Friday, June 26, 2009

Demographic Dividends: Fresh Challenges for BJP

As days pass by the challenges for BJP to strike back are getting tougher. Fresh challenges are cropping up as the UPA government is taking newer steps in desirable direction. But that’s indeed a healthy scenario because now the opposition has a higher goal in front of them. Like it’s always more challenging, and satisfying too, to become the first boy in a class of all bright students, it can be a really cherishing coming back to power for the BJP because of the competition from a rejuvenated Congress after the decisive victory in 2009 elections.

Coming to power in the 1990s for BJP against a decaying Congress and coming back to power now against a fresh Congress are not the same thing. Nevertheless, it’s indeed a positive sign. At the end of it the country would be benefitted with a better and stronger opposition and alternative in future. It’s same as that of a fiercely competitive market where the consumer is finally benefitted by the constant improvement of the quality of the products from competing companies.

In the 1990s both the bottom and the middle of the pyramid of Indian population were equally frustrated with the complacence, misgovernance and corruption of successive Congress governments. The emergency, the anti Sikh riots and the Bofors scam were still not things of distant past. The constant and brazen appeasement of the minority community for years by the Congress had also alienated them from the majority class, who by no way were communal. At that point of time BJP came up with fresh hopes for everything better not only for the educated people, but also for the ‘Aam Aadmi’.

Very ironically this very section of the voters turned their back to BJP in the recent election. But the reason is little different. Over the decade the aspirations of the people have changed.

People had already tasted prosperity since the days of NDA rule. Buoyed by the strong wind of the global economic boom the subsequent UPA government had limited chances to stop India’s growth. One had to be really dumb to stop the natural growth and prosperity that India was enjoying out if inertia of the high-speed global economy.

It’s no longer a mystery how Lalu Prasad Yadav turned around the fortunes of Indian Railways. Driven by the initial ground work done by Nitish Kumar, the previous Railway Minister, and the buoyant economy, anyone else also might have turned the Indian Railways around.

The perception of the UPA government being in favour of ‘Aam Aadmi’ was also created without much of effort. The ‘Aam Aadmi’ saw prosperity not because of the fact that the UPA government did something extra ordinary. The natural growth of Indian GDP, in lines with the flourishing world economy, bore the fruits of development for the ‘Aam Aadmi’ too. On top of that a few further gimmicks like loan waiving and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme added more to the perception. Hence, surprisingly, the anti incumbency wave was quite low against the ruling government.

All this itself had made the task for BJP to come back quite challenging. To add more to the challenge, UPA has started taking some steps that can’t be ruled out as just gimmicks.

The recent induction of Nandan Nilekani into the cabinet as the overall boss of the National ID project is one such act. It’s a very well thought plan.

The UPA government could have inducted any one of the Ambanis, or a Godrej or the Tata or someone else for the same job and still it would have worked out quite well. But no one else, than Nandan Nilekani, is looked upon as an ideal by anyone who is educated and hails from the middle class and who is young – someone who represents, or would be representing, India in the very near future. In Nandan Nilekani’s own words, India’s best asset at this point of time is her ‘demographic dividend’ coming from this huge chunk of educated, urbanized, middle class people. A few years back also this ‘dividend’ was not considered that big a thing either in business of politics.

Nandan Nilekani’s story, along with that of Narayan Murthy’s, is something that anyone with limited means but unlimited vision and ambition and passion can associate with. He comes from a middle class family without any golden connection as is the case with majority of Indians. He achieved everything in life by his sheer credibility and the favourable economic conditions of India – something that majority of Indians would also aspire of. His is an inspiring story that can raise hopes among the majority of Indians – but not the stories of the Tata or an Ambani or a Godrej.

Narayan Murthy has described this event as important as Sam Pitroda’s Telecom Revolution and Swaminathan’s Green Revolution. Inducting someone like Nandan Nilekani into the cabinet is a master stroke that can endear the UPA government to the majority of educated, urban, middle-class Indians, who are going to be the main driving force of our country over the next few decades.

I see this as a fresh challenge to the opposition. BJP has to come up with strategies that will align with the future class that would yield ‘demographic dividend’ to our country. This class no longer would be ‘Aam Aami’ staying in the hinterland of India waiting for a ‘White Tiger’ to become a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. This class, again in Nandan Nilekani’s own words, would be the one that would change the way politics is looked at and the way our country has been functioning. This class can’t be ignored or crushed. The system has to change as per their aspirations. Anyone who is not aligned with this new system would perish and anyone who goes with them will cherish the fruits of ‘demographic dividends’. So it’s high time that BJP gets aligned with this new ‘White Tiger’.

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