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Indian middle class is reawakening

 | January 4, 2014

The Common Man's Party surprised the nation by winning a large number of seats in the Delhi Assembly seats.

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A ray of hope in what can be termed as a decade of darkness, when India had sunk into a quagmire of scams and scandals, has now apparently emerged. That ray is Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (The Common Man’s Party), which surprised the country by winning a considerable number of seats in the recent Delhi Assembly elections.

The victory also proved that elections can be fought without money power as the party did; also it did not contest on the basis or caste or religion, a feature common with many political organisations.

The Aam Aadmi Party has managed to deliver a couple of its electoral pledges soon after assuming office. It has begun to supply free drinking water, up to a certain quantity, to Delhi residents, and has provided electricity at a concessional rate for those who consume up to a specified number of units. These are clearly earmarked for those whose are not well off.

All this has, of course, caught the imagination of the nation. Huge donations are pouring in and volunteers queuing up to join the party.  A senior member of one of India’s leading IT company, Infosys in Bangalore, who could have become the CEO, quit his position to join the party.  In Mumbai, banker Meera Sanyal, the Harvard Business School-educated head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, has also joined the party. So has Adarsh Shastri, grandson of former Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who headed Apple’s western India sales operations.

More importantly, the rise of Kejriwal and his party (as also that of Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the national arena; he is the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the coming federal elections) implies a reawakening of the middle class. In Delhi, the voter turnout was the highest in a long time.

In recent months, there has been a significant participation of the middle class in social and political issues: we saw this in December 2012, when a young woman was raped and killed in Delhi. There was a massive public outrage, spearheaded by the middle class. And it is this class which has been instrumental in giving Kejriwal his mandate.

And as a Firstpost commentator said: The “power of the middle class now counts in politics as never before. As any political scientist will tell you, few ideas for change can take off without the active involvement of the middle class. The freedom movement in India got broadbased when the pre-independence middle classes united under Gandhi. The Left movement took off with them at the helm – but never grew much clout outside Kerala and West Bengal. The Naxal and Maoist movements draw their intellectual sustenance from the same class. The anti-foreigner upsurge in Assam, the Telugu pride movement under NT Rama Rao, and the Khalistan militancy in Punjab in the 1980s were all driven by the middle class”.

Obviously, India’s middle class has now woken up after years of inertia. Provoked and angered by the ruling elite’s corrupt administrative practices, it has now begun to take steps to right many of the wrongs – giving a hard time to all those politicians who took the country for a ride. The first of these measures is to take the electoral process seriously. The most important of these is to cast the ballot. Which men and women in Delhi did with gusto.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]


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