No Gandhi for Egypt
Unfortunately, the focus of the revolution remained confined to dislodging the ruling elites and the essential aspect of strengthening the plinth of democracy went ignored. The Egyptians are gradually realizing that they indeed lacked a leader of Mahatma Gandhi’s stature who knew how exactly to handle a mob revolution and harness its potential in achieving the desired goals. Gandhi’s proven skill of channelizing popular energy, strategizing mass movement and negotiating on behalf of the mobilized citizens was instrumental in altering the fate of a subordinated India. Neither the liberals nor Islamists, spearheading the revolt made any notable contribution to strengthening and guidance of the mass upsurge to ensure a consolidated civilian control over Egypt’s institutions and usher a flourishing multiparty democracy. Democracy is after all one vital piece of the Egyptian puzzle and the realistic possibility of the nation degenerating into an unfettered mobocracy without a bold constitution, independent judiciary, free media and rule of law has never captured the imagination of activists who have invested tremendous effort into the revolution.
Therefore it is no surprise that the promise of the Arab Spring failed to realize fully, as rightly pointed out by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Politicians of all hue should be held responsible for the abject failure in fixating an acceptable replacement model in post-Mubarak Egypt. It is a pity that after unbalancing the country’s old administrative status quo, they ended up exacerbating the fissures that existed at the political and societal levels — in a way bolstering the argument that years of political and economic stagnation under an autocratic regime has virtually rendered the country completely ill-equipped to build afresh a new transparent system of governance and vibrant civil society.
There is not an iota of doubt that political exclusion has been the principal cause of Egypt’s current state of misery. Ousted President Muhammad Mursi’s ill-conceived policies should be blamed for the current crisis in Egypt. He virtually rammed through a non-unanimous constitution based on a unilateral decree that made him immune to judicial review. Mursi’s clamor for monopolizing authority has pushed the real issues to the backburner thus worsening the grievances of the general public. Jobs, food, health care, dignity — these broader problems which united millions on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere somehow got lost from the radar of the ruling elites amid bitter political polarization. The liberals too are not angels as they also played a part in leading to the chaos and ignored the issues at hands. The current situation certainly reflects the general inability of the Egyptian political class to synchronize the various streams of protest into a powerful movement for achieving mass empowerment.
As fundamental political change in a country like Egypt can take decades to anchor and the nation headed for a period of uncertainty, India somehow is caught in a dilemma. The Indian foreign office is undoubtedly monitoring the developments closely given Egypt’s immeasurable strategic as well as diplomatic significance to New Delhi. Having civilizational connection with this transcontinental Arab nation for ages, perhaps it is time now for the Indian government to evolve some out-of-the-box idea for exerting a modest influence over events on the ground. True, New Delhi’s best bet Hosni Mubarak’s exit from the scene has diminished India’s leverage within the ruling class in Cairo. But keeping in mind the country’s growing economic interest in the region, it would not be a bad idea for India to cement her stake in Arab politics. In the present gloomy scenario, this is the only viable alternative to douse anger and halt the standoff that has already taken scores of precious lives. Moreover, a weakened Egypt will only add to the lawlessness in the strategically significant Sinai Peninsula, which is not in the best interest of those who manage global politics.
• Seema Sengupta is a Calcutta based journalist and columnist.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view