It’s all over bar the shouting. They say that a week is a long time in politics, but even a day is enough to change the fate of nations, what to speak of political parties, particularly those who lead a hand-to-mouth existence, as in India. The poll played havoc with them and has sent many of them packing.
The Congress Party is the only one that improved its fortunes by a large margin, and has naturally emerged as a winner. This is surprising since even the Congress big wigs did not expect it to do as well as it did. It is still in a minority, with only 206 seats, nearly seventy short of absolute majority, but in India’s fractured polity, even 200 seats are enough to put you in the winning seat, if you have faithful partners.
How did it happen? Even the opinion polls, which were going about saying that it would be touch and go—this was also a cover headline in one of the weeklies close to the ruling party—and so did most politicians and their sidekicks. The opinion polls were totally off the mark, but they are a shameless lot, and they are back again shouting their wares and TRP’s since they have to make a living.
The political parties are, of course, still in a daze, as the Congress was after 1977, when Indira Gandhi was trounced and her party nearly wiped out from most of the north. But it was a temporary phase and she was back again in three short years and would have gone on and on if her life had not been cut short by a couple of assassins.
The year 2009 is as important as 1977, for reasons I shall explain shortly. Actually, there is also another year equally important—1991. These three years—1977, 1991 and 2009—are historic years in India’s post-independence period, as historic as 1947 itself. And they have a close link with electoral politics.
All countries pass through three revolutions before they mature as nations. The first is political which decides the political framework of the nation. This means whether it will be democratic or authoritarian, secular or religious, and so on. This is not as easy as it sounds. In America, it took nearly a century after it became free to firm up its political shape, and in Britain, almost a millennium. In India, the mould was cast even before Independence, but not everybody was convinced about the shape of the mould. Indira Gandhi certainly wasn’t.
But the Emergency decided the shape and Mrs. Gandhi had to beat a retreat. That was our first political revolution. India decided to go the democratic way, no matter what some people thought or believed, and that is the say India has gone since 1977.
All political revolutions are followed by or often accompanied by economic revolutions. That is the second phase. Nehru & Co decided to go the Soviet way after Independence—Nehru did not have the guts to go the communist way though his sympathies lay in that direction and the country tried its best to follow that path. But the path led nowhere, not only in India but also elsewhere. It was only in 1991 that we were forced to abandon the socialist path and decided, not very willingly, to go the market way. Remember that 1991 was also the year the Soviet Union collapsed.
In 1991, we overturned our economic model, swallowed our socialist pride, and went capitalist. That is not what Narasimha Rao called it, but it was he who led the economic revolution of 1991. The year marked not only the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the collapse of Nehru’s “commanding heights” model in India. It was the year of our economic revolution, fourteen years after the political revolution 1977.
These two revolutions—political and economic—are always followed by a third—the managerial revolution. After all, the revolutions have to deliver, and this can happen only when they are properly managed. We need managers to operate the system, political managers, economic managers etc, for without them the system is useless. This is where the corporate come in, for it is they who virtually control and operate the economy. And the political parties and their managers control the political process.
India is now passing through this third phase, the managerial phase, for the first two are now set and so is the overall direction. So people are being asked to vote for managers, not leaders. Leaders are concerned with ideas and concepts. Managers are operators whose job is to manage the show and make it work.
This is happening all over the world. In America, Wall Street is as important as the White House. It is Wall Street that decides how many flows, into which section and industries, and when. In India, the people are now voting for managers like Manmohan Singh, who is not a man of ideas—nobody would call him an intellectual—but essentially an operator whose job is to manage the system for the Gandhis. He is their general manager. So are Paranab Mukherjee, Kamal Nath and Kapil Sibal.
The voters want managers at this stage of development, particularly the middle class, which is itself a managerial class. What is the biggest ambition of a middle-class boy? To be an MBA, preferably from a foreign university like Harvard or Yale, and come back and work for a foreign multinational company. It is the MBAs who now rule the World –George W Bush was an MBA—and also run the Congress Party here.
The middle class, which has a big say in politics, as also in the economy, is looking for efficient managers both political and economic, because it has a vested interest in them. So they prefer to elect managers like Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram, rather than ideologues like Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. The Singhs and the Chidambarams speak their language, the Advanis and the Joshis, or for that matter, the Karats and the Lalus don’t. The managerial class in India, which is now the ruling class, can do without the latter, but not without the former.
After 2009, India will be ruled by managers not leaders or ideologues, because the Indian voter has made up his mind how and where it wants to go, and has no need for men of fine but irrelevant ideas that interfere with development. So Marx is out, so is Swadeshi, for they do not fit in with their ideas of development, or, for that matter, governance.
(To be continued)