INDIA 2022: Politicians who will make or break India

*Ashwarya Rai’s daughter will be ruling silver screens in Bollywood.*With Test cricket buried forever, Sachin Tendulkar’s son will be amassing runs in T20.

*Mayawati, (currently Utter Pradesh chief minister), then 75, might be struggling to become the Prime Minister of India.

*If Rahul Gandhimarries now his son/daughter, surrounded by Gandhi family loyalists, would be preparing to take over the charge of the Congress party.

Now that I have your attention with these wild predictions let us revert to realpolitik. Earlier this year consultancy PwC produced an interesting document crystal-gazing the world in the year 2050. The report concluded that “the global financial crisis has further accelerated the shift in global economic power to the emerging economies”.

It made some important predictions. By the year 2020, the GDP of the largest E7 emerging economies, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, would grow bigger than the current G7 economies. China would be the world’s largest economy and India would also leave the US behind by 2050 on the PPP basis.

No doubt this would be a remarkable achievement for a country where politicians have been openly exploiting social discord. They are afraid of change and have no wish to find creative solutions to India’s huge problems. Long term national interest is often sacrificed for immediate political gains. 

Let me wind back the clock to April 12, 1985. I was working on a BBC radio series on 100 Years of the Indian National Congress. I interviewed one of India’s leading farmer leaders and the former prime minister Charan Singh. About India’s new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi he said: “This boy hasn’t spent a single day in an Indian village. What does he know about India. If he brings in computers to India, mark my words, he will make half of the country unemployed.”

Charan Singh was proven wrong. It was because of Rajiv’s vision that India took a direct leap from rural economy to service economy, almost skipping the intermediary stage of industrialisation.

Average Indians are industrious and enterprising. They are keen to adopt fresh ideas and cash in on new opportunities, if given the right direction and proper leadership.

That ‘if ‘ – the right direction and right leadership – is the biggest problem.

Looking at the present state of affairs the leaders who might play a critical role in the next twenty years could be Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi.

Modi might be the future of the BJP but he could also be the biggest problem of the BJP. He would not be acceptable to many regional players in the opposition National Democratic Alliance (the main present opposition). He is haunted by the riots of the year 2002. His opponents are working hard to unearth evidence against him. And they are fairly sure that one day they will find it. Once that happens Modi’s chances of ruling India would recede forever.

If the NDA is able to exploit the corruption tainted image of the present UPA government, then Nitish Kumar could be one of the important players at the centre. Soft spoken and self-effacing he might be a cementing force in the opposition politics. But if the BJP tilts towards its old Hindu hardline plank Nitish Kumar would certainly walk out of the NDA, the way Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik did in 2009.

And the BJP leadership is quite capable of self-harm. They have mastered the art of speaking wrong things at wrong time. Having lost two elections as party leader Advani is still nurturing the dream of leading the party in 2014. The party leadership remains unfocused, unable to take advantage of the corrupt and virtually paralysed UPA government.

Mayawati, now 55, will certainly be a major political player in the next two decades. She has forged a powerful vote bank of Dalits, Muslims and a section of Brahmins in UP. Her supporters desperately want to see her as the prime minster of India.

She has many problems though. While her supporters languish in grinding poverty, her love for erecting her own monuments is a self-defeating weakness. History tells us that from Lenin to Saddam Hussein statues in the end are pulled down by angry people.

Also she is abrasive and intransigent. One can’t see how she can carry others with her in a coalition government. Any government that she participates in will have to pay a huge price for her support. If not prime minister herself, her protégé will be running some of the most lucrative ministries in the future.

And finally one can say that Rahul Gandhi has the best chances of becoming India’s Prime Minister. Currently, a smooth transition from Manmohan Singh to Rahul Gandhi seems difficult because of too many corruption scams and the lack of governance and decision-making.

Though Rahul Gandhi may be working hard, he is not learning fast. He hasn’t learnt the art of public speaking. He struggles for the right choice of words and he can’t handle the media.

Clearly he is not an intellectual, but he should be able to put forward intelligent ideas – ideas that he passionately believes in. His parliamentary interventions look unconvincing and artificially contrived. His rage looks unreal. 

What is more frustrating is that he has failed to put forward what his vision for India is. He has been in politics for almost ten years but we haven’t heard what his big idea is. One can guess that in the deep-rooted Congress culture of sycophancy, nobody dares to tell him what is right and what is wrong.

With right mind, right advisors and right policies he could emulate his late father Rajiv Gandhi and bring in new ideas for good governance that has eluded India for six decades. The crucial question is has he got the vision. So far we don’t know.

The political scene might not be truly sparkling, but India’s social fundamentals are strong. Parents will remain hungry and half-clad to give best education to their children. The young generation will be working hard to create wealth and enjoy the riches of modern life.

An 18-year-old village student will pass his A+ examination. He will then go to a university to do his three-year degree in computer applications . Soon he will be employed by someone like the TCS or Infosys. And within five years of leaving his village he will be moving to London or LA to sorting out IT applications of some the world’s giant corporations. No generation, in the history of India, has enjoyed such a steep rise in social mobility. India might not have political stability but it will have economic and social stability.

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