On May 16, it will become clear which party will form the next government. The question is whether the coalition that comes to power, be it the United Progressive Alliance, the National Democratic Alliance, the almost extinct Third Front, the Federal Front or any other combination, would have the capacity of institutionalizing transparent governance. The concern is genuine, given the trajectory of the political discourse. People at large are yet to make out the essence of the democratic system — one of the many causes of disenchantment towards politics.
In his book, Revolution from Above, the sociologist, Dipankar Gupta, said that his idea of democracy changed on a visit to Basque Country in Spain. The visit made him realize that a good democrat is one who has his own vision. Gupta argues that changes take place not because of popular pressure from below but because of elite intervention.
If anything is missing in India, it is national leadership. The political classes have for long succeeded in convincing a large section of the people that they are the be-all and end-all, and the results are all too evident. The notion started changing as the anti-corruption movement gained momentum. Institutions such as civil society, the judiciary, a segment of the bureaucracy, the media and the CAG also played a significant role in changing the notion that the mighty political class is infallible.
People are realizing that there is something fundamentally wrong about the way politics is conducted in India. People now know that a neoliberal economy has not led to an inclusive society or guaranteed wealth for many. We are unlikely to recover from the wounds inflicted by successive governments for their narrow political imagination. The nation is paying a heavy price for malgovernance and corruption.
Till 1700 AD, India held the highest share in the world’s GDP surpassing West Europe, the United States of America and China. This despite the fact that India never conquered or colonized other nations. Instead, it had been the target of numerous invasions and economic exploitation. Yet, it was able to sustain its global material supremacy. India has enough food to feed everyone as well as the technology and the resources to meet obstacles. Why is it then that a large number of Indians barely manage to eke out an existence? More than half of India’s population is under the age of 25. Over 65 per cent is below the age of 35. Yet there has been little thrust on job creation. The time is ripe for political parties to weed out the economic, social and cultural ills plaguing India. In the run-up to the elections, the prevailing crisis presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to find new ways of dealing with problems.
Conventional wisdom states that a coalition government hinders policy reform. Given the scale of the crisis, it is felt that politico-developmental leadership is crucial. The primary task of a politico-developmental leadership is to persuade allies to share a common vision and programme in the national interest. Political leadership in the mould of a developmental agenda should dismantle resistance within alliance and outside the alliance based on sincere intentions. Politico-developmental leadership also entails confronting intractable issues authoritatively.
For India to move forward, the new government must regain the people’s trust by bringing to an end populism, corruption, the exploitation of resources and the abuse of power. Public institutions must be strengthened to uplift the people, to reinvigorate the economy, establish the rule of law and preserve the ecology. Only then would the people see the light of a distant dawn.