Ring out the old, ring in the alternative

People still plump for an economic environment that promises them opportunities and encourages enterprise. The bottom line is - the political debates and indeed the narrative of the vision for Elections 2014 promise to be different. Rajeev Chandrasekhar writes.
Updated on Jun 28, 2013 07:16 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi

Amidst all the political churn underway presently, there is one truth - that the 2014 parliamentary elections will one of the most important elections for India.

After two terms under a Congress-led government that has been racked by numerous instances of failures in governance, a badly managed and hence faltering economy and visible decline in governmental institutional credibility - India's vision of evolving into a developed nation seems to be in a cul-de-sac, paused it seems looking for political intervention with vision.

Only the most thick-skinned among us will deny that Indians are seeking a change. A change in how we see our government and politics.

India's youth demographic are also restless, increasingly voluble and are threatening to reject the political status quo of 'political social engineering' - which is the political lingo for stitching up caste/ religious voting blocs based on a bedrock of political deal-making and largesse.

India is a developing nation; its goal ought to be to become a developed nation. However, there hasn't been any real political debate or consensus on how to get there. The government has swamped us with an unrelenting marketing Kool-Aid of this pre-ordained economic superpower status.

But for political parties jostling to occupy this space for change - the reality is this. Just being opposed to the Congress will not get them the space.

The clamour for change is more about the culture of governance and politics, and the reality is that any party that lays out a convincing narrative of its approach to this need for change could catalyse the voters.

The Opposition, the BJP, has done very little to present an alternative vision - or at least one that addresses this desire for change among Indians.

Just as elected governments have a responsibility to govern well, there is cast upon the Opposition the responsibility not just to oppose, but to present an alternative vision and approach.

The BJP first won power in the late 1990s. Regrettably, much of its time is expended in debates - internal and external - related to holdover issues from that period.

The BJP has to ask itself whether the old shibboleths of secularism and communalism, and the various points of discussion and argument in the 1990s, still hold true. The fact is they don't.

The BJP needs to be conscious of this. Indeed, the principal factors on the minds of voters are about governance and economic concerns.

Yet, all are dependent on the same equation of good governance and opportunity and want the narrative to be changed to one of enterprise, hope and access. If it is to be successful in the elections, it is important for the BJP to be on top of this debate.

There is a realisation among important sections of voters that a framework of runaway doles and welfare programmes, built on promises but ineffective delivery mechanisms, can win short-term support, but is not sustainable in the long term.

Far from handouts, most people would still plump for an economic environment that promised them opportunities, enabled and encouraged enterprise and provided reasonable opportunity for individuals to realise their dreams of a dignified life.

Business seeks a change from extractive, rent-seeking rule or politically-connected crony capitalistic success, to one where a culture of healthy entrepreneurship blooms.

If the BJP or indeed any party or political alliance wants to be considered as a viable alternative, it has to build and articulate such a vision.

It has to persuade, in the coming year, that it is alive to these hopes, aspirations and challenges, and has rock-solid and practicable ideas for making public administration more outcome-based.

Equally, if the Congress wants to re-launch itself with a new set of ideas that go to the core need for change, it could still be a viable alternative. A new Congress positioned as one that could deliver on the aspirations of change and enterprise.

The recent Congress victory in Karnataka on a plank and promise of good governance shows that this new Congress option remains a difficult but viable one.

The bottom line is - the political debates and indeed the narrative of the vision for Elections 2014 promise to be different.

The bland secularism-vs-communalism debate steering the voter promises to evolve into one where governance, economy, enterprise, nationhood etc will all enter the lexicon of those seeking votes.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.
The views expressed by the author are personal

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