If you have reached this article, chances are you belong to the educated middle or upper-middle class, the typical newspaper reader. You are what they call in India the somewhat ‘more privileged’ class, even though everything you have achieved is through your hard work. You live in a proper house with toilets, have nutritious food on the table and perhaps even enjoy a few modern comforts.
With basic needs met, you have a view on the society you live in today. You want your streets cleaner, government less corrupt and society more just. Some would say this a good way for a citizen to be, for any country. However, here is the catch. If you are like the people mentioned above, chances are the Congress party hates you.
Yes, you, your personal aspirations and noisy demands from the leadership are not liked. Congress is unable to handle, and frankly would rather do without, this set of achievers in India who have learnt to figure out right and wrong. According to the Congress, you are the ‘mineral water and ice-cream eating’ class. You have ‘no idea of ground reality or what a poor person feels’. They don’t like you. But they like the so-called ‘Rest’ of them.
You question their scams, while the Rest doesn’t care. You want accountability, the Rest is OK with them being just rulers. You want better jobs, education, infrastructure, healthcare and security. The Rest, well, wants it too, but has learnt to be content with some food grain to prevent starvation. You want the leaders of the Congress party, including the first family, to face the media. The Rest, don’t want to trouble the king. Frankly, you my friend are such an irritant you have taken the joy out of politics.
Luckily for the Congress, the Rest have been in far larger numbers than people like you. The Rest have supported them and kept them in power, decade after decade, despite living wretched lives. Despite not having electric power or toilets or schools or jobs, the Rest have believed Congress is going to remove poverty in the next three months.
It is the Rest whom the Congress targets with messages like this: We will remove poverty for you. We will save you from the majority religion, which you must be constantly scared of. We will sign papers that say ‘right to this and that’, but we will not have the resources to provide you this and that. So what if prices keep rising? We are there to ensure you won’t starve. Be happy now, OK? To the irritating educated middle class, these messages don’t work. They don’t believe the Congress. They want more. Fortunately, they have been in small numbers and so not enough to cause election upsets. Well, not for very long. The rising middle class means the Congress support will dwindle every year, unless they make some radical changes to the way they look at common Indians.
In particular, two major beliefs within the Congress party are seriously out of date. The first is the Congress’ feudal mindset. It believes in the mai-baap nature of the government, where citizens fold their hands and wait for the rulers to be benevolent. Their top leaders make statements like ‘we gave India computers’, ‘we brought in mobile phones’, ‘we passed this law’ or ‘we gave food’.
What are we supposed to do? Thank them for allowing us to use a mobile phone or a computer which, incidentally, were invented in the West? Or are we to applaud them for spending our own money? This king doing the plebians favours is far removed from today’s needs. Today, the government is supposed to be a partner with the commoners, in aiding a citizen to reach his or her highest potential. Empowered people create wealth in a nation, not the Congress party. As managers of the nation, they can help create a good environment for people to thrive. If they project themselves as kings, it will only jar with the youth.
The second – and most dangerous – Congress belief is that Indians have a lot of differences (correct), these differences need to be respected (also correct), and there should be no attempts to find common ground or homogeneity in the population (absolutely wrong). According to the Congress, all Indians are equal, but separate. Well equal but separate is not equal at all. Ultimately, we have to blend as Indians. We have to agree to a common ground on who we are as people. Where are we similar and where we are not? People often say India is a garden with different flowers. Nice metaphors aside, do note any beautiful garden is manicured, trimmed and arranged in a certain order and symmetry. If you do not do that, you will not have a garden but a wild jungle, like we are today. A leader of this country needs to blend us all well. This is not majoritarianism. We need to define what it means to be Indian, and abide by it, and then keep our differences. Otherwise, we will never progress, but remain a wild shrub.
Outdated values have alienated Congress from the middle class and are making it less relevant to the modern voter with every passing day. The party would do well to reflect on this. Else, well, sitting in the opposition was never fun, was it?