Total Pageviews

Follow by Email

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The centre cannot hold


By Swapan Dasgupta

It is easy for historians, writing with the benefit of hindsight, to identify the roots of developments that subsequently evolve into a ‘crisis’. For contemporaries, however, long-term trends are more difficult to detect, and in the Made in Media age the inclination to equate individual trees for the wood is often irresistible.

In 2004, prior to a general election it imagined was already won, the BJP projected itself as the “natural party of government” and targeted 300 Lok Sabha seats. Today, after a long bout of incoherence stemming from unending factional battles, it faces the ignominy of being dubbed the Big Joke Party by a reputable international publication.

In 2009, the Congress emerged from an election few expected would yield a clear outcome, with a tally of 206 seats. The 2009 verdict convinced the party leadership it was on a comeback trail—one that would fulfil its grand dream of governing India with a clear majority of its own. Today, after a series of humiliating election defeats, it is shell shocked and blundering from one crisis to another.

For the commentariat, the two parallel developments signal the ‘crisis’ of the national parties, with no clear indication of what is to come in its place. For the parties, however, dejection hasn’t triggered soul searching. The Congress still believes that with Rahul Gandhi as its mascot, a bagful of mega welfare schemes and the magic of secularism, it will somehow crawl back to power again. After all, assert Congress loyalists cockily, the nation is always bigger than the sum of all its states.

An equally smug BJP believes that a generously-funded campaign centred on anti-incumbency will allow the NDA to be in a position to attract post-poll allies and cross the hump. The saffron generals aren’t needlessly bothered by their lack of a big idea, their inability to attract new talent, their wariness of their star leader from Gujarat and the sleaze factor within. In a two horse race, they believe, their pony will outpace the injured Congress stallion.

It is possible that either of these scenarios will play out in the summer of 2012 or even earlier. But that doesn’t negate the fact that both pan-Indian parties are in deep crisis for reasons they have not been able to yet comprehend.

Since the Crown replaced the Company in 1858, India has been taught to believe that a strong Centre is a precondition to peace and prosperity. A firm but benign dispensation in Delhi has been projected as the maa-baap sarkar. Earlier, this system of paternalism offered peremptory justice, famine relief and protection from thugees and marauders. Today, blessed with bewildering acronyms, it also promises 100 days of work, subsidised foodgrain and other ‘entitlements’. On the face of it, Incredible India has remained Timeless India—interspersed with Bollywood, cricket and mobile phones. Or at least that’s the caricature the babalogs fondly believe as they navigate their SUVs into their constituencies.  The rule is simple: smart casual in Delhi and meeting ka kapda—as a venerable Bengali barrister politician called it—in the boon docks.

But amid the timelessness, something else is also happenings. In just two decades, India has witnessed more encapsulated growth (albeit uneven) than the past century taken together. Prosperity, education, information, mobility and rising expectations have changed the Indian mentality profoundly. There is an air of impatience which has translated into a greater concern for the quality of life, not in abstraction, but in their localities. A strengthened democracy is witnessing a relative disinterest in the nation and a greater identification with the regions. Patriotism hasn’t eroded, but among the rising elites and local notables there is unconcern and indifference to Delhi.

This is what happened in the US, as prosperity strengthened localism. The phenomenon is being replicated in India. What is a ‘crisis’ today is waiting to become an opportunity.

There is a constituency anxious to express its exasperation with the remote control of the metropolitan elite. With their high commands and controlled leadership structures, the national parties are living in a make-believe Beltway. They have a choice: to either reshape themselves into loose coalitions of state interests or live out their unitarian fantasies in irrelevance.


Sunday Times of India, April 8, 2012 

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The BJP leaders seem to be acting as agents of Congress may be getting lot of money to help them. We need a new political party - perhaps Narendra Modi should quit BJP and form a new political party.

vimlesh said...

the era has gone for these so called national parties. The grand old shop to sell tokenism,secularism and fake national stigma is gradually loosing its market share.The quality savvy citizen are looking for the best product within the political system that can serve their aspirations.

Anonymous said...

Sri.Narendra Modi himself would suffice to steer India along the right path. Congress & its allies like DMK , the Left ought to be shunned by us the Hindus as they are the most communal , corrupt people perennially in an appeasing mode.

Congress is so arrogant it is unable to acknowledge Sri.Narendra Modi's remarkable achievements. With EVMs it would be hell bent on tampering & capturing power.

If BJP stands behind Sri.Narendra Modi all would be well.

Anonymous said...

Sri.Narendra Modi himself would suffice to steer India along the right path. Congress & its allies like DMK , the Left ought to be shunned by us the Hindus as they are the most communal , corrupt people perennially in an appeasing mode.

Congress is so arrogant it is unable to acknowledge Sri.Narendra Modi's remarkable achievements. With EVMs it would be hell bent on tampering & capturing power.

If BJP stands behind Sri.Narendra Modi all would be well.

Prakash, Hyderabad said...

Great thoughts Swapan ji. I value your analysis. Although I being a BJP supporter for life time, I dont see anything new coming from BJP in terms of ideas, or thinking or change in mindset. They r only waiting for Cong to make a mistake and they ll carry that message to masses. Instead they should form a shadow cabinet and expose tooth and nail every scam and wrong doings of Cong. BJP shd be more proactive rather than passive. They shd learn how Labour won in UK from Conservatives and how they came out with new ideas, new visions, which will give definite shape to the masses. BJP must do something to build that trust now. They cant leave everything to state satraps. Tomorrow who knows a Nitish Kumar will give only 2 seats to BJP to contest or a SAD give 1 seat to BJP to contest. They should enlarge their votebanks. Seriously. Time has come for them to introspect.

Anonymous said...

We the people have been lulled into a mode of near idiocy by enduring too many political parties for a long time.Who have never had the welfare of this country as their objective. Which was outsourced to Nira Radias & Shekar Guptas.

Now that there is a silver lining indeed in the form of Sri.Narendra Modi , Smt.Jayalalitha & Smt.Mamata Banerjee why are many well known writers still toying with the idea of resuscitating Communists & Congress party of India ? Let go of the 'secularists' endowed with sterile minds. We the Hindus at least should stand united & uncompromisingly jettison both Congress & Leftists.

Anonymous said...

We the people have been lulled into a mode of near idiocy by enduring too many political parties for a long time.Who have never had the welfare of this country as their objective. Which was outsourced to Nira Radias & Shekar Guptas.

Now that there is a silver lining indeed in the form of Sri.Narendra Modi , Smt.Jayalalitha & Smt.Mamata Banerjee why are many well known writers still toying with the idea of resuscitating Communists & Congress party of India ? Let go of the 'secularists' endowed with sterile minds. We the Hindus at least should stand united & uncompromisingly jettison both Congress & Leftists.

None other than M.K.Gandhi saw through the members of congress thus asking for it to be disbanded.

Anonymous said...

Swapanda Please read

http://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/book-review-operation-red-lotus/

yo will not call the 1857 events a rebellion.