Saturday, 9 May 2009

Let My Country Awake

Below is an Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi by Ramesh Ramanathan which made a lot of sense to me. Take a look.

Dear Rahul,

In barely a fortnight, the fate of the 15th Lok Sabha would be known, by means of a forgettable national election. In fact, the desultory turnout—variously attributed to middle-class apathy, summer heatwaves, the Indian Premier League, election fatigue—suggests Indians are exhausted by what is increasingly becoming an election charade, just as the fake sets in a film studio that get dismantled after the shoot is done.

You have a unique role to play in defining India’s political destiny over the coming decades. This has come to you significantly by virtue of your birth into the Nehru-Gandhi family. To be fair, you didn’t ask for this, and it’s very possible that you would have preferred a more private life, one that demanded less of you and other members of your family. However, we all play the cards we are dealt.

There is an inevitability to your eventual ascension to the leadership of the Congress party. Thousands of ambitious party folk want you to become the leader, to feed their own careers. They idolize you so as to make you their puppet. It must be claustrophobic to be surrounded by sycophants, scraping and bowing at every glance you throw in their direction and “yes-sir”ing every word you utter.

Last Sunday, Barkha Dutt’s show on NDTV We The People was about the rise of Mayawati. An accusation was made about her authoritarian style, and how she isn’t building the Bahujan Samaj Party. A staunch defender of hers said, “The same can be said of the Congress party—does any senior Congress leader have any final say in critical party matters?” Dutt replied, “Yes, fair point”, others nodded, and the discussion moved on. The Congress’ “high command” structure has become so deeply entrenched that it’s not even worth a debate—the country has simply accepted it.

A political party cannot be an Animal Farm-style institution, where some individuals are more equal than others. In your heart you must know that unless this fundamental character of the Congress changes, nothing can really change.

While there are many peripheral issues that you can take up, there is one daring option: To publicly renounce aspirations to the office of prime minister, permanently. It seems ridiculous for the scion of the most famous political family in India to make this seemingly unnecessary “sacrifice”. But it has the potential to trigger a gigantic wave of change. Think about it. India is a civilization to which the idea of tyag—sacrifice—is very central. This singular act of yours can release the shackles in people’s minds, set free their aspirations and ignite a belief that the possibilities of India are built on a foundation of equity. By living Gandhi’s words—“my life is my message”-you can show people by example that public service—important nation-building work, at that—is not necessarily about occupying the most powerful seat at the head table.

I am not suggesting you renounce political life and take vanvaas. In fact, the moral authority you will gain by making your way into the hearts of millions of Indians will give you more space to undertake the changes that can truly transform India’s politics and democracy.

This year’s election shows political parties as opaque, eccentric institutions run largely by power brokers sitting in back rooms and greased by black money. The ugly ritual of post-election compromises and barters will be upon us in a few days. Having an election every five years may show the world that the machinery of our democracy is in reasonable working order, but we are losing our soul.

Cleaning this cesspool has to start with restructuring our political parties. If you renounced prime ministerial aspirations, you would have all the political capital to revamp the Congress. Make it a rule-based institution, with inner party democracy for key decisions such as choice of candidates. Establish thematic working groups for critical national issues. Set the highest bar for financial transparency in the party by publishing the audited financial statements. Require all candidates to publish their tax statements, going beyond the meagre requirements of the election law.

Give the youth a real voice in party leadership: In any Congress-led government at national or state levels, let at least one cabinet position be held by a person who is genuinely young—less than 30. Let this person be someone who has come up from the grass roots, not a direct recruit who is a scion of a political family—no offence to Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora and others, but the message to the youth must be that anyone can make it, not just those who have access and connections.

It requires guts to publicly withdraw your name from contention for the prime minister’s post—after all, it’s almost yours for the taking, either today or in the not-too-distant future. Nobody will blame you for seeking the crown, but everyone will respect you for renouncing it. And this will be your greatest contribution to India’s possibilities.

By Ramesh Ramanathan

To know more about Ramesh Ramanathan, click here.

