Many faces of ‘National Interests’

National interests” has become a phrase that challenges the citizen, frightens him and threatens him all at once.

Published: 24th October 2021 06:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th October 2021 07:13 AM   |  A+A-

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal (File Photo | PTI)

"National interests" has become a phrase that challenges the citizen, frightens him and threatens him all at once. In a vibrant democracy like India, it won’t be easy to come across two people who agree on what is “national interests”. Narendra Modi’s idea of “national interests” certainly will not be the same as Rahul Gandhi’s idea of it. Mamata Banerjee will have her own interpretation of the idea and Pinarayi Vijayan’s will be different from that of all the others. Yet all of them are honestly committed to the national interests of India because those interests are the life blood of all parties and all politicians.

In such a situation, only narrow-minded partisan politics can make a minister like Piyush Goyal accuse a company like Tatas of “not working in the national interest”. Adding masala to the situation, RSS organ Panchjanya accused Infosys of being in cahoots with leftists and “tukde-tukde gangs”. No wonder poet-activist Javed Akhtar compared the RSS with the Taliban. He was warned by an RSS leader that his films would not be allowed to be screened — a pucca Taliban-style threat.

Piyush Goyal’s attitude is not patriotic as he claimed. In fact, it is un-Indian. This became clear when, at the annual meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry, he went on to say that: “Industries in our country are not working in the interests of the nation and are simply going against India.” So extremist a standpoint, it shocked even government circles. The Confederation of Indian Industry pulled down the video from its YouTube channel.

How many Indians will agree that Tatas and Infosys are working against the interests of India while Piyush Goyal is fighting in defence of India? Of course, there are black sheep among industries, just as there are black sheep among politicians. But Goyal picked the whitest of the white sheep to back up his argument. Naturally, he convinced no one.

Tatas had managed Air India with efficiency and grace. Memories of those magical days were revived when it became known that the airline was going back to the Tatas. The so-called Atmanirbhar policy of the Government had meant nothing to the airline when it was in the hands of the state. Goyal, too, must have seen, unless he is blind, that the airline was almost destroyed.

The inability of leaders to agree even on the management of democracy says something about our brand of democracy. Perhaps, this should help us understand why international standards of democracy put India very much in the back rows. Gothenburg University’s ratings sees India “on a path of steep decline, to the extent it has almost lost its status as a democracy”. 

Once India was known for the qualities Will Durant mentioned in his famous “The Story of Civilization.” The qualities he listed were: Tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind; the quiet contentment of the unacquisitive soul; the calm of the understanding spirit; and a unifying, pacifying love for all living beings.

That India has given way to a different India of which a BJP worker in Thuraiyur in Tamil Nadu looked a true symbol. He built a temple and installed a vigraha of Prime Minister Modi in the sanctorum and people came from nearby areas to worship the idol. To be on the safe side, he quickly added to the walls of the temple photographs of MGR, Jayalalithaa and also Edappadi Palaniswami, the then chief minister. His explanation was that he saw Modi as “a god who has come to develop India”. In Rajkot, like-minded admirers built a temple and installed Modi as the deity there.

Democracy in India has become unrecognisable as democracy. It can well be said that democracy has undone what culture had made of India. Can we say today that India is a “nation state?” That respected entity is defined as “a state in which the great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it.” In the political entity that India has become, can we say that a great majority shares the same politics? In fact, politically India has become quite a divided country.

Researchers in Berkley University once found that as the people’s level of wealth increased, their feelings of compassion went down and their sense of “entitlement, of deservingness, and their ideology of self-interest increases.” It is clear that a sense of deservingness has spread among the desh-vasiyo as the Prime Minister fondly addresses the people. Inspired by Modi, wives have started addressing their husbands as mere pyare dish-washiyo. Jai Hind.


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