Hopefully, the consultative process begun by the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi will catch on in political culture because it not only gives the people a chance to express their opinion, but basically informs them in interactive fashion about what is being planned. It clearly requires not too much effort as evident from the hundreds of meetings that AAP has held. Nothing is more galling than to find projects, schemes and plans being launched by government without as much as a ‘by your leave’. It is the ‘we know best’ attitude of those who believe they ‘rule’ rather than ‘govern’. It also causes too many avoidable confrontations between the common man and officialdom. The energy wasted in conflict can so easily be put to better uses.
Uttarakhand is particularly beset with this disease. In fact, of late, government has been functioning with an opacity inversely proportional to its popularity. It is the common perception, rightly or wrongly, that builders have a free run of the state and need only to place a finger on the map to obtain colonisation or other rights. Even the developmental space apart from just acreage is seemingly up for grabs in some sort of desperate hurry to dispose of the family silver. It is projects of this sort that new governments tend to halt or scuttle on coming to power, pushing governance and development into a continuous and hopeless first to reverse gear confusion.
Planners must understand that the ‘revolutionary’ stage in India’s development is over. There was a time, perhaps, when there was space to ‘impose’ solutions such as nationalisation, large scale land acquisition, half-boiled political ideologies, etc. Today, Indian democratic evolution has placed the pieces on the chessboard in a somewhat advanced formation, each linked to the other. Unless one understands the ‘flow’ of the game, one cannot make a move without upsetting everything else. Those who know what is happening are no longer the traditional political and intellectual elite. The Kejriwals and even Modis are a product of the system rather than an alternative. It’s just that the system as understood by those in power is already obsolete; a veritable cocoon which will be dropped once the chrysalis has emerged.
‘Evolutionary’ development is more challenging, building on the foundations that have come into existence as a result of planning, or lack of design. There is also a nascent cultural and social value system that informs people’s aspirations and for lack of its understanding is proving a conundrum for established politicians. Like large parts of the corporate sector, the politicians are failing to adapt to the changing circumstances. So, on display is the psychology of a retreating force – ‘grab what you can while you can and get out’.
One of the failings of the ‘ideology’ based politicians has been the habit of transposing political models from lands that are by no means similar to India. The civilisational gap is discounted too much by those who speak in Universalist terms. As such, neither is Kejriwal an emerging Hugo Chavez, nor Modi, a Mussolini or Hitler. Unfortunately, this worldview has had a strong grip on Indian intelligentsia and academia. The social and economic prescriptions have therefore been much too rigid and blinkered to deal with Indian problems. It is just that India, underdeveloped and poorly managed, has grown too big for the old guard to handle. One need only see the perplexity on LK Advani’s face to understand what has occurred. It is time for the new and it will come from trying out the new.