political recruitment is now dangerously skewed. Over three
decades or so, mainstream parties are behaving like oligarchies.
Family connections, abnormal money power, criminal activities
and highly polarising articulation of sectional interests
of caste and religious groups became the chief qualifications
for candidate selection. A few senior politicians with impressive
credentials have been inducted into the Rajya Sabha. Otherwise,
parties could rarely recruit and promote men and women of
real talent, commitment and integrity.
any society, the middle classes are democracys bulwarks.
Yet, surveys reveal hundreds of thousands of bright youngsters
want to be technologists or civil servants, but almost none
regard politics as a career option. Politics has ceased to
be meritocratic. Parties are either cynical or helpless in
meeting the challenges in a complex and volatile society.
They despair of winning through decent, public-spirited candidates.
The electoral system makes it almost impossible for the latter
to get elected through fair means. So, politics has become
the least preferred option for self-respecting, talented Indians
without family connections.
about 71% of Indians are below 34 years of age. Almost half
the people of voting age are young. The communications revolution
has made them impatient for change. When they see corruption,
criminalisation, obscene money power and abuse of office
daily in public life, their faith in politicians is severely
eroded. They view politics as the problem, not the solution.
In fact, the volatility of voting behaviour among our youth
is a key cause for the strong anti-establishment verdicts
in our elections over the past three decades.
such persistent rejection of a party in power is making
this situation worse. Most legislators believe their power
is ephemeral. So they want to make the most of their opportunity,
by plundering the public exchequer and distorting governance
through manipulation of transfers, public procurement, and
police cases. Parties are evermore populist and irrational
in public policy, hoping to somehow win the electorates
favour; they field candidates who deploy unsavoury tactics
in the hope of winning.
reality, the net outcome is not significantly altered. All
major parties put up similar candidates. And leading candidates
often employ the same tactics, of buying voters, brow-beating
people and bribing officials. So, a system of compensatory
errors is firmly in place, with the ugly tactics of each
candidate being neutralised by his rival. The final verdict
does broadly reflect public opinion, but political recruitment
gets worse. Parties can ill-afford decent candidates who
want to play fair, for fear of losing in an insane electoral
battle. Abnormal expenditure in polls does not guarantee
victory, but in most cases, fair practices and limited and
legitimate expenditure almost certainly guarantees defeat!
the quality of public goods and services is predictably
appalling. Misgovernance, due to bad recruitment and wrong
incentives in politics, leading to endemic corruption, abuse
of office and dysfunctional systems, guarantees bad delivery
of services. Education, skill development, public health,
rule of law, urban management, agricultural value addition,
infrastructureall are in serious disrepair. This bad
management of government fuels even more anger and cynicism.
And, it impedes growth and does not give the poor and disadvantaged
sections the opportunities for vertical mobility.
resulting disenchantment leads to potential social strife
and violence. The increasing sway of armed naxal groups
in an uncomfortably large number of districts is just one
illustration of our failure to provide competent and just
the only antidote to flawed politics is better politics.
We need to dramatically alter the political culture. The
vicious cycle of money power, public office, corruption
and poor public services has driven India inexorably to
a low level of equilibrium. The dynamism of our society,
ambition of our people and modern technologies have softened
the impact of misgovernance and ensured modest growth rates.
But there is no substitute to better public management if
we are to improve our growth rates and make prosperity an
inclusive process, with hope and opportunity for all, irrespective
are hungry for change. Youngsters want liberation from the
vicious cycle of bad politics, corruption, underdevelopment,
unemployment and instability. India is ripe for a fundamental
transformation through a new political culture. Can our
parties respond? Will new forces emerge to galvanise people
into action and tap our potential? Or will the window of
opportunity close, forcing India to revert to unsatisfactory
growth and unhappy conditions for most people? The next
decade will tell.