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A vacancy for a Rajguru
Institutionally or non-institutionally, can we have a mechanism of a mentor, statesman or a rajguru prescribed into the system - because the likes of Baba Ramdev appropriating the role for themselves is too horrifying.


RECENTLY, I read a blog written by Sagarika Ghosh on the CNN-IBN web site intriguingly titled “Desperately seeking 1975”. I guess, I read the blog, largely driven by the title. Was Sagarika wistfully recollecting the days of the Emergency, where along with a lot of abuse of power, some good happened? More importantly, was she contrasting the awesome power of the government along with the seemingly toothless government that run the nation today? That seemed plausible. But later on in the blog, I discovered what she was actually doing was comparing the titanic stature of the ones who led the struggle leading up to the emergency – JP and Acharya Kripalani in particular and comparing them with the figures that occupy the stage today – Anna Hazare yesterday and Baba Ramdev today.

The blog went further and looked at the leadership of the pre-independence era. The colossal figure of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by a galaxy of advisors of the stature of Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajagopalachari and others – and then look at Anna’s advisors – Arvind Kejrival, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan et al. Of course, on more than one occasion, Anna has claimed that it is unbecoming of anyone to compare him to even the shadow of the Mahatma, even though he may be wearing a Gandhi topi and adopting quasi Gandhian methods. The blog does bring out an uncomfortable truth that we need to confront with – that with the passage of time, though our democratic institutions might have survived unlike the case with most of our neighbors, but the quality of our intellectual and moral leadership has declined and neither do we have a national conscience keeper.

In ancient times, kingdoms had a Rajguru, a conscience keeper who had no political power per se, but commanded a lot of authority nonetheless. Arguably, Gandhiji, served as a Rajguru-type figure in the pre independence era – at least for those in the Congress and professing Gandhian values. Of course, he was assassinated shortly after independence and again arguably because his stature as the conscience keeper of the newly independent nation far exceeded the authority that any formal political figure wielded - be it the governor general or the Prime Minister who in themselves were giants.

After Gandhi, I don’t think the Nehru government or any other subsequent government had a conscience keeper and the results were there for all to see. Nehru’s own stature kept matters in the shadows to some extent, but not entirely and after he too died, there was no one who could match up. Indira Gandhi for a while, tried to project Acharya Vinoba Bhave in that role, but unsuccessfully as the otherwise respected Achara was a largely apolitical figure and in his later years, somewhat of a recluse, but for his connection to Gandhi. Possibly for a brief while, JP and Acharya Kripalani filled that role in the Janata Part rule, but JP who was the real kingmaker more than Kripalani fell ill and could not actively be any kind of a moral guardian.

Perhaps we could learn a lesson from Singapore and officially have a Rajguru, by whatever name called. Lee Kuan Yew, the nation’s founder was the Prime Minister ruled from 1965 to 1990. After that he stepped down, but without interfering in day to day administration, he stayed around, first as senior minister and then as minister mentor till as late as November 2011. In South Africa, although not institutionalized, Nelson Mandela fulfills a similar function. So institutionally or non-institutionally, can we have a mechanism of a mentor–statesman–rajguru prescribed into the system. Because the likes of Baba Ramdev appropriating the role for themselves is too horrifying.


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