India 2020: Is This The Time To Hope?
A strange thing is happening in India now, an admission that things have gone wrong. In a way, this has never happened before. This is also amazing, given how elitist the Indian administration really is: Most messages get screened off before it reaches Delhi. May be this is working this time as the message is coming from the global puppet masters, the big media honchos sitting in London and Washington, who have started mocking the Indian Prime Minister: The Indian government, while oblivious of the mood of its own people, surely knows that this is only a pre-cursor of what the bond traders and hedge funds will think.
However, while it is easy to be pessimistic about the Indian government's motives, let us savour the moment: The Indian Government is thinking it has got it wrong, a first in its sixty years of history, and trying to do something about it! Indeed, this seems easy for anyone looking at it - was everything not going wrong in India for so long - but the fact that it was being acted upon is a sure improvement. We may know it is the international magazine covers, weakening Rupee and the threat of an imminent drought, but this is a moment of hope, even if a false one, that the navel-gazing culture of Indian government, more akin to the fading days of Mughal Empire than a democratic enterprise, may finally be over.
In fact, that parallel with Mughal Empire is fully intended, as for the last few years, we had a government trying to survive through its adjustments with self-interested local chieftains, just as the Mughals did. Indeed, one could argue that this is the only way to rule India, at least the only way India has been ruled so far, as the British promptly taken over the Mughal model and parcelled the country to a variety of landlords, concerning itself to the revenue collection and nothing else. The vast swathes of India, most of the country, have been on auto-pilot for a long time, exposed to the full wrath of nature and autocratic local lords, resigned to fate and mostly compliant. For the current government, it certainly did not matter that most of the country is reeling under severe lack of faith, heavy inflation and breakdown of basic civility (as evidenced in Guwahati very recently), but the decline of the Indian dream, at least in Wall Street terms, may have woken them up to the possibility of a Mughal-style demise.
The power of global money is all evident in India. The new middle classes, employed in newly minted service sectors and immersed in the consumption habits fuelled by easy credit and stock market induced richness, are inextricably wedded to the rise and fall of Global Finance. The weakness of the Rupee is beginning to hurt, therefore, but it is a much deeper malaise, the withering of the Incredible India rhetoric, seems to be around the corner and causing fright. The changes, so far cosmetic, of moving Ministers around and the talk of a new face of leadership, allowing more global money to flow in and addressing some of the deep regional imbalances, apart from the belated but much needed movement towards reconciliation with an equally out of touch Pakistani leadership, may rank in ineffectiveness with the acts such as the metaphorical reorganisation of deck chairs on the famously ill-fated ship. But, it is undeniable that we are seeing a rare moment of fright, of change, of opening of a window which was forever closed, a moment when the ruling classes look weak and a revolution starts.
History tells us about such moments, when the vulnerability of the ruling classes was betrayed from behind the carefully orchestrated smugness of being; such moments tell everyone that all isn't well and raise questions, quelle horror!, about the continuance of the order as it existed. We, usually immersed in daily chores, can't see the edges of our reality and live forever within a self-imposed Truman Show, only to be exposed to such moments of discontinuity, an imaginary power failure in the Mount Olympus, to the fragility of our constructed lives: Such a moment may be coming to India.
I am not over-optimistic. This may not be India's Bastille moment, nor when baby dreams of a prosperous India must invariable roll down its own Odessa steps. But this is a time when the self-limiting confidence of its navel-gazing ruling class is shaken, its story exposed as trinket and not the fabled gold, a time when it may, just, start an attempt of rediscovery yet again. This is that moment of bi-furcation of courses of history, and as it plays out over next couple of years, a decisive turn may happen, either to a manifest destiny or a historical junkyard.