Who has the stomach for a revolution?
Not even Manoj Kumar has the stomach for making a Kranti today. And no Bane is coming to bring about a revolution in India’s Gotham cities. Arvind Kejriwal is sorely mistaken if he thinks that middle class India can be woken up from it’s deep, dark and tired slumber. But then, that is now and, that is the middle class. With a 6% growth projected due to drought conditions in the country, we are looking at tumultuous times ahead with income and employment stress that can throw up all kinds of political equations; even a revolution of sorts. Whether Messrs Kejriwal and Co. will lead that revolution is to be seen.
Today’s youth may not remember the JP movement of the ’70s, which was the most powerful political protest movement that anybody in free India can recall. It was in 1974 and ’75 that he called for a Total Revolution, a call that Kejriwal repeated on Friday from Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal called out to the Indian masses saying it was time for a Sampoorn Kranti, to throw out the government because ‘the people’ are coming. The former army chief General VK Singh thundered “Sinhaasan chhodo janataa aati hai”. And these slogans were met with thunderous applause by crowds of young and middle aged people who have never been exposed to Leftists’ slogans before. Of course they would be enamoured. Revolution is the dream of the young. Till middle age and its baggage of compromises, responsibilities and truths of life hits you.
JP’s was the first post Independence, pan India movement to bring about a change in the way politics was conducted in the country. The experiment was successful for a brief period. Spawns of the JP movement are still visible today, now part of the systems they abhorred and fought against. The socialists of the seventies drive BMWs and dine at the Taj. They are proud collectors of Mont Blanc pens, they vacation overseas, all paid for by their industrialist ‘supporters’. These were the people who were supposed to lift the farmer and the labourer from the misery of their existence. One revolution came and went. Then another, better known as the economic liberalisation swept the nation. That too could not save the country from the trap of poverty and hunger.
More than 216,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997. 32.7 per cent of our population lives on less than about Rs 70 a day. Nearly one fourth of our 1.2 billion population goes to sleep on an empty stomach. Is this situation not ripe for a revolution? What do hungry people do? They get angry. Or they die.
The moralistic virtuosity of Team Anna rankles many of us. We who have made our compromises, we who speed our cars when we see beggars approaching, we who roll up our car windows when vendors sell us agarbattis at traffic crossing, we don’t see children who are rag pickers, night soil lifters and tea vendors. We are morally, spiritually, physically depleted, exhausted and blind. This revolution that Kejriwal talks about isn’t for the likes of you and me. We have made our compromises.
We find Ramdev’s bombastic claims of bringing back black money to India absurd and loathsome because we know he is selling falsehoods to people who are willing to believe anything now. So are we ready for a Kranti?
First let us determine who are ‘we’? ‘We’ is not the middle class that is established. Not the rich, they are too well entrenched. It is the poor. They just might be ready for a revolution. They ought to be. They are poor, hungry and nowhere to go. The media is too busy to hear their plight, let alone voice it. The politicians think they know what is best for the poor.
Kejriwal and gang meanwhile are saying to the poor, “we are going to come to you, you tell us what we should do, tell us what to name our party, tell us what should be the agriculture policy, education policy, labour laws, you tell us what to do.” See how persuasive he sounds to them? Once elected, he might forget all about them and turn out to be just like the others. But the point is, right now, to them, he probably sounds different. To you and me, he may sound like a charlatan. These are very clever communicators. Watch them build their constituencies.
Smitha Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. Follow her on twitter@smithaprakash