Posted by: Manjeet Krpalani on June 9, 2008
Everyone thought that rural and urban India were too far apart, and never the twain would meet. The politicians especially thought that, and have been fighting their divisive electoral battles and creating divisive policies based on what they think is the great truth.
But the recent elections in Karnataka, where the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party won a majority and formed the government, has shown change. Karnataka, thanks to Bangalore and the wealth therefrom that is spreading, is becoming more urban; the people are thinking more like city dwellers. They are voting in people who understand their changing needs. But the big loser was the Congress Party, which rules the coalition at the centre in New Delhi, which lost in Karnataka.
Shekhar Gupta, India’s most brilliant and insightful newspaper editor, who runs the eminently readable Indian Express, provides the answer in an op-ed last week. The gap is closing, he says, the gap of expectations, aspirations and of identities. There is so much migration in India today, that the country is becoming urbanized at a rapid pace. It’s caused electoral districts to be redrawn, and, says Gupta, the votes of Karnataka reflected this new reality. Identity politics, which has elected government after government into power, is on the wane. Indians are the winners.
The Congress, he points out, still thinks it’s vote bank lies in the identity politics of rural India. The party’s vision is still of ruling a poor mass of villagers. But India has moved ahead of the politician - certainly way ahead of the Congress party’s leadership.
Rural India is thinking like urban India. The New India is RURBAN, says Gupta. It is poor people who are borrowing to buy small but important things - like scooters, televisions, for their children’s education. The middle class is borrowing to buy homes. Their interests are coinciding. By keeping interest rates high to keep down inflation, the Congress is hurting both, brutally. The party “refuses to understand the new sociology of Indian politics that overlooks the killer impact of EMI (Equated Monthly Installments) inflation on its voters. It is these follies that have lost it so many elections since 2004.”
And in this Rurban India, it could lose in the national elections in 2009 as well.