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An open letter to Sonia - The Daily

M. V. Kamath ()
September 29, 1998

Title: An open letter to Sonia
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Daily
Date: September 29, 1998

Dear Madam, forgive me for writing this open letter to you, but
this is the only way to reach you and to reach all those millions
of people or at least a fraction of them, interested in the
future of the country. All these days I was wondering what will
transpire at your Panchmarhi meeting. Now that it is over and its
results announced. I making hold to send you some suggestions.
I would hesitate to call it dvice. Of that, I sure, you must
have received aplenty. Your party is full of athirathas and
maharathis, political stalwarts who have fought - and sometimes
won - many gory battles. I don't pretend to know more than they
do. But I've been around a bit and followed Congress politics
since 1930. Hopefully, therefore. you would listen to me. Ask
yourself this simple question: why is the Congress today in the
doldrums. There are many answers: One, it was in power for half a
century and incumbency is a major reason why a party -- arty
party -- fails. Two, it had grown overconfident mid complacent.
That is a bad thing. Three, it has grown fat with corruption and
that is positively dangerous. But importantly somewhere along the
way, it lost its sense of direction. It banked on slogans:
secularism, socialism, garibi hatao etc. Secularism seemed right
in 1947, socialism in 1954 and garibi hatao in 1972 but the
people have seen through them all. Resuscitating them just won't
work any longer. They're best given up. Then where does one
begin? The best thing you can do for a starter is to accept the
fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power and deserves to
rule for a full term. For your information, its leaders are all
honourable men and women who have good of the country at heart
who have come up in politics the hard way. Your party has thrown
doubts at their secularism and has done everything possible to
make life difficult for them in their first one hundred days in
power. You may say that is politics. All that I can say is that
it is poor judgement.

When Gandhiji gave up his four-annas membership of the Congress,
he embarked on an entirely non-political all-India tour, His aim
was to cleanse Hinduism of untouchability. Whether his famous
'Harijan Tour' of 1935 was a success or a failure is open to
question, but he realised that there is more to life than
politics. He understood his countrymen better than many. I see
from reports that at Panchmarhi among subjects discussed were
tactics, strategies, short term plans and long term plans on how
to get back to power. They are legitimate concerns, I note that
the party wants to strengthen parliamentary system of democracy,
promote secularism, establish a socialist pattern of society
based on equity and social justice, oppose dilution of
reservations for SC, ST and others, enhance representation of
women at all echelons of party organisation, distribution of
tickets etc, empower youth, oppose review of the Constitution,
propose electoral reforms, demand a national water policy, oppose
signing of the CTBT, remove poverty, unemployment etc, etc. In
other words, you would like to bring heaven on earth. The
objectives are highly desirable and I comment them. But, mam,
all that you done is to repeat ad nauseum what your party had
said in the past. What is missing in your strategy is that
strange thing called Heart. Yes, heart. Rhetoric is all very
well, but people must think you are feeling for them. And who,
pray, are these people? The majority of them, like it or not, are
Hindus. And theye plain fed up with secularism which they
equate as being anti-Hindu.

You presume that to be Hindu is being anti-Muslim which is
patently not true. You presume that to be seen as holding the
balance, you must push an undefined secularism down Hindu
throats. Believes me, mam, Hindus are secular by virtue of
being Hindus and don need any sermon from you or your party on
that issue. Your constant reference to secularism, as if that is
a Congress monopoly, merely served to irritate a large majority
of our countrymen. Kindly stop sermonising. Theree lots of
areas where Hinduism calls for change. Let me mention a few of
them. There is child marriage, the occasional suttee,
infanticide, untouchability, casteism. They need to be addressed
urgently -- and honestly. Social reform -- meaning thereby
primarily Hindu reform -- is not a thing of the past. It is
necessity of today. Speak about them. You will touch people's
hearts. You will show your concern for people. Hindu people. Our
people.

I realise that you are not tin Annie Besant; you are not even a
Sister Nivedita. Your manners are distant and you speak from
written texts. You don't know how to open your heart. Can it be
that you still can't identify yourself with the people -- as
people. and not as voters? Tactics are fine, strategies are find
and planning is a necessary part of growth, But your failure --
as the failure of your party -- lies in the failure to
communicate. You have a mental block: that block is secularism.

Don't be afraid of religion. Religion is not the opium of the
masses. Kindly forget those Marxist tenets, You don't have to
pander to religion. Mahatma Gandhi never did, He lived religion,
That is why he was respected and adored. I couldn't care less
what your personal religion is. Whatever it is, live it. I would
-- and so would millions of people -- respect you more should you
attend Church and be god-fearing.

And kindly stop being anti-BJP. That will take you nowhere. For a
hundred days, we heard nothing else in Parliament and outside but
about BJP's "communalism", "secret agenda" and "fascism" which,
let me tell you as an ordinary citizen, was nauseating. If you
think that has endeared you to people, you are mistaken. You have
merely alienated them. Do you think that a Sharad Pawar or a
Manmohan Singh or an Arjun Singh or a Madhavrao Scindia or any
member of your Working Committee can command an audience anywhere
in India? Yes, surely. you can bring busloads of hired people to
any meeting But these worthies, however good personally. have no
mass appeal. Vajpayee has. Advani has. And for very sound
reasons.

Chuck those strategists and clever planners. Learn to be human.
To laugh, to cry, to walk down the country's lanes with never a
fear. To accept defeat graciously. To admire your opponents who
are probably far better than any in your party. Then, slowly.
people will come to like you and may even vote for you. Live not
for today or tomorrow or the day after, but for the next
generations. The cliche that politics is like playing chess is
best dismissed or what it is -- a cliche. Politics is loving
people and being part of their culture and their ethos --
including religion. Anything else is falsity A word to the wise,
mam, surely should be sufficient. And I've already said plenty.

(The author is a former editor of the Illustrated Weekly of
India)


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