It would not be an exaggeration to mention that during the end of the 20th century, India witnessed the advent of many luminaries. Among them, Rajiv Gandhi was the most radiant one. Becoming the Prime Minister of India at the age of 42, he left a deep imprint on contemporary Indian politics as well as global politics. As PM, he gave a new shape to India and evolved into an internationally acclaimed personality across political spectrum. Mahatma Gandhi Ji had a vision of a prosperous and an accomplished India replete with Swaraj in all its manifestations, which he fondly referred to as ‘Ram Rajya’ (a just state). Rajiv Gandhi had a vision of India of the 21st century which would ensure the fulfilment of bare minimum needs of food, clothing and housing for all; where people would enjoy peace and would remain free from hunger, corruption, political crimes, or terrorism. There was no place for discrimination between the rich and the poor in his idea of India. He had perceived India as enjoying communal harmony. He had dreamt of an India self-reliant and proud.
Rajiv Gandhi had an inner zeal of doing something, in best of his capacity, for his nation and its citizens. This led him to visualize India of the 21st century which would be worked up with the engines of prosperity and a sense of egalitarianism. In fact, our nation had been fortunate to have availed such a leader in Rajiv Gandhi, who was worked up with a sense of direction for India of the future. That future was to be so empowered that it could lead politics out of the dark rooms of seclusion to include everyone in it. Regrettably, that sacred desire of doing his best was disrupted by his sad and brutal assassination. His sudden and unfortunate demise led the country into a political vacuum. The country lost a leadership who had an illustrious vision for the 21st century India.
Rajiv Gandhi knew well that education is the bed rock of democracy. Illiterate people cannot understand properly the democratic norms and its functioning. Such a population is a mere liability to democracy and triggers wilful dictatorship. Only well-educated can help in the sustenance of democracy. Therefore, Rajiv Gandhi had emphasized on education which would impart a high quality of political acumen to its people. According to Rajiv Gandhi Ji, masses must be competent enough to understand the importance of the voting right given to them. They must know how to discuss contemporary political issues and devise ways to solve the burning problems of the day. It is possible only when people are educated. It is only through a decent quality education that the character of a citizen may be developed and established. This would impart them an awareness of their rights and duties. An ideal education aims at developing good and responsible citizens, filled with a sense of social and personal discipline. Education develops citizens who are proud of their heritage and secularism.
Social Justice, Weaker Sections, Women Empowerment and Rajiv Gandhi
Social justice loosely means that there should not be any discrimination among citizens on any basis and it must result in the growth of individual capabilities while providing similar and equal opportunities for development. It must be realised through the establishment of a social order which is marked by a sense of equality of opportunity which should be ensured by legislature and executive. Thus, social justice is inherent in any such society which foregoes any division and discrimination based on birth, caste, creed, colour, sex, wealth, religion, etc. According to Harold Laski, social justice implies providing equal social rights.
Rajiv Gandhi perceived social justice to be the inclusive development of all the classes and sections of society. He wanted that every individual should experience development regardless of their caste, birth, religion, colour, etc. While responding to the discussion on the Presidential Address in Rajya Sabha on January 23, 1984, he had remarked that, “Congress is representative of different ideologies, struggle for social justice, struggle for self- reliance, against the centralisation of wealth, decent public undertakings which are meant for the welfare of the people, secularism, and policies of non-alignment and peace.” While participating in the debate over the 7th plan in Rajya Sabha on December 17, 1985, he had stated, “We have not changed our preferences in the 7th plan. Our fundamental preferences remain poverty alleviation, establishment of social justice and founding of an independent and self-reliant economy.” In the same way on December 18, 1985, throwing some light on the 7th plan while speaking in the Lok Sabha, he repeated the preferences and said, “Our priorities are poverty alleviation, social justice and establishment of self-reliance.”
Rajiv Gandhian social justice meant that each and every poor individual should be taken care of until their tears are wiped off and they are drawn out from their unjust living standards to above poverty line; while being able to manage at least the bare minimum to lead a life of dignity. While responding to the debate over the Presidential Address in Lok Sabha on February 27, 1986, he said, “Today’s question is: Can we move forwards with greater momentum? How can we work more and harder for poor, deprived, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women, children, minorities and backward classes? We have prepared our plan for these sections only. It will require national service and sacrifice. Honourable President stated in his speech that ‘Nations are made from those generations who for a better future sacrifice their present’. This is what we have to do today.”
Rajiv Gandhi knew that welfare of the weaker sections, the exploited, backward classes, Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and others can be done only through education. While addressing the 39th National Development Council meeting regarding education policy in New Delhi on April 29, 1986, Rajiv Gandhi showed his concern by admitting that education has not reached among few sections of the society as was desired. These sections were - Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and a few other backward classes. According to Rajiv Gandhi, their development would lead to the establishment of an egalitarian society.