My friend Sapna Karim, works for Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, founded by Ramesh Ramanathan. Janaagraha is a non-profit institution aimed at improving the quality of public governance by deepening democracy. Launched in December 2001, more than 100,000 citizens have participated in Janaagraha’s activities, and more than 5,000 volunteers have given their time to support the idea.

Even though it was a letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi I feel there is a lesson to be learnt for us also. A large section of people in our country blindly follow the Congress......the Nehru-Gandhi Family. There is a general feeling that we are better off with them than the others. "Better a known devil than the unknown" seems to be our motto here.
We've got to get out of that limbo. Hence the title "Let My Country Awake"


  1. Wonderful !
    Very patriotic in your thoughts and by posting this letter.
    Of course, the youth has to actively participate in our country's politics. As the saying goes - "Be in the System to Change IT". There is no point in sulking or complaining about what's going on around us. It is we, who have allowed it to happen. Why didn't we voice our concerns when it happened for the first time ? We too are to be blamed.
    Lets take up responsibility in building India. Let's vote for those set of committed people who want to make India a better place to live.

  2. kudos for the post! and well done mr ramanathan!

    What he says makes perfect sense!

  3. Wonderfull, timely post! Everything Mr Ramanathan said makes perfect sense.. Thanks for sharing this!

    I would totally second Umas - we are in this state thanks to our own making and unless we, the people of India wake up to it - change will be difficult to come by..

  4. A genuine and sincere letter...
    and as you said, every one of us should wake up to this clarion complete cleansing of the entire system is essential!

  5. okay i will save my kickass comment this time cus i dont understand an iota of politics :/
    but hey!! a very happy mothers day to you :)

  6. also, i cracked A's puzzle.. bwahaha, i am mightly pleases, that was the high point of my day and I just had to tell someone ... hehe

  7. umas: "Lets take up responsibility in building India. Let's vote for those set of committed people who want to make India a better place to live."

    Yes, I'd like to think that the youth of today are waking upto this fact:-)).

    Winnie: Yeah he does write some good stuff...u can find it at his site & I thk he has a blog in wordpress.

    Smitha: There r rotten apples in very barrell but overlooking that I'd hope that things are looking up for India:-)).

    SGD: Yes ofcourse but easier said than done[the complete cleansing I mean];-(.
    Maybe in another 50-60 can hope, right;-D

    Ish: awww u remembered...thanks a lot. Guess what I got as a iphone;-D

  8. Ish: Seriously u did;-o....then please tell me which of these words r correct....knowledge, ignorance or strikethrough.
    Or atleast tell me tht word for which she used my post as a clue.
    Shhhh....but dont tell her.

  9. well written!!!! and loved his points!!!
    somehow, I dont like the congress "think tank" which is basically the gandhis......

    but unfortunately he is in it all and I hope he does a decent job in the coming years!!!

    BTW, thanks for review on meenu's blog..... Thanks a lot!!!!

  10. Too big a prize to ask, na? But makes so much bloody sense.

    I'm one of those you know, one of those who thinks 'There's not much choice as it is so might as well choose the lesser evil.'

    Yeah, I just have no perspective here :(

    Liked the post a lot!

  11. Nice thoughts being mused out :) I agree the point is valid yet i would like to disagree on the point being suggested by Mr.Ramesh.

    I dont see how Rahul Gandhi renunciating the PM's post will enable kick start a major change in India's politics. Will it help him gain a moral support from all factions? Yes, maybe. But is it the only way to restructure Indian Politics. No. Definitely not.

    I completely agree with the author that a major transformation needs to be done in our current Politics. But his point that renunciating the post will give Rahul the space to make changes is vague. I presume he does has the authority needed to make a change, restructure the political structure of Congress,even now.

    I feel that Rahul being a icon of the youth and of change,if he can break himself of the shackles of mindless politics and self minded petty politicians,he can be a promise of change like Obama presented to the Americans.

    God Bless India

  12. The one wish I have for my country is that slowly but surely, we should be able to weed out all the elements that corrupt.
    The biggest and the single most problem, according to me, is the desire to have what is not rightfully yours. If the politicians, and maybe even all of us, simply work hard towards our success instead of attaining it by unethical means, we would have made that one big leap towards India Shining!

