to get the conversation going on what interests him above all — the democratisation of governance, a wider and deeper participatory process than we have thus far secured. Sixty-four years after the promulgation of our Constitution, this remains the most fundamental issue of our democracy: whether the people should be empowered once in five years or on a daily basis. The deeper and more effective participation of individuals and communities in their own governance — summed up as “inclusive governance for inclusive growth” — is the most pressing issue of our time. As Rahul pointed out (when he was permitted by his interviewer to do so for a moment), 10 years of the UPA have given us the highest rate of growth ever achieved. And attempts to make it inclusive have also succeeded in terms of money made available for social sectors like education and health, and anti-poverty programmes like the MGNREGA, food security guarantees and Aadhaar. But if the 12th Plan document confesses to failure to secure “inclusive growth”, that is because finances are a necessary, not sufficient, condition of inclusion. So long as the poor and the destitute are dependent on an indifferent and uncaring bureaucracy for the last-mile delivery of public goods and services, inclusion will remain a mirage.

The answer lies in panchayat raj, as Mahatma Gandhi, long years ago, had envisaged, and as Rahul struggled in his

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