New Delhi: In his new book Undaunted: Saving the Idea of India, former finance minister P Chidambaram warns of the dangerous possibility of the Constitution being replaced “by a document inspired by Hindutva”. The senior Congress leader says the scenario will be the end of the ‘idea of India’ as espoused by the founding fathers, leading to another freedom struggle.
Speaking to News18, Chidambaram says the threat to the idea of India has intensified under the NDA government, adding that the country will be better served by a liberal, secular and left-of-centre government. The Congress veteran also gives a peek into the party manifesto for upcoming elections.
On most accounts, the Narendra Modi government has only proceeded with the work started by the UPA. GST, Aadhaar and Digital India are some examples. Aren’t you being alarmist by suggesting that the very idea of India is being tinkered with?
The idea of India is not about GST or Aadhaar. It is about the values embodied in the Constitution of India. These are freedom, equality, secularism, diversity, privacy etc. in their many dimensions. For example, equality will include gender equality and freedom will include freedom from fear. These values are under threat and there are many examples of these values being undermined or impaired; Aadhaar eroding privacy is an instance. The threat to the idea of India has intensified under the Modi government.
What are your thoughts on coalition governments? Do they hurt governance and economic development or is it a biased perception?
Some coalitions have performed well, some have failed. An example of the first kind is UPA I. An example of the second kind is the Janata Dal government of VP Singh.
In the long run, don’t you think India as a nation and an economy would be better off with a strong right-of-the-centre party to add to the debate and dialogue instead of being ruled only by a liberal and centrist party like the Congress?
Not at all. India will be better served by a left-of-the-centre, liberal, secular, modern and technology-friendly government imbued with a scientific temper.
Should you come to power, how do you plan to identify families eligible for minimum income guarantee? How do you plan to fund the scheme?
The contours of minimum income guarantee will be revealed in the manifesto. There is enormous data available, the Socio-Economic Caste Census, land ownership records, Swasthya Bima Yojana etc. The chief statistician has said more data on poverty will be published in June this year.
Is the Congress planning to address agrarian crisis if voted to power apart from doling out farm-loan waivers?
Yes. The manifesto will outline many measures that go beyond loan waiver.