2014 Lok Sabha Polls, Meghnad Desai column, Indian Express column General election, Rahul Gandhi, NArendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal
Just think of it. The three main contenders most often mentioned as likely prime ministers, or even the next seven or so, were all born after 1947. Except for PM hopefuls Lal Krishna Advani, Sharad Pawar and Mulayam Singh Yadav — all else are children of independent India. The majority of electors were also born post 1947 and a large proportion after Emergency.
Had Rajiv Gandhi lived and become PM in 1991, Indian politics may have shifted to a younger generation. But that moment was lost. The premature deaths of their fathers has also propelled some yuvarajs into frontline positions, but in the Congress they cannot get to the top as the slot is pre-booked. The Janata Party movement brought students into politics. Hence, we have Lalu Prasad (born in 1948) and Nitish Kumar (1951) in Bihar. Narendra Modi (1950) is of Janata vintage, while Arvind Kejriwal (1968) and Rahul Gandhi (1970) are bachchas. There are also, for the first time ever, three women contenders for the PM position — Mayawati (1956), Mamata Banerjee (1955) and Jayalalithaa (1948). The times they are a-changin’.
It is not merely age which is the new element. Attitudes are also different. Old India was ambivalent about the world outside. As far as the West was concerned (and Indians don’t care about the rest), Indians craved approval but harboured resentment at the slightest hint of being ignored, or worse, being treated like everyone else. There was an exaggerated fear about the outside world ganging up against India or being unfairly stronger. Young India is not afraid. The world is just a short airplane trip away and they can be as good at managing their father’s kirana shop as any multinational in New York. There is nothing young India thinks it cannot do and it has role models to follow. Satya Nadella is their representative as is Indra Nooyi. At home, they have Viswanathan Anand and Sachin Tendulkar.
Politics has not quite caught up with this India. It still lives in an India where there is a suspicion of markets. India began with excessive faith in the efficacy of government policy and State ownership of industry. The result has been there for all to see — crony socialism as well as crony capitalism. Getting a subsidy of one rupee to a BPL household costs more than three rupees. Coal India and Food Corporation of India as well as the many PSU banks burdened with bad loans (mainly given to politicians) tell us a story continued…