Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The changing landscape of Indian Politics

Bihar came as a freshening change in Indian politics. A state which became the hallmark of criminalization of politics, voted for development. However, it's not a fresh start on the landscape of Indian politics. The undercurrent of this change has been very strong for last couple of years. Be it the Modi of Gujrat or Raman Singh of Chattishgarh or for that matter the non Marxist approach adopted by Bengal in recent times. The individual in the street is very clear, they want development which helps in raising there life standard. It's a milestone towards Indian democracy getting matured.

Why this change happened? To understand that we will have to rewind the history and go back to when we got Independence. Nehru adopted the social structure, for the future of India. It was a logical decision at that point of time. We had Queen's government, which was fiercely focused on making English people rich. So we wanted to replace that government with a government, which will work for Indian people. When we got independence, the natural logical step was to put a government, which will do every damn thing in the world possible and distribute the booty to the people of India in terms of subsidies, education, health, food and whatever possible. The citizens don't have to work. The government got into everything right from making steels, running banks and even making condoms. The idea was great but unfortunately defies the basic economics of marginal utility and innovation which comes out from competitiveness. Because of marginal utility, there was no incentive to work for government employees and hence we have a culture of doing zero work. There was only one competitor and that was government itself. The only way to get richer is by becoming cosy to power of centers, which is government. Everyone wanted to be in government. The only good jobs available was in the bylanes of Government offices. And what a job it was. There was little incentive to work or as a corollary there was no punitive action for no work. You do 0 unit or 100 unit, the pay and growth is same for everyone.And a pension after you retire. It was a joke to call them as government servants. They treated everyone in the street as a servant. The industrious once, do resist it for a while, but the reality of life soon set into them. The only lucrative thing to do in India was to be in government as an employee or as a politician.

There are two important undercurrents, which were part of Indian culture from time immemorial. We need to understand them, before going further in understanding the Indian social and cultural landscape. The first one is the cast system. The hierarchy system does exist in every part of the world but the lines are thicker and clearer in Indian society. It started as a means to protect the employability of future generations, but took weird shapes with time. The king's generations wanted to remain king and so on. And the stronger forced the so called lower cast weaker people to remain on the menial jobs. The other important undercurrent which used to run is a hate towards work for profit motive. The religious sentiments regarding earning was considered so awful that price was considered a function of cost and not a function of demand. Majority of people never considered venturing into business by understanding the concept of demand and supply. It was more of a function of earning livelihood. If I make it for so much amount, let me get so much amount so that I can run my home. The concept of demand and supply was understood by the business community in terms of marwaris and baniyas. They never let that concept seep through, by ensuring that money matters are handled only by the people of their community. Based on the understanding of these two concepts, we will dwell further to understand the nature of evolution of Indian politics and cultural system.

Post independence, it soon became clear to the mass that the growth lies in the bylans of government offices. It was but natural, to be closer to those power centers. The best way to get hold of the situation is to have a control over the political posts. Though we have a clean separation in constitution about executive, legislative and judiciary, it's the legislative which usually have the last laugh. So it was important to control the legislature.

The legislature is elected by people and for that one has to come up with an agenda which appeals to the mass. What appeals to the mass, at any point in history is a guarantee for employability which can take care of their sustenance. There was no motive to be entrepreneur partly because of a despise for profit motives and because it was just plain difficult to do business in India. So the mass appeal for the masses was to ensure a job, which was only available in the governments. India has always been a closed knit society at the level of castes. And it was but natural for that to evolve as a political platform for the leaders. You give me vote, I will give you jobs in government offices. You give me vote, I will give the contract for roads, pipelines and whatever government does. And government used to do everything.

Law of economics has to prevail come what may. The inefficiency cannot exist in the system for long. The government started getting into huge deficits and country was inching towards bankruptcy. And in one master stroke Dr. Manmohan Singh opened the economy for foreign investments. Even the internal systems were overhauled, so that doing business became easier. And there was an IT boom, perfect for English speaking, maths savvy low cost Indians. The world started changing.

The two neighbors realized the difference. In one house, dedicated to local political leadership, who promises them a job in government department and even gets one as clerk. The other neighbor, one kid because of good in studies, lands up a job in San francisco. Soon a Maruti 800 stands in front of other neighbor's house. The first neighbor starts realizing the need of good education and overall good development. On closer look, he realizes that the local leader that they support is in fact a criminal in disguise. Though he provided the job to them, the personal wealth that he has amassed is beyond comprehension. The kids ideals started changing from the local leaders to the kid in the neighbour who in his once in two years vacation, flashes all the latest techie gizmos. Another silent revolution, happening at that time was in the media. Various number of channels, started streaming into the remote towns and cities, which exposed the people to the latest in the world. A feeling started setting in that the politicians have only benefited themselves and has provided the morsels to all others.

The world was not limited to getting jobs in USA. Indians started shining in the area of entrepreneurship also. Sabeer Bhatia sold Hotmail at millions of dollars to Bill Gates. Infosys became a hallmark of local entrepreneurship. There was bigger and better opportunities outside of governmental offices. The newspaper headlines were replaced with Murthy, Ambani, Premji, Tata and so on and so forth. And it started seeping into the lowest level of society.

Media has shaped the thinking of society for long. It's also a hidden truth, than media has been managed most of the times in history. News are made to facilitate the powerful. Internet changed the shape of media. Everyone became a journalist. People spend more time in facbook than in the news portals. Paper still comes in morning but more because of habit than for anything else. It's still difficult for my generation to get rid of that habit. For newer kids in the block, Internet is their medium. They are there own journalist. Everyone can take about nuclear disarmament and make a wider circle to listen to them. Everyone wants to grow and be rich.

The leaders started getting recognized because of their deeds. In the older days, we used to say that someone is a good leader because he can make good speeches.

And that' where the cusp of change lies.

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