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ARTICLE: THE CROWDED INDIAN POLITICAL SPACE

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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Caution: 65% of Indian population is below 35 years of age and born after 1979. They want high performance delivered by political parties and not the usual rhetoric divide between –Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Isaai

Indian political space is currently going through a state of filthy transformation as the political space for each party in India is gradually reducing because of the increase in number of political parties. And this is only increasing the competition; and competition is always good they say, as it helps the consumer and brings out the best in the marketer, which in this case is the political party. And this mind-boggling competition is only going to intensify further, because of the literacy rate of India that now stands at 74%.

And, to explain what I want to say, let us compare the current political landscape of India, with that of the erstwhile auto industry of India, and that too before the MNCs walked in. There were then three car manufacturers that used to manufacture Ambassador, Fiat and Standard brand of cars that had defined markets across India where they used to sell a defined volume per annum and go home merrily. There were stray calisthenics about competing and showing aggression in some pockets but by and large these companies had their pockets and markets as vote banks in politics from where they met their targets and were having a ball of a time, as they never spent on product up-gradation, nor research and development and it is a fact that even without that some of these cars had as many as nine lives, just because there was no competition.

In the same fashion when India got Independence there was only Congress as the major political party in India that kept all other teeny-weeny parties at bay. They were in monopoly and that was one of the reasons why development in India took a back seat, because they kept winning election after election without much of a development. And in fact I hate to say but subtle reality is that had British Empire not ruled India; India would have had a late entry to railroad and many other infrastructure projects.

Congress had many inborn political advantages, such as low literacy rate and monopoly, so until 1991 when PV Narsimha Rao became the prime minister they never thought seriously about big reforms because their vote banks were safe in the hands of Muslim, Christian, schedule caste and schedule tribe pockets-and so also rural. The voting percentages those days were very low as compared to the total population and so with even the aggregate of minority, schedule caste, schedule tribe and rural votes they could grab power and so they were having a ball of time.

Jansangh, later on BJP was always considered a party—of, for and by the Upper class Hindus and had stemmed out of the RSS. And since upper caste Hindus were always a divided lot, BJP could never come to power till the nineties at the centre. And this further helped Congress, who kept ruling the country without any big development agenda but by providing lip service and subsidies to the minorities and also by Hindu bashing.

THE POLITICAL SPACE IN 80-90s

When the multinationals in the auto industry arrived in the nineties, even Indian auto companies improved in quality, new launches, CRM, customer interface and after-sales-service; and so also the markets expanded exponentially. In the same manner with some new political parties entering the fray in eighties and nineties the situation on the ground changed only marginally, as Congress still had the clout but BJP had started breathing formidability. But even with all this politicians of major parties were having a good time.

THE CURRENT POLITICAL SPACE IN INDIA

In the context of politics the MNCs of politics are the new political parties that are gaining grounds in India, thereby increasing competition in the plinth of the Indian political space. One such party at the national level is AAP which has scared BJP quite badly.

EXAMPLE OF AAM ADMI PARTY

When AAP started, political bigwigs of India felt it is just a hangover of Anna movement and it will die down but they finally won Delhi quite formidably. That goes to show people were not happy with the existing political dispensation and were looking for an alternative. Today LG of Delhi and Delhi Police try to disparage AAP at the drop of hat and as much as possible under the garb of rule book as if Indian political always moved as per rule book and this is further helping AAP and exposing the dictatorial mindset of BJP.

