'The Great Indian Middle Class Needs To Politically Empower Itself' was the title of my Column of March 12, 2006. It was written with the aim of awakening India's over 300 million strong middle class from their apathy to matters political and thereby letting the political dynamics of India to be controlled by political dynasties living in cocoons divorced from the real pulse of India. The political apathy of the Indian middle class has so far allowed the Indian political space to be taken over by a motley crowd of corrupt, tainted and wheeler- dealer politicians with no national commitment or vision to the advancement of India. In the run-up to General Elections 2009 there is the first flickering of hope as a number of upper middle class professionals and social activists have entered the political fray hoping to transform the quality of India's polity.
Some excerpts from my Column of three years ago need to be reproduced for the benefit of India's middle class on the eve of the General Elections, and these are:
- If the 'Great Indian Middle Class' sincerely believes that India deserves a better Government and better governance then it is high time that they politically empower themselves.
- India's Great Indian Middle Class' should open their eyes and realize how much of a potent political force they can emerge with their 30% voting strength.
- The 'Great Indian Middle Class' by their active participation in the political process could counterbalance the strength of the existing other 30% ( 18% Dalits and 12% Indian Muslims)
- In the process they could contribute to bring into political power a better class of politicians and a higher class of political leaders with vision and integrity.
- A highly educated and economically prosperous middle class provides the backbone of an advanced nation and in the case of a developing economy like India it provides shoulder and the muscle on which the nation climbs the trajectory of power.
It is heartening to note that for a few months now some impactive high visibility advertisements have figured on India's TV Channels sponsored by India's big business houses highlighting the need to go out and vote on Election Day.
India's TV Channel debates seem however to be skeptical of leading business professionals and corporate heads standing for elections as independents rather than on some major political party tickets going by the line of questioning they adopt to grill these middle class brave-hearts who have taken the plunge with a commitment to transform the Indian political scene irrespective of the outcome of result
Notwithstanding the same most of them came better off than the TV anchors who grilled them on political issues. They were transparent unlike normal shifty Indian politicians and exuded a sincerity of purpose and also had visionary perspectives on the political transformation of India.
Some like Meera Sanyal, CEO of ABN-AMRO Bank who is contesting from Mumbai was frank enough to state that her decision to contest the Elections was prompted by the terrorist attacks of Mumbai 9/11 and the sheer political apathy for effective crisis management by the political class. As the daughter of a former Indian Navy Admiral she not only displayed political grit to challenge the political decay in India but also a certain finesse both in manner and oratory. The same applies for others like her who have emerged in Mumbai and Andhra and elsewhere to challenge political heavyweights.
The Indian political class of all hues for their vested political compulsions is fighting shy of making Pakistani Islamic Jihadi terrorism as an election issue but it was an event which had the unintended consequences of igniting Indian nationalism much to the dislike of the Congress Party and its so-called secularist allies. On election day one would not be surprised that this issue weighs heavily on the choices that voters make.
Lastly, I for one would like to salute all those who have decided to take the plunge in the electoral battle next month imbued not with the prospects of personal political gains but motivated by a strong inner voice that 'The Great Indian Middle Class' can no longer permit India's political agenda be hijacked by unscrupulous contemporary politicians and a beginning has to be made to bring about a qualitative transformation of Indian politics.