Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s archetypal Founding Father and India

Millions of words have been written and will be written on the glorious legacy of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who died at the ripe age of 91 on March 23, 2015. But the best part of his personality and his lasting message for any country looking up
for the development of its people is his crystal clear emphasis on 'discipline' of the people.
Like thousands of his admirers, as a youngster in 1990s I too used to be awestruck by his
vision and firmness -- later glorified as 'pragmatism'.
Lee always preferred a trade or the right balance between democracy and discipline. In fact, this very aspect of the person had endeared him to millions of admirers including this blogger.
Another such admirer was Nagaland's deceased flamboyant leader Late Vamuzo Phesao.
Vamuzo, a former Nagaland chief minister, used to publicly laud Lee for his visionary and a radical thinker like approach and used to call it --- practical politics -- certainly the other word for 'pragmatism'.  Nevertheless, Vamuzo also used to admire another pragmatic politician of his time and in his own country - Jyoti Basu.
But Lee's determined nature, likes of Vamuzo believed, helped Singapore to stay always ahead of the curve.
I have often endorsed Narendra Modi brand of politics in India for its inherent 'darker side' --- the one-man show with the firm believe that the right sense of discipline in us the Indians can transform our national story too.
One reason for this certainly has been Lee.
with Indira Gandhi
Lee Kuan Yew's idiosyncratic or distinctive but peculiar formula of economic liberalization bringing in money from overseas 
combined with restrictions on political freedom has truly baffled many countries and contemporary historians. 
"He insisted that he would not rule by opinion polls, rejecting the idea that popular government entailed a need to be popular through his term, believing that voters would come round when they eventually saw the results of policies he had pushed through," ran a befitting obit piece in Singapore-based Strait Times.

It could look funny. The Naga leader Vamuzo, a former Naga underground 'Brigadier' believed in such theories, and used
to often take harsh steps to push his will. Succumbing to Naga students' pressure in 1990, the then Vamuzo government
had ordered that Nagaland government employees would retire at the age of 57 or completion of 33 years of service whichever is earlier. This was a shocker across the state and for government servants and their families in a state 
where in the absence of industries, 'the state government' has been the sole employer. The result as expected was catastrophy.
Soon tribalism game played in and non-Chakhesang Nagas launched tirade against Vamuzo.
 The moot point I am trying to make is a Lee Kuan Yew formula could not have brought in dividends in Nagaland.
 Well, if we argue that such a transformation in a state dependent on New Delhi's funding was not possible, perhaps
it will be erroneous to believe that the formula can yield positive results at the national level, in India under Narendra Modi too.
 One reason is simply because India is too vast and too complex than the tiny Singapore --
both in terms of land mass and population. Singpaore has a megare population of 5.6 million --- something unthinkable in many Indians towns and cities. 
In an interview with Matters India website last May after Narendra Modi's unthinkable electoral victory, I had spoken eloquently on Lee's lasting message for Indians.
"In Singapore, one ruler once said, there should be a trade between democracy or freedom and discipline. We also need it. What’s our freedom today? In Kerala and Bengal, people hate to work. And if you are bringing Hitler-Nazis comparison, I have said earlier, it’s advisable not to play the fear card. The Indian Constitution is too strong. Judiciary is strong. The President of India can dismiss any government. Rather I feel more powers must be vested in President’s office. A popular government can be put on well-check list then."  
The question put to me was: Is India witnessing now what Germany witnessed in early 1930s, the euphoria for Nazis and other fascist forces? What are the signs that our country is not heading that way?
But this was almost a year ago. 

PM Modi is today under attack for "not acting enough" against Hindutva hardliners. But more importantly, will he act ever as
he himself has been a great disciple of Hindutva's hardliner politics. 
Prime Minister Modi's supposed honeymoon period with Indian voters is over. He thus finds himself in a cobweb of Land Bill, Ghar Wapsi, growing attacks on churches and much importantly, the impatience of his voters to deliver.
Modi watchers know privately he used to admire Lee immensely. Lee's timely and apt advise for the Indian Prime Minister at this juncture would perhaps have been: "Never Fear". A supposed PM with 56-inch chest must adhere to these words and focus on his

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