  13. an iphone.. wow, i think i am seriously considering motherhood now ;)
    oh and i saw u cracked the quiz too :)

  14. Ordinary Guy: Its just like how it used to be in Indian cricket team......if Tendulkar got out all the rest just crumbled. It was only once they got used to Tendulkar's absense did they start showing their own stuff.
    Now the way I see it only if the Gandhis take a back seat will the 'real' Congress mettle show thru:-)).

    And the was a pleasure:-))!!!!

    Still Thinking: Believe me..I wrote that last para with my family in mind. We are hardcore Congress followers & are hopelessly in love with the Gandhi men[I cried buckets when Rajiv Gandhi died:-(]. But tht doesnt mean I dont realise what is going on & am hoping to change my way of thinking;-)).

    Prashanth Shree: Like Ordinary Guy says I too agree tht the congress "think tank" basically consists just of the Gandhis.
    The Congress's only trump card is the Gandhi's who they use to the maximum to win votes from the rural areas. They blindly follow the instructions issued from there like some sort of monarchy system.
    We've got to get out of tht 'servile' approach.....I mentioned a vague example of Sachin Tendulkar in my reply to OG's comment to illustrate my point;-D
    And since we know for sure that Congress will NEVER ask the Gandhis to leave, I do feel Ramesh Ramanathan's suggestion seems valid.

    Maybe CHANGE will not happen immediately but i'm SURE will definitely happen ultimately.

    God Bless India!!!!!!!!!

    Butterfly: Sad but true...Corruption is a way of life in our country. Infact we feed that devil ourselves by preferring to give bribes to make our work easier.
    Sometimes I feel more stringent laws & quicker court decisions can make a difference.

    Ish: Just went & chked it out;-)). Actually it was a shot in the dark & it worked. Never knew there was a quote like tht though there was something familiar abt the thought;-P

  15. Thanks for sharing !! But nobody sacrifices much in Indian politics, if sacrificewas in the nature of our politicians, we wouldnt have any problem.

  16. Thanks for sharing and I guess people have to realise that India doesn't belong to the Gandhi's....

  17. I guess I feel sad that despite having n number of political parties, in the end the choice comes down to Corrupt Palm or Fanatical Lotus.. there's a limit to saying choose the lesser evil... change is a must, but how ...

  18. That's an amazingly well-written letter....makes a lot of sense to me too, but whether or not Rahul Gandhi has the courage to renounce the post for one can really say. There's always hope though for that sort of idealism & belief to break through the bullsh*t.

  19. Well... I wonder whether Rahul Gandhi is in there to change India and do better for the country or because it was the easiest profession for him to make a mark. Whether he renounces it for the country or not will depend on his motive in being there and how willing he is to change things.

    Perhaps I am cynical - however I staunchly believe we need to participate in the elections and we are the only ones who can change it.

    Perhaps instead of Rahul Gandhi stepping down, we need to really question what the effect is of any politician and vote them out if there are not effective.

  20. and I do think it is a very nice thought provoking letter - if there were no out-of-box ideas how could we debate and explore different options?

  21. Where the clear stream of reason has not lost
    its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father,
    let my country awake.

    Thank you..your post evoked other memories in me..of long ago elocution competitions and trophies :)

    having said that, I think it's not only with politics that apna junta follow blindly.....a total shift in mindset is needed..but that is wishful thinking :)

  22. awesome!thank you for sharing this letter!was not awre of it...absolutely with you ona ll the points...and the ones in the letter...

    unfortunately if Rahul does 'scarifice' his PMship he will be next in the pantheon o Gandhi GODs liike mom Sonia..who has been elevated to that status ever since she refused to be PM....

    Rahul should instead work at the grassroot level and then when he is ready in maybe 10 years or 12 then he can say that he's ready to be PM..not now when his claims at being politically aware make me laugh

  23. good one, but will the advice be taken? No way, is my sure guess...But thank you Nancy! And I feel I have lost it again...the will to blog!So the silence, have to find the sparrk...there is so much to write at work that blogging gets a back seat!

  24. a very sensible letter. it should get more visibility


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