In an Interview with Galactik Views, Ajit Jha, Member Presidium Swaraj India, talks about his views on Modern Political System, Global Challenges surrounding communities, his formative years and his Vision of India and more. Edited excerpts:
According to you, what are the challenges Modern Democratic systems are facing across the globe
Contemporary democratic system’s greatest challenge is vast gulf separating promise of democracy from realities of democracy. Democracy emerged as an empowering idea. Expectation was that the citizens can control government and administration. Policies under democratic regime was assumed to serve national/ social/ citizens interest. Democracy was expected to fuse nation, society, citizen, government into a single entity. Historically democracy did achieve many aspects of this promise in different geographies in certain phases. But contemporary reality generally is diametrically opposite to this promise. In many parts of world share of majority of citizens in the national wealth and resources are in decline. Quality of living is under severe stress. But citizens could not arrest or reverse this slide by using democratic instruments. This obviously put question mark over legitimacy and efficacy of democracy. This is not to argue against democracy. Point to be understood is that a democracy can’t survive simply as a formal system. Democracy can survive only if it thrives. And it can thrive only if it goes beyond formalism.
What’s your thought on citizen activism and to what extent do you think that occasional mass moments/citizen activism is necessary for keeping the Democratic fabric alive? We have seen many times that activism translates into anarchy. What’s your thoughts on it?
Citizens today in most of the democracy are exercising negative power. Exercise of negative power is also an important mechanism through which citizens may discover positive power in future. Citizens resists at critical junctures against anti people policies of governments and establishment. That resistance are sometimes successful in specific instance. Resistance also serves as warning to establishment to be cautious in their self-obsession and self-aggrandizement. Change of governments through ballots also serve the same purpose. But citizens, generally speaking are not exercising positive power to influence the system, control it and transform it in the direction of spirit and promise of democracy, where governments serve people and function as collective instrument of citizens to empower them and ensure their welfare. Protest, resistance, mass movements, activism etc. are not matter of choice or light hearted affairs or pass time. Those outside these processes rarely understand these aspects of human existence. To come out of routine life or every day rhythm of existence is a very deliberate and serious choice. Consequences for participants and their families are adverse in any case. Very fact that citizens acquire inalienable fundamental rights through their struggle against autocracy in the process of establishment of democracy means that citizen activism and citizens action is real fundamental basis of any democratic government. To cut the root will inevitably result in collapse of tree. All citizen actions and movements as long as they are within the framework of democracy, needs to be encouraged, welcomed and celebrated. Even the action that emerge out of ideologies antithetical to the democracy should be dealt with democratically, constitutionally and in a framework of rule of law.
I am not aware of any serious example of citizen actions leading to anarchy. In many parts/ regions of the world we have conflict zones but I don’t think citizens movements or mass movements are causing anarchy anywhere.
Swaraj India has genesis in the Anti-Corruption movement, just like AAP. Today corruption is a thing of the past. How do you define/distinct yourself from the agenda of any other opposition party?
Corruption is not a thing of past. But it is true that corruption today is not a central metaphor to articulate popular concerns and aspirations. How our Party is distinct from all other Parties requires an elaborate response. In the framework of this interaction that is not feasible. But I can say that we are not a conventional party appealing to people to trust us and give power to us and then we will solve all the problems. We will make India VISHWA GURU, SUPER POWER, or DELHI would be transformed into A WORLD CLASS CITY , with in a short timespan due to magic wand of a LEADER.
We recognize India is a poor country and at the bottom of most of the aspects of HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX at world level. True patriotism is to acknowledge this sorry state of affairs not to spin, twist, camouflage this sordid reality. True patriotism demands resolve to change this, to move forward and acquire a respectable position in all aspects of well-being. As a country we have immense potential . To realize that potential we need to be ambitious , audacious but at the same time humble, patient, hardworking and imaginative. This has to be a truly national and collective enterprise. We may have differences, debate at times competition but there can’t be any scope for enmity. We need to search, explore, evolve effective policies, institutional mechanisms and national consensus. Swaraj India is committed to be one such party and appeal to all other parties to be part of this collective endeavor. INDIA DESERVES BETTER. Let all of us dedicate ourselves to this NATIONAL goal.
As we stand on the 75th Independence year of India, many challenges that surround us were simply non-existing a few decades back e.g. Climate Change, Global Warming, digital challenges emanating from digitally interconnected world, space weaponization, global trade imbalance etc. that requires immediate attention and fix. What’s your thoughts? Do you think that we as a society are aware of the dangers that impact our shared fabric and our leaders/influencers working enough to solve the threats of the twenty first century?
Our leaders, not only political leaders, are aware of some of these problems. Climate change is no longer an academic or futuristic issue. We have yet to take country as a whole, into confidence on this life and death issue. But in the decision-making corridors and segments awareness is rising rapidly. Only possible future is GREEN that is no longer in doubt. As far as global trade imbalance and its implication for India, world order and many poor, backward countries are concerned, our structures for analysis and decision making are still weak. We need to rectify this weakness to realise our potential and make necessary contributions to a just world order and ensuring welfare of all. On other major issues such as artificial intelligence and new frontier technologies we are still not adequately alert. We think these are not priority issues for India and we can wait. This will prove disastrous not only for India’s security and development but for our morale and self-esteem as a nation. Unfortunately, this issue is still ignored in highest academic and intellectual circle as well.
