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HomePolitics'Liberals' and 'intellectuals' find #HarGharTiranga problematic, say 50-year-celebrations were 'simple': Here is why it...

‘Liberals’ and ‘intellectuals’ find #HarGharTiranga problematic, say 50-year-celebrations were ‘simple’: Here is why it was simple and subdued

When the central government and political parties are busy figuring out the musical chairs and are not even sure if the government today will last a day, a week, a month or a year more, how will they focus on celebrating the 50th year of India's Independence? Maybe the 50-year celebrations were 'simpler' because the government of the day was too busy protecting itself from collapse.

On 15th August 1997, India celebrated 50 years of Independence. Today, as we celebrate our 75th year, many ‘intellectuals’ are reminiscing about the ‘better’ and ‘simpler’ times of celebrations. Many ‘liberals’ are saying how the celebrations were spontaneous and there was no jingoism. Apparently, the fact that people are proudly putting up the Tricolour in their homes, shops, and commercial establishments and how the country is flooded with the Tiranga is ‘jingoism’ because the call for it was made by someone they don’t like, Narendra Modi.

Some Yogita Limaye, whose Twitter bio says she is associated with the British public broadcasting service, BBC, claimed how she remembered the celebrations of India @ 50 and how the flag was hoisted at her school. How the pride and patriotism came ‘naturally’ and ‘no one asked to do it’. The only thing that has changed now is that 15 more years have passed, and with social media, people are enthusiastically sharing their photos with the National Flag. As for ‘No one asked us to do it’ – well, the schools did, as they do even now (which is now referred to as ‘forcing children to be patriotic). And finally, what she is saying is done even now – kids still go to school, participate in flag hoisting and sing the national anthem and other patriotic songs.

Many other ‘intellectuals’ chimed in and asserted how those were ‘simpler’ times.

From other ‘journalists’ to professors from IIT to Congress supporters and even financial fraud accused persons too agreed with Limaye.

Maybe 25 years is a long time and people tend to be forgetful, but one reason the celebrations back then were muted and times were ‘simpler’, because that was one of the most unstable times in Indian politics.

After the 1996 General Elections, BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee had won 161 seats while Congress had won 140 seats leading to a hung parliament. Both parties were short of the majority number of 272. As usual, this election had come on the heels of corruption allegations during the previous Congress government. President Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Vajpayee, with maximum seats, to form the government and was given two weeks to prove the majority. However, because he was unable to do so, he resigned on 1 June 1996.

The second largest party, Congress decided not to form the government and instead supported Janata Dal to form the government. The then Karnataka Chief Minister HD Deve Gowda was sworn in as Prime Minister on 1 June 1996. His stint as PM lasted for 324 days. As a young girl back then my only recollection is of front page images of HD Deve Gowda caught napping inside the Parliament when he was the Prime Minister.

You see, the government at the Centre was so fragmented that on 21 April 1997, less than 4 months before the 50th Independence Day, Deve Gowda resigned and another Janata Dal leader IK Gujral, who was born in Pakistan, then in undivided India, became the Prime Minister. How he was chosen as the 12th Prime Minister of India was also quite interesting. The fodder scam had just broken and Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was then Bihar Chief Minister, was one of the accused. He was later convicted in it too. Anyway, as an accused in the fodder scam, Lalu Yadav broke off and started his own political outfit, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in July 1997, a month before the ‘sober’ 50th Independence Day.

Now, when Congress, under Sitaram Kesari, pulled the plug on the Deve Gowda government, discussions were on for the new Prime Minister. You see, no one wanted a fresh election at that time. Sitaram Kesari himself wanted to become the Prime Minister as well and called upon leaders of coalition parties, but none agreed.

Kesari was a Dalit leader and other Congress leaders did not quite respect him as much. This is also why when Sonia Gandhi forayed into active politics in December 1997, he was reportedly locked up in the bathroom in Congress headquarters so as to prevent him from filing his nomination. Coming back, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav all wanted to become Prime Minister. Mulayam Singh was a tall leader from Uttar Pradesh and had won significant seats. However, no name was decided.

Mulayam Singh opposed Lalu Yadav, Lalu Yadav hated Mulayam Singh and he was also named in the fodder scam, which again raised a question mark over him becoming the PM. When IK Gujral’s name was suggested, very few leaders ‘opposed’ it. Read it again, he wasn’t chosen because he was popular, but because he was least disliked. Mulayam Singh wasn’t in much favour but then Sitaram Kesari was okay with Gujral. Finally, Lalu Yadav proposed IK Gujral’s name as Prime Minister.

The discussions lasted for hours and when IK Gujral’s name was zeroed in on, he had taken a break and was taking a nap. A Telugu Desam Party leader went up to him and woke him up to tell him the good news that he is now the Prime Minister of India, which is in its 50th year of independence. Gujral was so happy, that he reportedly hugged the leader. But as usual, even the Gujral government lasted less than a year when Congress again pulled the plug and the government collapsed on 19th March 1998, just a few months after the so-called ‘muted celebrations’.

So, now tell me, when the central government and political parties are busy figuring out the musical chairs and are not even sure if the government today will last a day, a week, a month or a year more, how will they focus on celebrating the 50th year of India’s Independence?

And when we talk about politics, how can the opinion makers, the ‘journalists’ be far behind? Today we see NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar fearmonger and tell us every day how there is an atmosphere of fear and how the Har Ghar Tiranga campaign is jingoism and lists how everything is wrong in Modi’s India. But back then, NDTV’s Prannoy Roy and sexual harassment accused turned food critic turned ‘journalist’ Vinod Dua were both on Doordarshan. In the 1980s, Dua, along with Roy started election analysis on Doordarshan. 

Those were also the times when NDTV founder Prannoy Roy and Vinod Dua, a typical Modi hater, would pontificate for hours on national television, which reinforced them as some sort of impartial experts who must be respected. And did it not work? That’s how in the coming years we got television journalists who become celebrities and influencers and lobbied for ministerial berths for politicians as we saw in leaked audio tapes of some celebrity journalists.

Essentially, people like Ravish Kumar and others like him want people like Modi gone from the political scene. That is also why they don’t like social media users who criticise, question and correct them. All these years they had unbridled power and no questions asked. Times have changed now. And hence, Modi must resign. With people like PM Modi and others not to deal with, these people can continue to influence ordinary men and women from their television screens without being answerable to anyone, and without being held accountable for their lies told.

And hence the pining for ‘simpler times’.

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Nirwa Mehta
Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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