Historic blunders are always recognized in hindsight.
India’s fairly short run as a democratic state has had a few of them. Jawaharlal Nehru’s hindi-chini bhai bhai policy soon led to a Chinese invasion. On his death Lal Bahadur Shastri realized that the country needed a new path outlined in his first speech “There comes a time in the life of every nation when it stands at the cross-roads of history and must choose which way to go”. His mysterious death (because the PMO still refuses to release the cause of death or if the government conducted an autopsy, in response to a RTI) at Tashkent, cut short any major changes. Gulzarilal Nanda followed him in a completely unremarkable Prime Ministership, acting mainly as a caretaker for Indira Gandhi to take over.
This week, Anna Hazare is set to resume his fast in support of a strong Jan Lokpal bill. The government has tried it’s best to discredit Hazare and his associates, but the mood of the nation seems well with Hazare. Movies like Rang De Basanti have hit a nerve with the common people and it remains to be seen if they will take the streets with Anna Hazare.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a quandry in front of him. Will he recognize that this is a crucial time in the history of the new India when it is at a crossroads. Will he continue with the status quo or be brave enough to choose the right way to go. If he still continues to oppose Hazare and the will of the people, the anointed one has every opportunity to stamp his authority in the congress party by opposing him. In the words of Brutus – Not that I loved caesar less, but Rome more. Singh has to debate on how history will judge him, as a modern day Shastri or just a stepping stone for the next Gandhi ala GulzariLal Nanda.