The Middle Class Conundrum

The Middle Class Conundrum

Swaniti Initiative | May 3, 2013 | The Swaniti Blog

Over the last few months, the indomitable spirit of Indian middle class to fight for good governance and socially just society has made me believe that we are standing at a point of inflection as far Indian democracy is concerned. Strong media coverage and a burgeoning middle class empowered with social media tools have definitely made it impossible for any malpractice to go unnoticed. At the same time, it has also resulted in increased scrutiny and accountability on the part of civil servants and political
leaders. Slowly but surely, we are experiencing a welcome change in a country which has still a strong aristocratic flavor in a democratic set up. We are a country where civil servants and politicians acquire demigod statuses the day they assume office and where the citizens keep fighting all their lives for their basic rights in the labyrinthine corridors of bureaucratic red tape.

However, I believe that we still have to persevere before we achieve the desired transformation in Indian polity and governance. To put things in perspective, I would like to explore few idiosyncrasies of our current system. It is a very well-known fact in the political corridors of this country that the middle class does not vote, thereby wielding insignificant impact on results of democratic elections. In early seventies and eighties, the size of middle class was not big enough to change the political equations. That is not the case now, with Indian economy growing at a rapid pace post liberalization, resulting in a scenario where one in every 5 families will soon be meeting the traditional “definition of Indian middle class”. This has made the situation very tricky for all the leading political parties in India. The biggest conundrum for the parties is to decide whether to fight the 2014 elections on a “development pitch” or the age old model of appeasing the rural population with subsidies and dividing the masses on secular grounds. Even the veteran politicians and political analysts are still not sure how the middle class is going to behave in 2014 and that has set the cat among the pigeons.

What exasperates me most is that while we have some brilliant young politicians who are catering to this new “well informed and aware middle class”, the real basis on which voting is done on the floor of Parliament has still not changed much. What I believe is that there is a disconnect between the impact that we are seeking through the protests on the streets of Delhi and the actual impact it might be having.

I have immense faith in the democratic set up and youth of this country but we have to get out of the cocoon that we have built around ourselves. In this era of satellite television and social media portals, the emotionally charged debates and views need to be channelized to something fruitful. One protest march or a change in government is not going to solve this age old problem but we can still do is to start small and gauge the difference that it can make. As William J. Clinton correctly said, “Every 21st century professional must strive to do some public good within his realms of private life”. You are young and smart. Set smaller goals. Target 300 lives that you are going to have an impact on. You will feel better when you achieve these goals. You will get the energy and motivation to strive for a bigger goal next time around.

Finally, please vote in 2014. Stop using your voter ID card only as a residence proof for telephone connections and acquiring that fancy credit card. If you don’t stay in the city where you have voting right, this is the time to begin the process of getting your voter identity card transferred to your current location. If all of us make the required effort and vote in 2014, I am sure the political class will get the message that we, “the mango people”, are going to make them accountable every five years. We have definitely managed to cause few tremors with the strong protests over the last few years and the political class is watching us with bated breath but the question for all them remains – “Will the middle class and youth of India vote in 2014?” Either way, I am sure that this will go a long way in deciding the contours of the Indian political system.