WHAT IS PLAGUING THE EXISTING PARTIES

Let me put it as pointers:

  • Indian voter is no longer happy with lollipops. They don’t like political arrogance and are clearly looking for talent and not family scions to run India, for the model has failed. Analyse Congress Party’s debacle in the last general elections.
  • You can continue to do caste and minority based politics like the way Congress favours Muslims but this space is getting too crowded as there are other parties like SP and MQM who also favour Muslims so the strategy will have to change and parties will have to deliver big-time to survive. As Muslims and other minorities also want jobs and security. Mind you Congress has already reached a pathetic 44 by not willing to change its strategy.
  • BJP should not remain as a Hindu mascot alone and should work for Indians in India if it wants to serve long term.
  • Parties and governments should desist from entering into privacy of people by quoting some religious idiotism for the public feels the party and the government is not performing and therefore trying to divert attention—a kind of a wag the dog syndrome.
  • Personal touch of leaders will play a big role. Leaders should be approachable and not surrounded by gun toting cops. I should be able to pick up the phone and speak to hitherto arrogant MLA or MP of my area. Currently such politicians are not there but with the burgeoning Indian population and unemployment rate jumping, more youngsters are free to become netas, and mind you they won’t be those unwieldy netas who can’t work without cars, bungalows, and staff. Some trend of this nature is already seen in politicians of AAP party.
  • In times to come political parties will have to move away from political sermons, to service providers role as 65% of your population is below 35 years of age who is not too much interested in your sermons but wants service, as the world has moved towards consumerism.
  • Like the present day auto industry most political parties need to have consumer centres—professionally managed where voters can visit/call/e-mail and lodge their protests.
  • Indian voter has matured and they look for talent and not family run shops.
  • There is need to run political establishments in India in a much more professional and transparent manner, with RTI, transparent accounting system just like large corporations. And, also they will have to perform and cover the nation in a much more professional way which will require a much more talented and professional team. And the party that starts first will get the early bird advantage. Enormous youth power is available for political deliverance in the country. And it will have to be cadre based. Something like RSS—but without religious linkages. And I soon see a great role for Management consultants to enter the political arena in converting political parties into political corporations that run the country. Defence of country from external forces and foreign policies will have to be dealt in special manner.
  • Voting in India should be allowed electronically and even by post for the masses to vote in large numbers and also to stop ballot-cheating as this will improve the variety of politicians.

MEDIA’S ROLE

  • Whosoever comes on a TV screen considers himself as a hero. So stop making heroes of radical leaders of any community. Instead focus on ordinary citizens who are doing great jobs for the country. This should be done across board and not by a particular TV channel to balance TRP ratings

INDIAN PUBLIC

  • Muslims and Christians often criticise BJP to be a Hindu party. If that is the case more Muslims and Christians should ask for membership of this party to tilt the balance, after all at the end of the day BJP is only an Indian political party—so catch the bull by its horns. And in the same manner if Hindus feel Samajwadi party or Congress are pro minority, more Hindus should join this party to tilt the balance and once this happens the agenda of political parties will move from religious and caste polarization to hard core performance and development.

The whole gamut looks difficult and impossible, but I guess the world carries on, only with the difficult and impossible as the easy is only left behind.

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#CPM-SITARAM #YECHURY’S LIFETIME CHANCE TO MAKE A MARK

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

Sitaram Yechury’s elevation as CPM’s General Secretary.

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There is enough space for even fifty more political parties to enter the political arena of India, provided they are different. Today, most voters, if you were to ask them individually may not be quite happy with the existing political set ups because of their huge ideological and integrity deficit. And, this was one of the main reasons why AAP was seen as a game changer that came with the cult of Mohalla sabhas and volunteer style of canvassing. The ideologue was so very powerful and had the potential of swallowing, every other family run political party barring BJP. And, AAP also came with an eye-catching tag of acting as a party that was opposed to VVIP culture, and these promises coupled with the halo of Anna Hazare and the much relevant ‘India against corruption’ agitation, appealed immensely to the tired and helpless Indian population. There was a great amount of cheer and hope that AAP had brought along; and seeing this the traditional and family owned parties were overawed by their fast track success. But they too behaved like any other political party and after attaining 67 out of 70 seats they renounced austerity, imbibed VVIP culture and started street fights for petty political gains. Today, Arvind Kejriwal is seen no less than a dictator and a great stickler for power, position and perks. And, so once again the voters of India and more so of Delhi felt cheated and stabbed.

