Sunday, October 2nd, 2022 15:26:38

Tribute To A Political Rishi

Updated: March 20, 2010 11:41 am

Following is a humble tribute from a patriotic Indian to Nanaji Deshmukh, a lifelong political activist, social worker, accomplished Parliamentarian and scholar who passed away on February 27.

            Nanaji was loved and respected by one and all, irrespective of party affiliations, for his forthright ways and sincerity. His greatness was perfectly matched by his goodness and unstinted selfless sacrifices. His life was full of struggles for the poor and the dispossessed of the Indian earth and against all forms of exploitation and tyranny, especially during the dark days of Indira Gandhis hated Emergency days.

            He was a class different from todays run-of-the-mill politicians. There was a basic philosophy in everything Nanaji did. No personal gain accrues from this philosophy… Only much vexation and pain. He never compromised on principles and considered no sacrifice too great in defending them. His cause may be lost in the bluff and bluster of todays politics.

            He believed that it was ones obligation to serve the cause of others. No personal gain accrued from this philosophy. It is the quintessence of moral behaviour. Today service is no longer supposed to be in the cause of the people. You participate in the political process because you expect one or two concrete rewards in exchange. A quid pro quo has to be there. It is a different system of ethics, if it could be called ethics at all., has surfaced. It is a system of fair rate of exchange. You must not give unless you receive in equal weightage and proportion. You are in the political game not for the heck of it nor for advancing silly abstract causes. You participate in the political process because you expect one or two concrete rewards in exchange. Yes, the era of selfless political workers has ended. It is a different setting today.

            You achieve your goals without joining the battle. There are such things as deals and stratagems; play your cards well. Play them holding close to your chest; milk and honey will flow in your direction.

            Nanaji always put emphasis on social work. And he always showed guts.He showed it in 1979 when Morarji Desais circus government collapsed. Nanaji had been an architect of the post-Emergency triumph of the Janata party. But he boldly accused the aged leaders of the party of destructive infighting, called on politicians above 60 to retire from public life and himself set an example by announcing his withdrawal from active politics. Almost a quarter century later, in a speech in the first week of April 2002, he repeated his call for post-shashtipurthi politicians to retire. This time he was bolder still. According to published reports, he did not hesitate to condemn communalism bluntly.

            Among the opinions he aired: “Aged politicians are not capable of promoting the nations interests or of solving national problems. Theirs is the politics of furthering their selfish interests by spreading animosities among the people, Todays political leadership is taking the country back to the hatreds and turmoil of the days before partition. Is the intention to cut up the country again on the basis of religion? Have we learned nothing from the tragedy of dividing India and creating Pakistan? Politicians in power today have only one aim: Protect their chairs by playing politics of divisiveness. They have neither the ability nor the will to lead the nation along proper lines. It is time for the younger generation to save the country from this crisis.”

            It was a powerful indictment made more powerful because it came from one of their own. It is not surprising that the geriatric leaders of all political parties have not paid any attention to Nanajis counsel. Power has corroded their souls.

If the political class in India has become despicable, one reason is that no qualification is required to enter this class, and no age limit obliges one to leave it. Even the principle of our nationhood has been sacrificed in the name of expediency. What is urgently required is a movement for the regeneration of our Motherland, here and now.

            Nanajis death comes at a time when as a nation we are going through dark hours of faded values and dimmed ideals. The light can neither through repeated precepts nor through rhetorics. It can come only through the examples of the inspiring lives of selfless patriots like Nanaji because “those were the real men”. Let us be worthy of of him.

            What Shakespeare wrote of an entirely different type of man seems to apply perfectly as I think of Nananji: “His life was gentle, and the elements/So mixed that Nature might stand up/And say to all the world ‘This was the man!’ “

By PN Benjamin

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