Politics was once taboo for Indian middle class, but it is a new taste now. Those who had ridiculed politics and politicians in private parlance, have started seeking opportunities in it. For a growing democratic process, this shift is a step forward. In all societies, the middle class aspirations have always dominated in the political horizon.
In India, according to Eric D Deinhoker (McKinsey Quarterly), middle class will bulge to 40 per cent within a few years. The traditional Indian political parties can’t take this growing class for granted anymore. This non-poor phenomenon is of course the product of economic growth we have witnessed in the last two decades. But economic reforms were not followed by the essential administrative reforms. It was the root cause of growing discontent among this ‘enlightened’ new class. Incidents of corruption and rape became fuel for the burning sentiments in the cities. The failure of the government to contain it and the inert behaviour of the political leadership gave way to new political formations like the Aam Aadmi Party.
New technologies have always played a pivotal role to usher in new political changes. Metallurgy, gunpowder, printing techniques and electronic amplifiers have done tremendous upheavals in history. Now the digital technology is demanding its toll. The digital age politics can’t be the same as it was. In Iran, South Korea, Egypt and other nations in the Arab world, digital networks could shake the foundations of authoritarian regimes in different ways. In India too, digital network systems have provided voice to citizens. The democratic rights already existing in India smoothens this process. The softness of the state in Delhi towards the anti-corruption movement was a clear sign of it.
The neo-religious networks which cater to the emerging spiritual necessities of the new class became the new platform for this political drama. The high-aspiration societies always meet with high level of insecurity and anxiety. The new spiritual formations are the products of this psychology. Digital age gurus like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ramdev could mobilise millions within a short span of time. It was a test dose for their capacity to pull crowd even to the strategic centres for a non-spiritual political action. It has to be kept in mind that across the country, these networks can supply any number of people by a ‘right’ trigger of political issues.
The newly emerging political formations have not yet pronounced anything about the cardinal postulates of our Constitution. They have not made it clear about the concept of reservations against which Arvind Kejriwal, in his earlier incarnation, fought in the IIT reservation case. He has of course addressed the livelihood issues of slum-dwellers in Delhi among whom the majority is drawn from the socially marginalised sections. But on the national scene, the cast of poverty cannot be ignored. Traditional political parties too can’t claim much in resolving the issue of caste-ridden poverty in rural India.
Political parties have to learn a lot from the new political emergence in the urban India. The ‘business as usual’ politics and the management of votes through notes will not work anymore. We were failing the Constitution by political complacence. Crude communal cards were played, corruption became the order of the day, disparity between the top and bottom increased despite economic development and now India is waiting for a sensible change.
This change should lead us to a more responsible and democratic polity. If not, we may have to pay in terms of anarchy. firstname.lastname@example.org