The prime minister and his entourage have flown off yet again to heaven knows where, having released a statement on fresh FIRs in the ongoing drama around the coal scam. One is losing track of the details of his never-ending trips, which must be tiring at his ripe old age, while his party is grappling with a new political reality. The country seems to be at a crossroads where the past is behind it as new ideologies and aspirations dominate the psyche. A large chunk of voters will exercise their franchise for the first time in the forthcoming elections and no one knows their leanings, proclivities or political positions. They could throw every forecast off balance in a dramatic way because even marginal swings in first-to-the-post can tip the scales substantively. The sense is that India is looking for change, a radical change in leadership.
The prime minister’s men in Delhi seem to be unable to control the rogue unravelling of half-truths and unverified ‘facts’, which are assaulting individuals and companies, ruining reputations and subjecting people to the dreadful sentence, ‘you are deemed guilty till you prove your innocence’. It is untenable for investigating agencies to distort good legal practice. Anarchy in governance has shamed India. No top leader addresses the people to reassure them and explain the socio-economic and political churning. Spokespeople for the government are unconvincing. Opposition parties are in confrontation with the Congress, seeing a strong possibility of turning the tide in their favour.
In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party claims it will form government with Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister. It will begin its rule by holding its first assembly at Ramlila Maidan instead of in the legislative building. The rhetoric comes across as rather cavalier, adolescent and brash.
Chances are that in this particular instance, it is more hype than the reality on the ground. Delhi is far ahead of the other Indian cities. When compared with Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Indore, one realizes how fortunate Delhi is. Will the city vote for the untested, self-proclaimed ‘lokpal’?
Will Delhi be an exception, and bring Sheila Dikshit back for a fourth term because of what she has done for the city? There is remarkable infrastructure development, with roads, connecting flyovers and highways, the Metro, and a huge improvement in the supply of electricity. The chief minister connects with the city and delivers for the city. She has been the face of a changing Delhi. India too has changed. Henceforth, there will be firm demands about the basics of civil society and safe living from the fast-growing middle class. Indians have had enough of exploitation by the ruling classes. India is looking for probity in the public domain.
No one knows how India will vote this time. It is all very fluid. In rural India, the new voter wants to move on from doing what his father and grandfather did. The mindset is already that of an urban voter as they look ahead, wanting to join the mainstream. It is suicide to ignore middle-class India and the many layers within this stratum. The Congress triggered the burgeoning of that class, but is not addressing it or ensuring that it remains the backbone of the party’s support base.
Surely, the Congress can reach out to both Bharat and India. The Opposition, however, is creating a huge buzz across middle-class India with Narendra Modi speaking to all. The youth in rural India too are excited by that buzz, looking to the new leader as a possible messiah who will pull them out of the status quo. The Congress seems unable to counter the wind that may well become a storm if India votes in a way that disables the party.