By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, July 7, 2024: Students of military history will remember the first part of the caption if they have read the account of Field Marshall Slim whose success in the Burmese campaign after retreat and retaking of Burma from Japan during the Second World War.

After the grueling heat of the summer coinciding with the election fever which was at its peak, results of election are out since a month after the break of the delayed Monsoon causing sultry weather both physical and political. To some, it is a victory with lower numbers and for others it is a defeat. More interestingly, forsome with lower numbers,not forming the government, it is also a victory.

There are many theories and interpretations regarding the results. What is more quixotic is to make an attempt to interpret the mandate of the people. The fact is that there was no landslide victory and also there was no disastrous defeat.

The Indian electorate is not only vast but its complexity or diversity is mind boggling taking into account language, religion, sect, caste, ethnicity and by economic class divided as rich, middle class, poor and more so further divided as ultra-rich, lower middle class, and very poor, each group having its own priorities. Apart from the traditional loyalty to a party, charisma of national or state leader or even local leadership plays a big part in casting of votes.

Although over-generalization is a new trend, to decipher a clear answer in the ultra-modern technologically advanced twenty first century, is a herculean task. To interpret the peoples’ wish unless one has access to information who voted for whom and what was the reason behind his/her decision, it is simply a wild goose chase. What is not only surprising but also highly enigmatic as to why some pollsters made a prediction and some electronic channels promptly made broadcast of it before the actual counting.

It is futile, needless, and hackneyed to state factors that caste, communal, and even money had their influence which of course have contributed to the results for decades.

Undoubtedly there are some merits in what is claimed by both sides whether the Treasury Bench or Opposition. Nobody should question the urgency to contain rising prices, create jobs and a serious attempt to reduce inequality. At the same time, one should recognize the pivotal role of the private initiative in the industry, trade and commerce in propelling the economy including creation of infrastructure by way of roads, bridges, railways, and air transport without losing sight of peoples’ safety.

Here priority must be given to much publicized program of Make in India to attract investment from abroad and domestic source by the adopting processes, procedures, and practices which are simple, easy, and business friendly. Assembly of components is not same thing as manufacturing.One should not be confused by the stock market index. Significant difference between Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Institutional Investment should be appreciated although both are equally important to assess the vibrancy of the economy.

For a complex country like India with high-level of poverty, one should remember the oft quoted expression “small is beautiful.” Attention needs to be focused on MSME sector, agro-industries, and tourism whether rural urban, coastal, riparian, hill-based enterprises. They are generally eco-friendly, do not displace people and require less money. More importantly they create huge employment opportunities and have wide socio-economic impact.Incidentally they contribute immensely to exports which have not shown as a consistent visible contributor to reduce persistent trade deficit.

The responsibility in this sector not only lies with the political executive but also on the shoulders of neutral and professional bureaucracy. Although the public sector’s role is equally crucial, there should be an eagle’s eye on public debt.

Both the newly formed rattled coalition government of regional parties and national party and enthusiastic Opposition of many regional and national outfits have to work together in repairing the economy and the political spectrum. To assume that everything is honkey-dory will be a colossal mistake. While the Treasury Bench should demonstrate respect for the Opposition and the Opposition must cooperate, be responsible and constructive.

Causing disruption is not a legitimate weapon as may have been postulated in the past when the ruling dispensation was in the Opposition.The Chair has a crucial role within the chamber while leader of the House and Leader of Opposition outside to create an ambience of amity. More informal meetings without media coverage will create much needed ecosystem of give and take.

Whether we like it or not we have lot to learn from the British system and its legacy which just experienced a general election with change of guards. Rishi Sunak a level headed statesperson will now form a shadow cabinet while in Opposition. The concept of shadow cabinet needs to be studied in depth and also practiced.

In recent times there has beenan attempt to rewrite history ignoring the fact the present is the product of the past and future will be born out of present. Everything in the past was not necessarily evil. Gift of the British namely the bureaucracy and legal system have given India an invaluable legacy which other colonial systems like Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch and German systems have not bequeathed to Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The legal structure of given to the sub-continent stood the test of time. Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 was replaced only in 1973 long after independence, IPC has been amended many times and even there were state amendments, and the Indian Evidence Act, one of the master pieces of legislations of Stephen did not require many changes for years.

It may be a surprise to many that the British also gave to India local self-governments long back known as unions, local boards, and district boards – the predecessors of Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad. One must reflect as to why in spite of the provisions of the Directive Principles of State Policy it took so many years to bring the momentous Amendment to give constitutional status to Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Zilla Parishad and Municipalities. What is perplexing as to why the power isstill not devolving to the village level across the country. On the contrary except in few States GPs, Gramas have not been empowered.During the Covidperiod in Odisha GPs dida stupendous work. Consulting Palli Sabha in contentious issues of mineral based industries in tribal pockets have been spectacular achievement in Odisha of empowering people.

At this stage it is necessary to remind the readers that the British under the Government of India Act 1919 brought diarchy where power sharing took place between the elected Ministers and Governor which evolved to become provincial autonomy under the Government of India Act 1935, the predecessor of scheme of federalism under the new Constitution of India for which architects like Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar deserve credit. Now news is abound of surreptitious return of “dyarchy” of the colonial times with some Governors constantly becoming hurdles to the elected governments of the States.

We are proud of our “electoral” democracy, and rightly so. Transition of power was smooth where ruling parties were defeated. InOdisha, the newly elected leader eloquently demonstrated his leadership and magnanimity by inviting the defeated leader to attend swearing-in ceremony by going over to his residence and the defeated leader described as “gentle colossus” came to attend. Bonhomieshown on electronic media among the rival groups will be an example for new generations.

Victory of people as claimed by both Treasury Bench and Opposition should not turn into defeat of the well established principles outlined in the constitution in its Preamble, and concepts like federalism, and democratic centralization, separation of power, neutrality of bureaucracy, free and independent media and vibrant civil society and autonomy of academia.

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