My mother used to describe some of the Indian Independence movement scenes she witnessed as a child. Scenes where women would remove the jewellery on their persons and throw it into collection trucks. Even then, when I heard my mother tell it, I would get a lump in my throat at the thought that people could be so united and give their all to their country. But today, for the first time in my own life, a politician by the name of Narendra Modi made me cry.
He made me cry because for the first time today, I witnessed a day in Indian politics – correction, I should say the governance of India – when the country was being placed ahead of everything else! The vision for India; the love for our motherland shone bright and clear. If the Swachh Bharat campaign succeeds, October 2, 2014 will go down in history as the day when Indians everywhere came together to turn around the fortunes of their country! For themselves and as a tribute to the Father of the Nation, Mahatama Gandhi.
The Swachh Bharat campaign has been brilliantly conceived. The gains to be had from a clean India are self-evident and Narendra Modi articulated all of them, including the actual losses and opportunity costs caused by sick days. But, to my mind, the brilliance of the campaign lies elsewhere.
And that is, in its strategy, which is clearly designed to bring Indians across walks of life and geographies together to focus on a single goal. That of a clean India.
The strategy is brilliant because it is conceived to get every single Indian to commit and own the vision.
The strategy is brilliant because it is based on a simple insight. And that is, India can only progress by harnessing the power of its 1.2 billion people. To harness that power, it is important to tap into the deep well of emotion in every Indian and bring it to the fore for a good cause.
What better way to do that than get 1.2 billion people to commit to a India they can be proud of? That they want to be proud of? Many causes could have been found for this. But I imagine the need to clean up India and get our act together thereby was chosen because the results would be more visible. It would be a tangible result; one which every Indian could point to and say, ‘We did that.”
Yes, we were proud as a peacock the day Mangalyaan was successful. We were proud. But the fact is that kind of achievement is beyond the reach of most Indians. Cleanliness, on the other hand, is a movement that every Indian can play a part in and own as their’s.
Swachh Bharat is also a brilliant campaign because it chose Mahatama Gandhi as its icon. What better way to remind a class-ridden society that no job is beneath anyone’s dignity? After all, Mahatama Gandhi picked up a broom every day of his life.
By the way, I wonder how much a Swachh Bharat will contribute to the proposed promotion of tourism? A great deal I would imagine! Not to mention, India’s image in the worldwide media.
Take away the one big cause for western condescension. Brilliant!
On a lighter note, I wonder how many times Narendra Modi watched Lage Raho Munnabhai? Rajkumar Hirani must be proud too today. Because it certainly seemed like at least a part of the Swachh Bharat campaign was inspired by the film.
There was another reason that Narendra Modi made me cry today. He made me cry because for the first time, I witnessed a politician talk about the principles of two great world leaders, Mahatama Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. None of the usual hypocritical tributes. Instead, an emotional appeal to the public to follow the principles of true greatness and work with the government to realise India’s and thereby their own personal dreams.
And oh, I don’t think I was the only one crying today. I saw Aamir Khan wipe away tears in Narendra Modi’s audience as well.
Good tears those. Jai Hind!
Featured Image Credit: India – A Multitude of People and Cultures (Mosaic). Image by Dinesh Cyanam (Flickr.com under Creative Commons license)