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 (Image Courtesy: PIB)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to citizens to take a pledge for a New India has overwhelmed as well as dazed me. Overwhelmed because it has kindled a new light at the end of dark tunnel. And dazed because I realize that virtually all ex-PMs foresaw ‘New India’ during their respective tenure.
With the promises and pledges for New India galore, I find myself in a whirlpool of dreams. I find they have not led the country near the promised Utopia. 
The other day, I instantly became Bhavuk (overwhelmed) when PM saw a New India in the mandate that BJP got in recent State assembly elections.
PM ordained: “On the NM Mobile App http://nm4.in/dnldapp, take the pledge and express your commitment towards building a new India.”
He added: “A new India is emerging, which is being powered by the strength & skills of 125 crore Indians. This India stands for development. When we mark 75 years of freedom in 2022, we should have made an India that will make Gandhi Ji, Sardar Patel & Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar proud.”
I look at the heaven and ask did they not feel proud when Parliament unanimously passed ‘Agenda for India’ to mark 50 years of Independence?
At the risk of being branded as anti-national by Modi Bhakts, I must confess that I am hesitant to join Mr. Modi’s Eureka moment. And the cause for my disillusionment is a long history of forgotten, failed or partly achieved dreams of New India promised by several ex-PMs, political parties and even entire Parliament.
If we diligently count the number of versions of New India promised by our political leaders since Independence, they would outnumber many times the versions of Windows software
How do I assure myself that Modiji’s dream of New India is a real one? How do I convince myself that it is not a fad for great men to say “I have a dream….”  Don’t forget, PM talked of his dream for India in June 2016 when he addressed joint session of the US Congress.
Will the latest imagination be different from all previous ones?  Would PM tell citizens why ‘New India’ visualized in the BJP’s 1998 manifesto for Lok Sabha went unimplemented? What happened to Bharat Ratna Atal Behari Vajpayee’s ‘Agenda for Building a Proud and Prosperous India’?
We should perhaps wait for Modiji to detail his vision for New India and how he intends to achieve it. In the meanwhile, I would like to share with him the country’s forgotten dreams. This perhaps might lead him into asking whether ‘New India’ is a mere political rhetoric that is spun when powers that be hit cloud nine.
Everyone would agree that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned New India without using this term in his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ that he gave on 14th August 1947. This vision was perhaps not shared by Finance Minister, R.K. Shanmukham Chetty.
Referring to bloodbath that resulted from the country’s partition, Mr. Chetty stated in his budget speech for 1948-49:  “The way ill fortune has dogged our heels makes one doubt whether our people had made a tryst with disaster rather than with destiny.”
Such setbacks did not dilute Nehru's passion for New India.
On 12th April 1954, he thus gave a clarion call to all citizens “to join in this might adventure of building up new India. It is a way of showing that we shall stand on our own feet and not allow ourselves to be uprooted by the strong winds that blow in upon us from any quarter.”
Mr. Nehru articulated his vision on several other occasions too. For instance, at the opening Nangal canal on 8th July 1954, he stated “The major thing is making a new India, building a new India, a prosperous India, putting an end to the poverty of India….”
Mr. Nehru’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, too had a great vision for India. 
Like Modiji, Mr. Shastri, in his broadcast to the Nation on 19th October 1964, invited “all my countrymen to join together as brothers and sisters in this great and challenging task of building up a new, awakened and strong India.”
Like Modiji, he too asked the citizens to “pledge yourselves anew to the dedicated service of our motherland”.
All subsequent ex-PMs have had vision for New India though some of them did not use the term ‘New India’ in their discourse. The day-dreaming for New India appeared realizable when Parliament drew up ‘Agenda for India’ on the golden jubilee of the Independence.
The Agenda specified ‘minimum tasks’. Some of these are: attain marked improvement in the quality of life of all citizens in time-bound manner with focus on basic minimum needs; all political parties to launch national campaign to “combat economically unsustainable growth of population, recognising that such growth lies at the root  of  most  of  our  human,  social  and  economic problems”, provide universal primary education by 2005, decriminalize politics, undertake meaningful electoral reforms, preserve dignity of Parliament through good conduct by MPs in Parliament and outside and promote scientific temper in the country.
