The phrase "secession of the successful" has often been used to describe the non-involvement of India's professional classes--those who are the driving forces of a globalised economy--in politics. The reasons are well known and don't need to be repeated.
This Lok Sabha election, a section of the media, has been attempting to change things by at least forcing the young, the upper middle classes and the cynical classes to at least go out and vote. The assumption is that a substantial turnout may prompt political parties to may more heed to those they had earlier brushed aside as the non-voting classes.
I spent Saturday in Bangalore (I still can't get myself to writing or saying Bengaluru) with Arun Jaitley to see a group of young enthusiasts, who work under the banner of Friends of BJP, in action. A group from Mumbai, notably Rajesh Jain and Amit Malviya, had taken time off from work to help the BJP reach out to young PLUs--those who otherwise follow Barack Obama's campaign more enthusiastically than Indian politics.
The functions were also aimed to coincide with the entry into the party of R.K.Misra, the winner of last year's Lead India contest organised by Times of India. Earlier in the week, Devang Nanavati, the Ahmedabad-based advocate who was runner-up in the same contest, also joined the BJP in Gujarat. Many others haven't formally joined but feel emotionally committed to the BJP.
I see an initiative such as FOBJP in two ways. In this election season, it can play a role in bringing out the otherwise apathetic middle-class vote. The group can expose a small group of Indians to the delights of organising and interacting with other like-minded individuals. FOBJP, I feel, is not merely aimed at the young. It must target all those who feel for India but shy away from politics.
There is a second, post-election dimension to the FOBJP. If the initiative dies at the end of the campaign, only to be resurrected the next time a Lok Sabha is elected, it would be a lot of wasted energy.
I believe FOBJP should become a permanent forum for all those who see themselves as BJP voters. They should act as a permanent watchdog/pressure group to ensure that the party doesn't forget its supporters.
Hitherto, the party has emphasised its karyakartas, i.e. the activists. It has not demonstrated a similar willingness to either hear or explain things to those who vote for the party and identify with it.
The FOBJP must remain a ready-made forum for party. It must alert the party to possibilities, warn against stupidities and debate the issues. The constant interaction between a party and its social base will enrich democracy.
I hope some of those who are in the FOBJP take up and improve on my suggestion. Among all the political parties, the BJP is the most democratic. We must now use democracy to improve the quality of the party.