BJP too was seen as a messiah after the scam ridden UPA rule; when the voters thought it will bring, the much awaited “Acchey Din” but sad to say it still remains a distant dream as nothing has changed on the ground. And, they too came with huge promises of doing away with VVIP culture but ventured into doing just the opposite, which one can see on TV day in and day out. Their courtship with PDP just to acquire power with a pro-Pakistani Government has confused the voters beyond compare. And, their somersaulting over land acquisition ordnance is not understood by many Indians.

Congress on the other hand is riddled with financial and social scams, where it did not even leave Subhash Chandra Bose over his mysterious disappearance. Other regional parties run by families have their own personal agendas of filling their coffers and looking after only a section of the society. And, with all of this what else can the Election Commission do, than scratching its head off and on.

So, under the circumstances one feels CPM through Sitaram Yechury can revive the Party in a big way only if it can be a party with a difference. For let us understand no ideology is old and irrelevant for it recycles and comes back.  India is known for old wine in new bottle and we alone had a car with nine lives- Ambassdor, on the Indian roads even today. What is out of fashion today, will be the fashion tomorrow. And, let’s not forget the rich and mighty of India, once again have started behaving in a irresponsible manner and so a balancing factor is very much required.

So best of luck to Mr Sitaram Yechury and tweak your party to the aspirations of the emerging youth-force of India.

IS LITERACY RATE OF INDIA BEGINNING TO DRIVE INDIAN POLITICS?

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    The working definition of literacy in the Indian census since 1991 is as follows: Literacy rate: The total percentage of the population of an area at a particular time aged seven years or above who can read and write with understanding. Here the denominator is the population aged seven years or more.

    At the time of independence in 1947. India had a population of approximately 390 million. This got divided as follows after partition: 330 million people remained in India, 30 million in remained in West Pakistan and another 30 million in East Pakistan.

    The literacy rate of independent India in 1947 was 12%. By around 1950-1951 it had increased to around 18.33% with a population of 35 crore as you can see in the (literacy and population) table below. As compared to 1947 the current average literacy rate of India as per 2011 census, is 74% when the world average is 84%. Of the big states of India some laggard states are below 8% and some above by 20% as compared to the national average of 74%.

LITERACY RATE OF INDIA POPULATION
YEAR PERSON MALE FEMALE YEAR CRORE
1951 18.33 27.16 8.86 1950 35
1961 20.3 40.4 15.35 1960 43
1971 34.45 45.96 21.97 1970 54
1981 43.57 56.38 29.76 1980 69
1991 52.21 64.13 39.29 1990 83
2001 64.83 75.26 63.67 2000 101
2011 74.04 82.14 65.46 2000 117
        2015 124

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    In the early stages of independent India. Nothing else mattered than the sweet hangover of the freedom struggle and the newly formed Bharat Mata. That wheeled Pandit Nehru to rule for almost 17 years, as the longest serving Prime Minister (15.8.47 to May 1964). During his tenure the literacy rate rose from 12% to around 25%. The major event that shook India then was the Chinese aggression in the year 1962.

    India was an unquestioning country then. Just rising from the dust of the long colonial rule. And during that period, there was little or no political resistance to the Indian National Congress. That had spearheaded the freedom movement, and most iconic political leaders that mattered then were from this party.

    After Pandit Nehru expired post India-China aggression in 1964 the vacancy was filled in by another firebrand Congress leader Lal Bahadur Shastri. Who, served the country only for around 19 months and expired in Tashkent, part of the erstwhile USSR and today’s Uzbekistan.

    After Shastri’s sad demise. The mantel was adorned by Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi. Who, ruled for eleven years from 1966-1977. The three major events during her tenure, happened to be the liberation of East Pakistan and creation of Bangla Desh in 1971 followed by a full blown battle with Pakistan in the same year and declaration of emergency for the third time in India, and this time for internal reasons. Indira Gandhi started at an average literacy rate of around 32% in 1966 but in 1977 when Congress lost, the literacy rate had crept up to around 40%. It was for the first time Congress had gone out of power since independence. And in a manner it took literacy rate to jump by 28% (12% to 40%) to throw out a long standing ruling party at the centre. This goes to prove that literacy rate one way or the other increases the political appetite of the citizenry.

