Sunday, May 08, 2011

The unbearable lack of influence for the Indian Middle Class!

The recent debate about the Lokayuktas goes back to the perennial tension between the movers and shakers and the powerless. A recent article in Business Standard mentioned that the movement by Hazare and the support it gathered came from the middle tier between the influencing few and the utterly powerless mass. Another article sometime ago mentioned a worry that all kudos aside, Hazare's movement represents an extra-constitutional arm-twisting of the elected representatives.
At the heart of it is the worry about the creation and sustainance of institutions to uphold the interests of the majority. Indian democracy is increasingly becoming hostage to smaller and smaller group of very wealthy and mostly unscrupulous politicians. What is more, it is a vicious circle in that this class seems to self-select similar elements in its ongoing inclusions as well. The picture of the hardworking and people-oriented politician is at best a utopian dream. Most of those aspiring to get into politics have no major dreams of chaging anything for people they represent. It is mostly a race for power - which is then to be abused to amass wealth. To what end, one often wonders!!

The issue is that if and when Lokayuktas become powerful enough to take on the vested interests in the society, they will get politicised. They are left alone now because they are toothless. Give them teeth and we will soon see very questionable elements becoming lokayuktas!!

A society gets what it deserves. Indian society is 80% masses, 19.95% middle class and 0.05% ruling lot! The masses and the ruling class seem to have gotten into a seemingly unbreakable system of electing to office the most powerful and wealthy. The middle class has no influence but a fair degree of intelligence and bandwidth to comment to things. Which is pretty much what they end up doing! The angst represented in all the media is the voice of this powerless but intelligent middle class.

What's the way out? For selfish reasons as well as for the betterment of the masses, the middle class and its thinking constituents need a way to influence the polity. But the supertanker argument about the polity would tell us that small nudges will get mostly ignored in the massive structure of the influencers manipulating the masses for their personal agendas.

It almost seems like the Indian freedom struggle, which in 1920s or thereabouts might have looked fairly hopeless! The masses did not care about who ruled them, the few thinking men and women took the struggle to the massive empire. What eventually gave was a combination of the struggle, historical forces acting against the imperialists and the second world war. One does not know how the impasse of potential oligopoly in Indian politics will be broken and how soon!
There is a weak hope of sorts. Often small nudges at the right place and time act as a very strong influencer in the medium term to bring about massive change. The lightly powered middle class can hope to keep giving numerous small nudges some of which post facto might turn out to be pretty decisive. The key word here is post facto!