During his animated one-hour lecture on ten reasons why India will not and must not become a superpower at Toronto’s Munk Centre, Dr. Ramachandra Guha lamented that in the present lower house of the Indian Parliament, not more than five members would have read a 1949 speech given by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of India’s constitution, that advised the citizens of a yet-to-be-born republic to eschew three pitfalls.
• Abandon the bloody methods of revolution because that leads to anarchy
• Abandon Bhakti (devotion) in politics because that leads to dictatorship, and finally,
• Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy
For good measure, Dr. Guha added that not a single minister in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s cabinet would have read the speech.
In his seminal book, India after Gandhi, Dr. Guha quotes Ambedkar’s warning about India remaining a “mere political democracy”.
In the speech made to the Constituent Assembly in 1949 (that led to the formation of the Indian Republic in 1950) Ambedkar had cautioned, “In politics, we will have equality, and in social and economic life, we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognizing the principle of one man-one vote and one vote, one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man, one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we shall do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.”
Given the vast territory he had set out to cover during his presentation, Dr. Guha didn’t have the luxury of time to get into the finer points or quote from his works. However, he did provide a panoramic view of the challenges India faces. Terming himself as a polemicist of the centrist kind, he set about explaining the ten reasons in an impassioned manner uncharacteristic of an academic, although quite characteristic of him.
According to Dr. Guha, the ten reasons that India will not and must not become a superpower are:
• Maoists extremism
• Right-wing fundamentalism
• Institutional degeneration
• Growing gap between the rich and the poor
• Environmental degradation
• Chimera of a socially conscious press
• Fragmentation of the polity
• Border disputes
• Disturbed neighbourhood
He explained that but for business magnets, editors of national newspaper chains and federal politicians, not many in India really share the grandiose vision of the nation becoming a superpower.