Indira Gandhi is reported to have remarked to a friend that her stint in office after returning to power in 1980 was made difficult by her lack of support among the intelligentsia. Indira Gandhi was not an intellectual herself, and hence not given to making extravagant comments for effect, as intellectuals often do; she obviously meant what she said. But then why should lack of support among the intelligentsia matter to her? Those in political power are surrounded by officers belonging to the Indian Administrative Service and other such services, who, in a certain sense, belong to the intelligentsia and who advise them as a matter of course. She obviously did not miss their support. So what is it that she missed that, by her own admission, made life difficult for her in the post-1980 period?
The answer one ventures to suggest is that quite apart from the “advisory” or “expert” role of the intelligentsia, which bureaucrats are perfectly capable of fulfilling, there is another role, and that is to influence the public mind regarding those in power. Indira Gandhi was perhaps alluding to this role when she complained that her lack of support among the intelligentsia (outside of the bureaucracy), because of the memory of the Emergency, made life difficult for her in office. Despite her having won the election, her image among the people remained tinged with suspicion because of the barely-concealed hostility of the intelligentsia. In other words, it is not enough to win elections; one must additionally have the trust of the people. And in winning this trust, the support of the intelligentsia is of great importance.
A very thoughtful piece and a must-read.