‘India is facing a colossal leadership vacuum’

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express:

“The most disturbing thing about the political fallout from Raj Thackeray‘s demagogic revival of crass nativism in politics may not be his own statements. It is rather what the reaction to his statements has revealed about politics in India.

“The crisis reveals yet again the colossal leadership vacuum India is facing. We have assorted chief ministers protesting at the goings-on in Maharasthtra. But they also use a language that refers to their particular constituencies: Biharis defending Biharis and so forth. But no one at the national level is a credible, consistent and forceful embodiment of the basic constitutional values we need to defend.

“The symbolic functions of leaders, whether they be leaders of parties or holders of high office, is that they consistently remind the nation of the boundaries that cannot be breached. But most of our leaders deal with these sorts of crises in avoidance mode. When the last wave of ‘son of the soil’ politics hit India in the seventies, Indira Gandhi was much more ambiguous in her response; and the contagion spread quickly. But we are now in a political environment where the refusal of our important leaders to express outrage will only embolden every two-bit leader to occupy centrestage.”

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