In my last column, I wrote about the three revolutions that had swept over India in the last thirty-odd years and how they had shaped our political and economic lives. We are now in the midst of the last of them—the managerial revolution—which has impacted the election results last month and which will decide and probably define our political fate, and the fate of political parties in the years to come.
The first of the revolutions, the political revolution of 1977, decided once for all the fate of authoritarian politicians like Indira Gandhi and asserted the democratic resolve of the Indian people. Had Indira Gandhi won the election, history would have taken a different turn and we would have possibly gone the way of Pakistan or may be Soviet Russia. But destiny took a different road, a democratic road, and that saved India from a fate worse than death.
Then came the revolution of 1991, the same year which, as we all remembers, marked the collapse and end of Soviet Russia and of the so-called dictatorship of the proletariat, which was nothing but a veiled form of dictatorship of monsters like Lenin and Stalin, who brought the once great nation to its knees. Nineteen ninety one also ushered in our own economic revolution when a totally undistinguished man called Narasimha Rao set the economy on its head and the commanding heights were razed down to a level on par with the market. Rao is indeed our unsung hero.
At that time, most of us had no idea what was being done, but what Rao did was nothing but revolutionary. Had Soviet Russia done the same, it would have survived as a nation. But communism is a case of blind leading the blind and no one in that country had any idea that the country was soon going to die.
In India, things would have ground to a halt too and perhaps we would have suffered the same fate as Soviet Russia. We were already busy selling our gold in the market, our last bit of foreign reserves. But Narasimha Rao & Co—Manmohan Singh was also a member of that company—rose to the occasion, as Hindus always do whenever the country is in peril—and virtually saved the country. That is the reason I call it revolution, for it was nothing short of that.
These two revolutions, within a period of 14 years, completely changed the face of India. Just cast your eyes back to 1991 and visualise what India was then and what she is now. Before 1991, Nehru & Co, which also includes the Gandhi family, had brought the country to a halt. There were so-called socialists who too were following in the same shoes. Finance ministers came and went and so did economists called Gadgil and others, but they simply did not possess the intellectual capacity to deal with the mess.
After 1991, things changed beyond recognition. Our GDP growth rate grew geometrically from 3.5 per cent a year to six per cent, then seven per cent, and reached nine per cent in the final years of the first decade of the new century. All this would not have been possible without revolutionary changes in the economy, and, of course without globalisation. Globalisation too played its part but globalisation is useless unless you too open up and become a part of the global economy. Look at North Korea and Cuba. They are languishing as before, despite the winds of globalisation swirling around them.
A new middle class came into being in India, and possibly other countries. For the first time, it tasted the fruits of plenty, whereas in the previous fifty years it had to gawk at other countries and make do with crumbs. Small towns grew into big cities and small men started to think big. Look at our politicians: they too hail from the Middle class. Each one of them is now worth crores and some as many as a hundred crore. Before 1991, they were worth nothing.
The voters changed too. In fact, the biggest changes was in the mentality of voters. They became more demanding and assertive. Not for them, the pot-holed roads and rickety cars and bikes. They demanded and got brand new cars and ritzy airports, as they went on foreign jaunts, their wallets bulging with dollars. Previously, all they could do was to watch our leaders return from foreign jaunts, with foreign goodies. Now the voters themselves became citizens of the world and millions of them migrated to US and Europe in search of a new life.
If you can have bright clean towns and cities in America and England, why not in India? Why should there be a water shortage in Indian cities while there is 24-hour water supply in a place like Singapore, which has no river of its own, and therefore no water supply of its own? Why shouldn’t our railway stations be as clean as those in Japan and Germany, where there is actually a labour shortage? Why can’t our universities be as good as Cambridge and Oxford which have lots of Indian teachers? Why can’t our environment be second to none?
The Indian voter is now looking for men who can answer these questions and he cannot be fobbed off with bogus excuses, the kind of excuses our politicians and their hangers-on are used to giving. The voter knows what he wants because he has seen it in other countries. He doesn’t want ideas and five-year plans; he wants action and he wants results. He doesn’t want the kind of talk the communists are very good at. Above all, he wants competence, he wants efficiency, he wants honesty and he wants results. If the communists cannot manage to retain Tatas and their car factory, he wants them—the communist—out. He does not want Marx and Lenin; he has had them long enough. He wants Tatas and Birlas, even if they are anathema to the Reds.
He has booted out parties that cannot deliver the goods, even if the parties are led by his caste leaders. The days when caste and religion decided poll results are slowly coming to an end. India is changing and is becoming more and more a technocratic society. We may not like it, but we are becoming more and more like the West. Fifty years from now, we shall also start thinking and behaving like Westerners, and voting like them.
After two revolutions, we are now in the midst of a third one, the managerial revolution, and we are not the only ones. George W Bush and his Republican Party was thrown out because, among other things, he couldn’t manage the war in Iraq. What is the use of a leader who takes you to war but cannot win it? He was a poor manager. Unfortunately, he was an ideologue too, which makes it worse. Right now, the world is in need of managers and doers, no matter what ideology you profess, provided it doesn’t come in the way of action. If the voter thinks you cannot or are not competent enough to deliver the goods, he will not vote for you. The rest, as they say, is Bakwas!