Bonds of social harmony deliberately stretched to keep voters polarised, says Sonia

In a scathing attack on the Modi government, Sonia Gandhi alleged that power has become intensely concentrated over the past eight years in a handful of politicians and business persons, which is undermining India's democracy and institutions.

Press Trust of India September 14, 2022 12:09:33 IST
Bonds of social harmony deliberately stretched to keep voters polarised, says Sonia

Sonia Gandhi. PTI

New Delhi: In a scathing attack on the Modi government, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday alleged that power has become intensely concentrated over the past eight years in a handful of politicians and business persons, which is undermining India’s democracy and institutions.

She also alleged that constitutional values and principles are under assault, with the bonds of social harmony being deliberately stretched to a breaking point in order to keep voters polarised for electoral gains.

In an op-ed piece in the Hindustan Times, the Congress chief said that all too frequently, previously independent authorities have been reduced to “tools of the executive”, ready to do its bidding in a partisan and heavy-handed way.

“As a result, election outcomes are being subverted by money power sustained by electoral bonds and cronyism. State agencies turn on any political party that opposes the current dispensation,” she said.

Gandhi’s article comes amid the Congress’ ambitious Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra aimed at combating the alleged divide in the country and rejuvenating the party organisation.

Rahul Gandhi, along with several top leaders of the party, began the Yatra from Kanyakumari last week and after traversing through Tamil Nadu, it is now passing through Kerala.

In a stinging attack on the Modi government, Sonia Gandhi said in the opinion piece that painstakingly built public enterprises, which are held in common by all citizens, are being hollowed out and sold to one or two private bidders.

“Under the United Progressive Alliance, we understood that it was important to make sure that resources and opportunities flowed to all citizens in a time of rapid growth and rising inequality,” she said.

Gandhi said the UPA government invested in health and education and initiatives such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Food Security Act and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAS) as well as the Right to Information Act and Aadhaar, improved welfare effectiveness and lifted tens of millions out of poverty.

While elites and then Opposition parties ridiculed these measures, they have been a lifeline during the pandemic and times of economic distress, she opined.

This nurturing framework, which sustained India for many decades, is now under direct attack and inequality has never been higher in independent India, Gandhi said.

Power has become intensely concentrated over the past eight years in a handful of politicians and business persons, which is undermining our democracy and institutions, Gandhi alleged.

“The independence of our institutions is being eroded and their role as balancers of the competing demands and aspirations of a wide range of social groups is being intentionally undermined,” she alleged.

Gandhi claimed that authoritarian tendencies are becoming clearer, with the erosion of fundamental rights being accompanied by a narrow imposition of conformity and obedience from dutiful citizens.

“Weaker sections, minorities, women and civil society are under constant attack, supported by significant sections of the media. Parliament is not being allowed to function, forcing discontent to spill onto the streets,” she said.

“This dangerous cocktail will only weaken our national fabric and create openings for India’s internal and external enemies,” Gandhi added.

If democracy is to triumph over oligarchy, Gandhi said, people must come together and resist these “powerful forces”.

Noting that women have made much progress in the last 75 years, the Lok Sabha MP said there is still a long way to go.

Male violence remains an overriding concern and even now many teenage girls are compelled to drop out of school, she pointed out.

“Girls are taught that they are secondary, to mute their voices, to deny themselves and depend on men for protection. The government’s patriarchal instincts and view of women solely in traditional gender roles as wife, daughter, sister make a bad situation worse,” Gandhi said.

Asserting that these challenges call for a new commitment to the hopes with which this nation was founded, she said that over the next 25 years, India has to deal decisively with growing economic inequalities, bring greater integrity to its institutions, return to the spirit of social harmony, and widen opportunities and freedom for all.

This means focusing on the real economy, raising employment in core government activities such as health and education, and opening opportunities for the excluded, she said.

This could involve a basic income in place of inefficient subsidies, reining in growing monopolies and committing to support job-creating businesses, Gandhi stressed.

“In an environment of worsening climate stress and pollution, we have to preserve our forests and commons, address soil and water degradation. We need a democratic environmentalism to make sure that India grows in the right way, creating mass prosperity without sacrificing the well-being of those who come after us,” she said.

“The future we seek will have to be achieved by us. Patriotism means that we have a stake in each other, and we must unite in this common cause,” Gandhi asserted.

She noted that against the odds 75 years ago, the founders of the Indian Republic set it on the path to becoming a liberal and democratic nation.

National integration was achieved while ensuring that our many cultures and identities were strengthened because it was understood that diversity is our strength, she pointed out.

“Across our differences, every citizen has an equal claim on India,” Gandhi stressed.

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