Friday, May 30, 2014

A Battle for India’s soul

                                                                            A Battle for India’s soul      

The  rejection of the UPA is being interpreted as the rejection of secularism and welfarism. This is a misreading of the message of the voters. In the puzzling arithmetic of India’s first-past-the-post election system, only one in three voters backed the winning side, whereas two voted against it. Who are the winners of the 2014 elections, who voted for the ascendant political formation and who celebrate its conquest as their own? They include not just large numbers o f India’s urban middle and upper classes-its influential cheerleaders-but also people Narendra Modi describes and the ‘neo-middle class’ or the aspirational class: Those who have not yet entered the middle class, but are hopeful, impatient and ambitious to benefit from India’s growth story, dreaming of well-paid jobs, plastic cards, bulging shopping-bags and mounting EMIs. Many among these are first –time voters, between 18 & 22 years. The third and most decisive support has been of a unified and significant recruitment even from the subaltern castes.

Who then are the losers of this election, the two in three voters who opposed the victorious political formation? There is first the secular India; an anguished friend wrote to me that she hoped history would forgive us for what we have become. The second set of losers are India’s minorities, a especially Muslims but also Christians, who are stunned and frightened by the scale of majortarian consolidation, unmatched even by the aftermath of Partition and the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the two lowest points in communal relations in independent India. Muslim friend’s confessed to have wept when they heard the result. The third set of losers are India’s very poor people-footloose migrant workers, landless farm labourers, forest dwellers displaced from their depleting forests, farmers driven to despair and suicide, weavers and artisans threatened to extinction, and women in unpaid or under-paid work, over 2000 million people who still sleep hungry, over 100 million people condemned to the squalor of slums, young people for whom each health emergency is a catastrophe which pushes them further into penury. These forgotten exiles from hope are also exiles from the triumphs and promises of this election.

Many also interpret the election mandate as the death knell of the idea of welfare and social protection. In the development model on offer, the State will encourage private investment and pull back or direct State interventions for good-quality universal government schools and health centers, direct job creation and nutrition. But India’s high-growth years threw up few jobs. The experience of no country in the world demonstrates that the health and educational needs of poor households can be met adequately by private profit-let enterprises instead of the State. Ideologies centered on majoritarian domination and the individualist material progress may have won this round of battle. But the larger battle for the hearts and minds of our young people must and will be won in the end by the ideas of justice, solidarity, public compassion and reason. I am convinced that today’s masses of losers are ultimately-in the battle for the soul of India-on the right side of history.
Extract of an article by Harsh Mandher HT May 20, 2014

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As reported in Amr Ujala 29 May 2014  

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