On January 06, 1988, while speaking in KadmathAmini, Rajiv Gandhi emphatically added that, “One of the strong sides of our perspective is that weaker sections- Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be empowered and thus their development be broadened. We have seen that how from centuries they have remained exploited in the past, and now after independence we have attempted to rectify the situation by focussing more on the development of SCs and STs. Though much has already been done, but still their problems do exist.”
Rajiv Gandhi knew this very well that women have a significant role to play in the formation of any social order. In his view, “The development and prosperity of any society can be measured in terms of the development of the other half of the population (women). Women are equal to men in every field, be it their spiritual aspirations or political thoughts. Even historically, there has been no division when it comes to sacrifice and bravery. It is evident from our struggle for independence. He also added that the contributions of women whether in home or in workplace have never been weaker or lesser than men, but still enough opportunities of education and employment are not being provided to women even today. That is why we need to take steps to empower women and let them realise their strength fully. They will contribute equally in the making of the nation.”
RAJIV GANDHI AND POLITICAL DEFECTION ACT
Political defection had been a relatively new but a devastating feature of the Indian politics. It has brought instability in the political currents of the central government, but more so in the case of states. After the general elections of 1967, no single party in the country had secured clear majority. In such a situation, the government could only be formed through coalition. Consequently, many parties started forming governments in coalition. But the MLAs who did not get opportunities to be Ministers, started to bring crises for the government in association with opposition parties. MLAs changed parties so frequently that in a matter of few months many governments were thrown to dust.The situation in these states worsened so much that President’s rule had to be imposed in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, etc. The circumstances got so pitiful that ex Chief Justice of India Gajendra Gadkar, while addressing the convocation at Osmania University in Hyderabad on December 21, 1967, warned that, “Defection is a devastating practice on an ethical ground in a democracy.” Rajiv Gandhi, as soon as coming to power, took a commendable step in this direction, and consequently through the 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India, prohibited this evil practice of political defection. While responding to the debate on the political defection in Lok Sabha on January 30, 1985, Rajiv Gandhi stated that, “We prioritised this because we realized that it is that specific area of public life which demanded cleanliness.... We had promised that we will take the opposition along with us while making the call in this matter, and Speaker Sir, I am elated in informing the House that most of the parties have been included; with anexception of just one or two.” While speaking about this bill in Rajya Sabha on January 31, 1985, he informed that some factions wished that if 50% members of a party are segregating then it should not be called defection but party division. Some factions wanted only 25% to be called party division but then with a consensus it was decided to fix this to 33% of the members of the party if segregate, then itwill be called a party division. Under this amendment, modifications were made under Article 101, 102, 190 and 191 and it was included in the 10th schedule of the Constitution.
Rajiv Gandhi made some landmark contributions to the making of the India of 21st century. A man of a vision, he represented the ideology of a mix baggage of socialist principles and forward-looking changes in the world as well. He understood the essentiality of social justice, pro-poor orientation, women empowerment on the one hand, and was equally rooted in the modernisation of technology, facing the challenges of the capitalist global order and was conscious of the changes to be ingrained in oneself to cope up with the emerging modern world order. Today, the achievements of science and technology, Information Technology revolution, telecommunication, inclusive development and a resilient effort towards social justice is Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy to the developing India.
We, the people of India were quite unfortunate to have lost such a leadership of vision, clarity and dynamism so early and that too so tragically. Had Rajiv Gandhi survived, we would have been witnessing a different kind of political and social order today. His kind and modern thought-process enabled him to take out the politics from the dark chambers of self interest and let it function for the welfare of the people, and people alone. His commitment towards the socialist and secular democracy of India is a lesson for us and a guiding light to fight against the communal and Fascist powers. Reference:
i.Rajiv Gandhi, New Education Policy, All India Congress Committee, New Delhi. Parphletun dated, p.7 ii The inaugural speech of Rajiv Gandhi in the conference of education ministers of state and central administered territories held on 27th August, 1985. iii The speech of Rajiv Gandhi on the occasion of the golden jubilee ceremony of the Doon School, Dehradun on 3rd November, 1985 iv Harold J Laski, The State in Theory and Practise, London, 1948 v Speech in the RajyaSabha, 23rd January 1985, Speeches of Rajiv Gandhi vi Rajiv Gandhi, SSW, 1984-85, Volume-1, p. 148 vii Rajiv Gandhi, SSW, 1986, Volume-2, p. 8 viii Inaugural Address in the 39th meeting of National Development Council held in New Delhi on 29th April, 1986 ix Rajiv Gandhi, SSW, 1988, Volume- IV, p. 4 x Address in New Delhi on 10th April, 1985 in the conference of Non-Aligned and other developing countries, on the issue of development of women. xi Ibid. xii Speech of Rajiv Gandhi on 31st January 1985, in Rajya Sabha on political defection will be called a party division.xii Under this amendment, modifications were made under Article 101, 102, 190 and 191.
Author is Chairman (Vichar Vibhag) Bihar Pradesh Congress committee