Dynamics of Public Movement in Mainstream Indian Politics

That mass-participation is the mahout of political change, politicos are aware that truckloads of ‘bought-out’ crowds is on the decline as bona fide, change-seeking masses are now participating in growing numbers to express support to cleaner politics, says Qureish Raghib

Unlike the Arab Spring uprising that shook South West Asia, the mass agitations seen with seeming regularity in India is quite different. The former aims to uproot the political structure while the latter, to cleanse the political system to make it work. While one is still in political wilderness, the other is on a course to experience better governance.

Public movements

With the ambiguously evolving public-politico relationship, India moves towards unpredictably remarkable change as competitive electoral politics gets more intriguing by the day.

Such peculiar synthesis sees Indian politics to subsequently have strange bed-fellows. The mass-influenced India Against Corruption (IAC) campaign led by veteran social activist, Anna Hazare against the ruling political party now sides with it on the backdrop of the hurriedly enacted, anti corruption Bill by the party. IAC’s by-product, Arvind Kejiwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) likewise, acknowledged the support of this same ‘rabidly corrupt’ political entity that it so vociferously is against. Such circumstantial political structures reveal that public referendum in mainstream Indian politics is here to stay for a while.

Interestingly, the new crop of Indian politicians has successfully infused a refreshed temperament of people’s movement in the contemporary politics of India through conventional and unconventional methods. Some are uniquely innovative, others bewildering, and many amusing.

It may seem naïve, but it is astute politics.

Its immediate effects are already seen in the desperate efforts of veteran political parties terminating shady defense deals, tabling anti-graft ordinances, demanding reconsideration in judicial reports unreasonably disowned by their own party, sacking incompetent legislators and public servants, hurriedly enacting long-demanded popular Bills, and some, even frantically acquiring dubious clean-chits for their inhuman atrocities meted upon citizens. All this with the sudden change in arrogant political slogans replaced with public service catch-lines, evinces the encouraging transition from politicking to realpolitik.

Apparently, electoral politics is based on the doctrines of public service. A fine-line prevails between doctored public-service and genuine commitment to people. The latter is largely suppressed but usually resurfaces with a vengeance.

 The civil society onslaught on traditional politics since recently has resulted in the increase in no-voters and new-voters proponents with the splendid ascend of a new, adventurous political alternative like the APP. It makes reason that the fresh electorate bank and the new political entrant have both destabilized the existing partisan alignment and forced full-scale realignment in India’s politics. The seasoned political parties like the Indian National Congress and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) now require tremendous political diligence to regain the confidence and trust of traditional partisans and of the new voters. The recent Delhi Assembly elections are an eye-opener. Contrary to the commonly held perception, the Delhi Debacle has not only jolted the Congress out of its political slumber, but has revealed the degree of public suspicion for the long-entrenched BJP that couldn’t garner an absolute majority in the city-state even with three-terms of abysmal governance of the National Capital Territory of India by the Congress.

Moreover, the NaMo-RaGa pre-general elections duel is of irrelevant significance to the masses. So are the occasional stage-managed photo-ops by politicians with minority community members or overplay of the ‘development’ card or opportunist pronouncement of “shaken to the core” for the colossal loss of innocent lives to beguile an awakened national mindscape.

It is however, the amazing ferocity with which the collective behavior of the electorate to opt for performance over identity or ideological politics that has stumped political analysts, social psychologists and politicians alike. This phenomenal shift in electoral aptitude and attitude has subsequently prompted an abrupt change in election strategies. Overnight, conventional political mud-sledging has suddenly been replaced with participatory democracy. Addressing real issues rather than surreal ones is getting more audible in this parliamentary election campaigns. Minority communities are now hopeful for their long-pending demands to be acknowledged by law-makers who have exploited the carrot and stick ploy to the hilt while delaying grants to Waqf boards, holding back land approvals and dawdling on sensitizing and sanitizing a minority-biased judiciary. Communalism, Commissions and Committees – the stereotype election jargons seem amiss for a change.

That mass-participation is the mahout of political change, politicos are aware that truckloads of ‘bought-out’ crowds is on the decline as bona fide, change-seeking masses are now participating in growing numbers to express support to cleaner politics. Going by the massive presence of presumably genuine supporters – new and turncoats – at the recently held APP leaders’ swearing-in event in Delhi, all mainstream political parties would now have sleepless nights as the 16th parliamentary Lok Sabha elections inches closer.

Nevertheless, even if the AAP doesn’t come to power at the Centre – and it would be unrealistic to predict so – still, it has done its bit by making both the political class and the electorate conscious of their predicament.

However, the irony of politics is as complex as is simple. Post-elections, it will be interesting to observe how political parties – whether they succeed in forming the government at the Centre or sit in the opposition – will deal with an unconventional, watchdog-of-a-party like the AAP. The party has already demonstrated how it is hell-bent on publicly tearing apart any kind of apathy in public policy or polity. Are we to witness a politically awakened India in the year 2014?

Qureish Raghib is a communication consultant and commentator on international affairs. He lives in Nairobi, Kenya.

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