Looking back at Indira Gandhi

Writing in Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta looks back at Indira Gandhi. He offers five lessons for today’s Congress:

  1. Leaders are more effective when they work through institutions rather than attempting to subvert them.
  2. Sound economic policies are not a matter of simply projecting good intentions; they require a concerted understanding of the causal conditions that make for successful intervention.
  3. Being personally secular is neither here nor there. The important thing is to fish in the treacherous waters of communal identification, from wherever it comes.
  4. As the Punjab crisis demonstrated, when the state does not act impartially and in time, it sows the seeds of greater violence in the future.
  5. Democracy is not just about the practice of popular authorisation. It is about a whole gamut of constitutional values that have to be zealously guarded.

India had a bad period from 1962 to 1977, of which the worst part was the Emergency. This period preceded Pakistan’s worst years (Zia ul Haq’s period, 1978-1988). Kamal A. Munir has an article in Financial Express about Pakistan where we see the sustained impact of those years.

India seems to have come out better from the dark period, partly because that period ended a long time ago and there has been more time for healing. In addition, in Pakistan’s case, the Afghan wars and islamisation which began in Zia ul Haq’s period have not yet ended. In some sense, Pakistan is not yet into the post-authoritarian post-conflict period of reconstruction of institutions, which began in India in 1977.


Originally published at Ajay Shah’s Blog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.