In the first part of this piece (Dec 2012), I had written about the structural strength of India being a sovereign secular socialist republic, supported by the four pillars of legislature, executive, judiciary and media. And why this structure had the making required for long-term progress (economic and social). In this current piece, I am talking about legislature and more specifically, the nature of governance and politics being currently practised.
Flipping English news channels is a painful process for semi-intellectual, pseudo-secular, quasi-capitalistic (which means quasi-socialistic also – half empty) people like me. Whenever I am able to catch the news in between advertisements (I seem to have a knack of having to watch 25 mins of ads for every 5 mins of news), there is a bit of despair and disappointment at the state of affairs of the country, primarily the polity, which then spills over to the economy too. However, today, I saw a piece of statistic which restored some of my confidence back in India and its future.
One of the reasons of despair for me was the coalition nature of governments that we have had to bear for past many years, which according to me, was like a train with one main engine and a few smaller engines in between some coaches – smaller engines pulling the train according to their power and directions of choice. Sometimes, the main engine managed to pull all coaches and smaller engines behind it. Sometimes one of the smaller engines exhibited enough power for even the main engine to sulk and finally go with the smaller engine for some distance. Obviously, such a train does not make much progress and has a real risk of getting de-railed at the smallest disagreement between the multiple engines.
The statistic which I saw today was that Congress + BJP together had 55% of all votes in 1996, and this number has fallen steadily to 48% in 2009 elections (29% Congress, BJP 19%). So, never in the past 16 years have we had a government where the non-national parties have held less than 45% of the votes, currently at 52%. Still, during this time of “alliance-led governance”, we have had
- a golden period of economic growth,
- two equity market bull runs,
- a wonderful era of Indian cricket and
- a resurgence of meaningful cinema.
- We have also had a reverse brain drain of returning NRIs,
- solid businesses like Airtel, Infosys, TCS, HDFC Bank, M&M being built and
- one of the most liberal eras of literature (Shobha De, Chetan Bhagat, Salman Rushdie, Amish T) and
- art (check the number of plays in Mumbai through the year).
- We have possibly pulled out a 100mn people out of poverty (shall confirm this number in some other piece) in this period.
Looks like with the lack of solid leadership within the two main parties, we will see regional parties continuing their stranglehold over the voters, and the country going possibly slower than its “full potential”. But with what we have seen in the recent past, the direction and quality of this growth will continue to remain solid, thanks to the various inputs from various corners of the country having been baked into the programs. Our programs will be truly inclusive and so will be the growth. At some time, some Prime Minister (possibly Nitish Kumar or Narendra Modi or P Chidambaram / Sachin Pilot) will get some free run to invest in infrastructure (which has got a 15-year payback for votes), and at some other time, complete the economic reforms process.
What is important for elites and intellectuals is to hang in there, and not give up hope. The way our society and polity is progressing, we will all be required to weigh in with our views and opinions in law-making. Sometimes we will have to push our point through tough means (Janlokpal, Security for women), sometimes our views will be included on its own (RTI, RTE). Media has given us enough opportunity to air our views (TV, Internet), and if our views are in the majority, they will be heard. We just need to dig in our heels and remain dedicated to the cause of nation-building. Let’s not give up yet !