Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of Pradhan Mantri Sangrahalaya, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
Our times are so divided along the lines of loyalty to political parties and ideologies that any word or action cutting across the divide and is graceful and befitting a statesman brings both relief and hope.
The perpetually hyper-competitive and combative mode of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while leading to huge electoral and power dividends to the ruling saffron party, has left a continual trail of political bitterness hitherto characteristic of and limited to election periods.
It has to its rather ignominious credit the coining of the slogan — "Congress-mukt Bharat", as a goal worthy of actually chasing, in a democracy, where there must always be a premium on the presence of a strong opposition.
It would not be fair to blame the BJP for wanting to work hard to win elections or actually winning most of them. The divide was exploited by the BJP under PM Modi, even exacerbated by his party, but was not created by them. Many things from the rise of round-the-clock private TV news channels to social media are part of the problem ecosystem.
Hate speech, divisive political agendas, weaponing of identity politics in direct contradiction to social justice motivations that led to their rise have all become a norm of our socio-political construct and daily affairs. In a harsh realpolitik driven world, there was little space left for reconciliation, dialogue, appreciation of dissent and differences, or healing words and respect for rivals.
Naturally, in a hate and divide dominated era, where abuse is the central thread of our zeitgeist, any words from a political leader in praise and respect for those from another party, or even another time, brings out hope, and applause.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has always led his party’s virulent attack against the Opposition, in particular against the Congress Party, and even more pointedly against the Gandhi-Nehru family, has set a wonderful example of paying tributes and acknowledging the role of all the past Prime Ministers of India.
The Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya (museum of all PMs of India since independence), which Mr Modi dedicated to the nation by buying the first ticket, is a good tribute to the great leaders who have led our country. The Modi government has been successfully pushing for creating several good museums across the country and to make history available to people of all strata and diverse slices of India, which is another welcome positive.
The museum of PMs will indeed also symbolise our democratic strength, where despite being divided by parties, regions, languages, religions, castes and social status, we still respect the great national builders, beyond our current choice of party.
Jawaharlal Nehru helped build and consolidate parliamentary democracy in India in its most excruciatingly dark founding days of Independence, Lal Bahadur Shastri showed the world our sovereignty cannot be challenged, Indira Gandhi stood for our strength against a discriminatory racist western order and set us on course for self-reliance, Rajiv Gandhi brought hope and modernity, V.P. Singh pushed the imperative of social justice, P.V. Narasimha Rao ushered in India 2.0 with liberalisation, Atal Behari Vajpayee made us a nuclear force, powering in an era of coalition government, and Dr Manmohan Singh catalysed the growth of new India in a global order — and the museum will teach all of us all that and more.