    In the Indian scenario increase in literacy rate has made voters change their minds. That has demanded for a dispensation of a different nature to govern the country. Indira Gandhi had imposed ‘emergency’ in the year 1975 when the average literacy rate was around 40%. This made her lose the general elections and gave entry to the first non-Congress government headed by Morarji Desai in 1977.

    When the average literacy rate of India was around 30%. India could see. In some states, certain state and regional parties gaining ground such as the Dravidian parties that have dominated since 1967. DMK routed Congress in 1967 and in 1972 MGR split DMK into AIDMK. Such incidents clearly dawned an era of new politics.

    Some states of India, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu have always been ahead of the average Indian literacy rate. In the 2011 census as against the average literacy rate of 74%, Kerala was at 94, Tamilnadu at 80%, Maharastra at 82% and the big laggard states were Bihar at 62%, Jharkhand 66%, AP 67% Rajasthan 66% and UP 68%

    Bihar witnessed JP movement when the literary rate was between 35-40% and Lalu became the Chief Minister of Bihar in 1984 when the literary rate of Bihar was > 45%. In U.P. Mulayam Singh became the chief minister in 1991 and Mayawati in 1995 when the state literacy rate had crossed 45%. Signalling, the thinking minds wanted a change from two national parties, Congress and the BJP. In West Bengal too Congress ruled till 1977 but when the Bengal literacy rate rose to around 40% it was taken over by the Communist rule. And when literacy rate went passed 52% the voters even rejected Communist Party that was getting irrelevant and pulled out Trinamul Congress from the stable of Congress.

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    The literacy rate map below shows how certain states maintain their lead in literacy rates. Where, one would find a distinct differentiation within the political set ups of states such as Kerala and Maharastra with that of Bihar and Jharkhand.

2011_Census_India_literacy_distribution_map_by_states_and_union_territories.svg

INDIA WHEN ABOVE 64% AVERAGE LITERACY RATE

    India decided to open up when the literacy rate had gone past 52% in the year 1991 when wide spread reforms were announced. And, as the literacy rate went up, ethics in politics came down. Perhaps, thinking minds made politics much more competitive- resting on the theory of ‘survival of the fittest.’

    Beyond 2001 when the average literacy rate had just crossed 64%. India saw a sea change in terms of, all the four estates. To begin with the first estate (clergy) now tampers with politics without fear. Second estate (Bureaucracy) has become irresponsible, subservient, corrupt and even callous towards the general public. Third estate (Commoners) is perennially pained but have become more knowledgeable and demanding. And the fourth estate (Press and Media) have become all powerful. Yet they remain the saving grace of modern India

INDIAN POLITICS AT 74% LITERACY RATE

    At 74%, politics of India doesn’t remain the same and is deluged by the heft of thinking minds. For in the recent past it attracted grandstanding of agitations, like ‘India against Corruption’ where revered activist like Anna Hazare had to take the centre stage.

    Besides, even the mind space of an Indian voter has got more and more complex. Because of which we could see for the first time. A political leader of the stature of Narendra Modi, to create space in voters mind traveled 3 lac km across 25 states, addressed 473 big public rallies with 5827 public interfaces, including Chai pe charcha and 3D broadcasts. More so. BJP fought more under the banner of Narendra Modi than BJP, like presidential election. In Delhi elections we saw AAP party following the new ‘volunteer’ cult to create tailor made space in voter’s mind that wiped out BJP and Congress. In J&K also it was a star struck and out-of-the-box variety of a political campaign. It was an expensive opportunity that forced BJP to abandon relevant political-IZMS just to form the government.

    As we move towards 100% literacy. The route to State Assembly and Parliament will become more and more arduous. Political Parties will have to change their tone and tenor to address 100% literacy in all their political communication and behaviour. Where, corruption, scams and VVIPSM will have no place. What will simply matter is performance. This indeed will effect hoodwinkers under the garb of individual politicians.

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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