The scorching heat this summer is no dampener to India’s call for democracy.
||Mon, May 5 2014|
Illustration: Rajat Dey
An Enigmatic Beauty
My many Kolkata
Indians are a very fervent lot, particularly the bulging middle class. The hot topic of family discussions today around a steaming cup of ‘chai’ is evidently “Who will be the next PM?”
I live in a city touted as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’. Income levels and thought processes are supposedly on a higher platform. People are definitely looking for some ‘hopeful change’. Their succor seemed to be the nascent party claiming to be able to deliver that change if voted to power – rid the masses of dealing with corrupt ‘babus’ at all levels of governance. I too was swayed by the quiet force of Arvind Kejriwal (of the Aam Aadmi Party), but am not too sure if he can actually run a country of 1.3 billion with a botched governing experience at the most.
It’s the beginning of summer in India but that does not come as a dampener for the voting public in this huge democracy. We have a new populace of first-time voters who are quite gung-ho about exercising their rights and are also vocal about their choices.
I teach Management students at a reasonably well-known Institute in Bangalore and politics sometimes serves as a ‘tea-break’ between classes. My students are surprisingly sure that they want ‘Mr Modi’ to lead the nation into the next decade. Every young person is hopeful of a better way of life and Narendra Modis’ ‘Gujarat Development Model’ seems to have struck a chord among those seeking higher incomes rather than subsidies. Those challenging the ‘corporate-friendly model’ are also not few and far between.
The (Modi) undercurrent is also present in most Bengali households of Kolkata where I am currently stationed, enjoying the sweaty summer holidays with my family. What amuses me is the sudden change of favour among the masses against the ruling Trinamool Congrees (TMC).
‘Didi’ has definitely made or at least tried to cosmetically transform Kolkata into the proverbial ‘London’. You are greeted by wide tarred roads with neat dividers freshly painted, boasting of street lights, a.k.a. the London street lights. The only difference is the colour – ‘Blue versus Black’. This time attending a TMC rally is an opportunity to ogle at superstars, if they think it fit to step out of their air-conditioned enclosures though. And PC Sorcar from the other side of the political spectrum promises to magically rinse everything clean.
In this electoral hullaballoo, the ‘Grand Old Party of India’ seems to have lost its footing desperately trying to project a charismatic leader. Will it be Rahul or Priyanka? Of course these are ubiquitous Bollywood names but they are also the torch bearers of the nation’s first family so to say.
India’s teeming middle class, who has already had a taste of growth and higher incomes in the decade post-liberalisation, seem to have made up their minds in favour of more growth. Mr Modi’s well- orchestrated pan-India electoral campaign across all forms of media has certainly put a toned-down pro-growth BJP in the forefront this electoral season.
But the illusive Indian electorate has proved time and again that there is many a gap between the cup and the lip.
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Kajari Guha (Thursday, May 15 2014):
Rightly said!It is easier to criticise than to be correct,they say.
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