20 years later, we find that MPs have exhibited rare collective aversion to even mention the Agenda by mistake in public discourse. This might well have emboldened Modiji to set sights on platinum jubilee of the Independence as the target for transforming the country.
We have to wait and see whether Modiji would incorporate this forgotten agenda in his dream for New India. We also have to see whether he enlightens citizens as to why his Government failed to carry forward BJP’s past resolve for New India.
According to BJP in its 1998 Lok Sabha poll manifesto, “As the adage ‘Raja kaalasya kaaranam’ (The ruler is responsible for the times) reminds us, the blame for this sad of State of affairs rests with the Raja and not the Praja. The BJP pledges that, when it is in power, the people will see a qualitative change in the culture of governance. There will be a marked change in the mindset and behavior of those in Government. Their duties and responsibilities will take precedence over their perquisites.”
The Manifesto called for a change in the mindset and behavior of citizens in their daily lives for building a strong, prosperous and proud nation.
It stated: “On the occasion of the Swarna Jayanti of our Independence, therefore, the BJP makes the following appeal to every Indian to inculcate the spirit of the Freedom Movement:
1. We, the people of India, shall not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed, class, gender, language, or region in any of our actions and decisions in life. Instead, we shall behave with all our compatriots in the belief that we all are equal children of Bharat Mata.
2. We, the people of India, in whichever profession or vocation we are in, shall work with honesty, dedication and discipline in the spirit of a New Work Culture.
3. We, the people of India, shall always give priority to our patriotic duties and responsibilities over narrow self-interest, even as we zealously strive for the realization of our rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
BJP created a new tune for New India in its 1999 Manifesto. It stated: “This is the moment to look ahead, to a new, resurgent India. Let us hold hands and walk together to build a resurgent, modern India. Let us throw away our old prejudices. Let us put an end to divisiveness. Let us have a moratorium on contentious issues. Let us bind ourselves with bonds of trust and friendship.”
The Manifesto continued: “We want an India which we all feel part of, in whose future we all have a stake. And we want to enter the new millennium with confidence; not with divisive feelings. This is our call for reconciliation and it is part of our commitment to the minorities.”
Compare all these highfalutin offers with the ground realty to understand why BJP consigned its different versions of New India to archives.
The all-mighty BJP has even forgotten to realize Mr. Vajpayee’s vision for New India that he articulated through his speeches.
A speech that should be etched in the mind of anyone who talks of New India is the one delivered on 15th August 1999. In his Independence Day Address to the Nation, Mr. Vajpayee stated:  “I have a vision of India: an India free of hunger and fear, an India free of illiteracy and want. I dream of an India that is prosperous, strong and caring….Come, let us build an India in which we have balanced development that benefits all regions and all sections of society....”
He continued: “Come, let us build an India in which Dalits, Adivasis, and Backward Classes are not only freed from economic deprivation, but also enjoy the fruits of social justice....Come, let us build an India in which our nari shakti - our women - are able to realize its full potential - from shaping the future of their families to shaping the future of the nation....Come, let us build an India in which the minorities fully enjoy the fruits of national development, while having full opportunities to contribute to it. Our country belongs to all....”
The speech that he gave after BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was voted back to power in October 1999 also deserves recall.
In his discourse titled ‘Agenda for Building a Proud and Prosperous India’ broadcast on 16th October 1999, Mr. Vajpayee stated: “India needs a Government that will reach out to the last person in the last row....With the help of a billion people proud of being Indian: There is nothing that we cannot achieve; No problem we cannot tackle; No challenge we cannot face; and No opportunity we cannot seize.”
If we add up the vision of all ex-PMs for New India, would Mr. Modi have anything new to inspire the masses?  Yes, if he visualizes and implements fully a vision for New India in which the gap between political promises and performance is zero.
Modiji, I confess I have a dream in which I foresee our great leaders act like fakirs. They walk the talk on duties and sacrifices that they expect the citizens to make. This is the utopia I have been dreaming ever since I understood Indian politics.
Published by http://nareshminochapolity.blogspot.in on 18th March 2017
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