A heart warming editorial in the Indian Express
Prime Minister Vajpayee spells out a large idea. He must stay the course
In the run-up to a crucial round of assembly polls and with the next general elections already looming on the horizon, it's an uncertain time for the nation. In this tentative moment, the prime minister has sent out some reassuring signals. Be it what he has said on Gujarat or his views on the equation between democracy, coalition governments and economic reform, in an interview given to Britain's Financial Times, the message from 7 Race Course Road is a heartening one. It is: that the government is sensitive to the continuing need to live down last year's shame in Gujarat. It is also: that the government has charted a course for itself on economic reform which does not permit those easy digressions into alibi-hunting.
The prime ministerial assertion that justice will be done and will also be seen to be done in Gujarat is immensely comforting. It comes at a time when grave doubts persist about the Gujarat government's resolve to see that the guilty are brought to book and Narendra Modi has been drafted as the BJP's star campaigner in the assembly polls. The prime minister has also acknowledged the role played by the "public, media and judiciary" in "following it closely". Institutions and organisations of civil society have been insistently pointing out that there is a crying need for reparations in Gujarat and that acknowledging this need is the first and crucial step to moving on — one that Modi's government is still unwilling to take of its own volition. Hopefully, Prime Minister Vajpayee's assurance will be heard — and respected — by the chief minister of Gujarat. The prime minister's articulations on the policy and process of economic reform are also significant for several reasons. He has reiterated faith in democracy, with all its untidiness and delay. He has emphasised that the democratic processes of consultation and reconciliation of diverse and competing interests must mediate all durable economic reform. He has gone a fulsome step further. He has said that "our new experience of successful coalition governments" has been "ideal" for democratic governance. The prime minister's comments are a fitting answer to all those who rail loudly at "too many elections" and "too much democracy". And, of course, at that new fashionable villain, the "unstable coalition governments".
In other words, Prime Minister Vajpayee has promised that his government will not pass the buck. His government is committed to deliver justice in Gujarat and a progressive and accountable economic policy to the nation. As for elections, they come and go. The nation will hold the prime minister to his vision in all its breadth.