Many people are not aware that you come from a political family. Your father was a parliamentarian. Tell us something about your journey and personalities who had influence on you in shaping your political orientation.
My father was a huge influence on me. He was one of the youngest member Lok Sabha 1962- 67. He was not a great parliamentarian or leader. But he was a good parliamentarian and leader. He was a local hero , in his village, parliamentary constituency and regional party circles. He played a significant role in Nepal Revolution against Rana Shahi , which resulted in formation of a democratic government led by B P Koirala.
I observed my father and imbibe many aspects. He was very respectful in his words and behavior towards leaders whom he considered superior to himself in any aspect. But he was not in awe of any of them. He could criticize even greatest of them if his judgement dictates so. He had scant regard for anyone simply because someone was politically and socially powerful. In feudal- hierarchical culture which permeated even progressive circles and parties as well that inevitably led to his clashes with powerful leaders.
He was an intellectual, well versed in theories and capable of theorisation himself but he never ignored or tried to twist / fit facts and observations to any fixed theories. His favourite quote from Lenin was ‘theories are grey but tree of life is evergreen.
I am not my father. I lack his courage, sacrifice, capacity to organize, vast readings, but definitely I imbibed many traits from him. All personal journeys are invariably complex. Social context, chance encounters, individual predilections all play a role. A detailed narration or overview may be out of place. Bihar movement or J P movement of 1974-75 played a decisive role in my ideological and political orientation, though I was not resident of Bihar. As a sixteenth year old or young I witnessed history in the making and got deeply imprinted by that.
Amongst personalities JAI PRAKASH NARAYAN was first major influence as he was leading a movement. Through his writings I became familiar with some of the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi. After 1977, I became familiar with the writings of Ram Manohar Lochia. Range and passion of his ideas made him my leading ideologue. He was also a self-proclaimed follower of Gandhi ji. Through him I became aware of some critical aspects of Gandhiji’s personality and ideas. But still I had no first-hand familiarity of Gandhiji’s ideas or politics. I studied Gandhiji’s ideas and politics during my research for M. PHIL. And I discovered many new and different things. And Gandhi became an independent influence without mediation of J P or Lohia.
Amongst people I met and interacted and worked with, Kishen Pattanaik was most important influence. Sacchidanand Sinha was not directly active in politics but his writings, -articles, booklets, books along with study circles trained many like me in comprehending social reality and critically evaluating ideological traditions. He was probably first socialist, whom I knew till then, who made us understand that all ideologies are limited and response to some major social change. I had not much admiration for Congress leaders led by Nehru and Patel. I was generally taken in by propaganda that the Nehru and Patel were tired old leaders who betrayed Gandhi and the National Movement. Later on when I made an intensive study of last decade of India’s freedom movement, realisation dawned to me as to the greatness of Nehru and Patel. Gradually I became very cosmopolitan in terms of ideological influences and inspiration.
To understand a social reality and frame a response to that one definitely requires some value system but beyond that no one ideological tradition can help you to grasp complex social reality. Amongst the leaders and practitioners of Politics whom I knew and worked with Medha Patekar remains greatest influence.
But for my present political orientation none of these great leaders of the past and contemporary leaders I mentioned have any direct link. They may not even discern any influence of theirs on me and at times may be embarrassed by my positions and politics. So, I seek no justification or defence for myself by mentioning these great names. I can’t mention all the names, great children of mother India, with whom I got opportunity to work with . But I will always remain indebted to them.
You were one of the people, instrumental in shaping the Aam Aadmi Party. What led you to realise that AAP needs ideological alternatives like Swaraj India.
I can’t claim that I was one of the key individuals in AAP. Though it was a wide perception. In formative phase I was part of informal consultations which were attended by not even handful of leaders. Later on as an incharge of National organisation I travelled practically all over India and probably only person who met almost all state and local leaders.
There were many issues involved in parting of the ways. But the central issue was inner party democracy and personality cult. Imperatives and logic of viability in politics is important and we should never lose sight of that otherwise we lose touch with reality and social purpose and remain confined to our own cocoons. But viability must have some larger social good as it’s purpose.
There can be multiple opinion as to the social good. As long Party can maintain inner party democracy, different views can be articulated and majority decision adopted, working together was possible and we were ready to work despite differences. But when inner party democracy was suppressed and message was that the decision-making bodies were basically consultative bodies and final decision should be left to the SUPREMO, then there was no option but resist and reject, authoritarian/ supremo dictate.
Democracy is essence human and national progress, however longwinded, noisy , torturous, ineffective it may appear. Democracy is too vital to be sacrificed for any allure of power or viability as a long-term practice.
One last, who is your favourite politician in India.
Without doubt my former party President and SI leader Yogendra Yadav. He is serious, earnest, intelligent, inspiring. But to be a leader of India or one of the leaders of India, he has a long way to go. He and his associate and party and forums to which he belongs has to pass test of viability on a sustained basis in electoral and non-electoral arena. To put record straight we should not be too bothered about individuals. Mature democracies progress through good institutions and multitudes doing their chosen and assigned jobs responsibly. A leader, the leader is not a major requirement of an intelligent, empowered democratic citizenry.
Shri Ajit Jha is Member Presidium Swaraj India. (He has also held the following position in the party in the past: Former General Secretary Swaraj Abhiyan; Former General Secretary Swaraj India; Former Working President Swaraj India)