In the politics of 'vikas', the technocrat is taking centre stage in India

There has been a marked change in Indian politics recently. Earlier it used to be a space mostly of leaders who had emerged from public politics. But now, is fast becoming a domain of bureaucrats and technocrats. The reason for this is that politics and governance are interlinked, and governance is becoming more and more technical with each passing day. So legal experts, chartered accountants, financial managers, bureaucrats are slowly acquiring a space that was once the preserve of public politicians. In fact, developmental concerns also contain various technicalities, which is why politics linked with development requires technical people. 

That said, technocrats, managers and bureaucrats don’t usually have an in-depth understanding of the desires of the people, and their ability to read the pulse of the citizenry and understanding of the grassroots are lacking. This is largely because they don’t interact or communicate with the people too much and have little experience of working with them.

However, given that current-day politics is becoming increasingly partial to 'better governance' and 'development', the technocrats are slowly but surely entering politics through the back door and playing a bigger role in the field. Such new-age political leaders can be found in almost all parties, including, of course, the BJP and the Congress. One may even find them in regional parties. An analysis of the profiles of political leaders in outfits such as the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa, Nitish Kumar-led JDS in Bihar, and Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, it will become very clear that slowly lawyers, managers, technocrats and bureaucrats are capturing the political platform in India. 

This trend gathered momentum during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government and continues under the Narendra Modi government today. Corporate-led development, role of market, legality of processes, financial management within the political domain make such trend inevitable. 

The changes in politics during the past four years under the Modi-led BJP rule reflect a few trends that are a continuum of the earlier political culture. Switching parties, forging alliances and changing ideologies ahead of elections is still common feature, and the role of money, muscle power and media continues to grow. Various kinds of mafias such as education mafia, coal mafia and mineral mafia have captured a large chunk of the country's political landscape. 

Media houses, especially the electronic ones, are setting the agenda and it is no secret that their ownership or control is increasigly being vested with corporates and capitalists. Their business interest determines their leaning. Honest, idealistic youth entering politics slowly get taken in by the arrogance of power and corruption because of the growing role of money. The failure of AAP model of politics is one example of how idealism gets eroded in the politics of power.

Another noticeable feature is the pettiness that is shrouding Indian politics today. It was always there actually, but the sound decibels are getting higher both in public meetings and in parliament. And a lot of the personal attacks and non-issues you encounter everyday are being exacerbated with electronic channels that thrive on running shrill debates. In all of this, major issues and those concerning the well-being of the people get sidelined.

Another plausible reason for the change in the political fabric is that the  BJP has replaced the Congress at the Centre, and has become a dominant party both at the national level and in the states. It is no longer seen as a largely northern and centrally-oriented outfit, but has made swift inroads into the North east and is beginning to establish a firm footing in the south as well. In the process it has taken over the position of a party with a pan-India presence -- something that the Congress enjoyed a little over four years ago -- and has raised a clarion call for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat' (Congress-free India).

The Congress, on its part is trying to reassert itself as a competent Opposition and a viable alternative to the BJP, come 2019. All political parties regional or national that are against the BJP are trying to form a 'mahagathbandhan', or a grand alliance, aimed to oust the saffron party in the coming 2019 election. Earlier such mobilization would take place against Congress. All the regional parties, in spite of their local and regional rivalries, are cobbling up a common platform from which to assess growing political threats generated by BJP and to design a strategy for its exit.

Some political parties are seeing  BJP as a danger to their very existence. The Karnataka poll seems to have triggered the comcept of a national-level 'mahagathbandhan', along the lines of a more regional one seen during last Bihar assembly election. The idea behind such a formation is to stop BJP from coming to power. The strategy is to bring together social bases of various political parties together and form a bigger socio-political alliance against the Modi-let set up.

The future of third front politics doesn't seem very bright after Karnataka. Many parties that favoured the formation of the third front, now seem more inclined towards a Congress-led mahagathbandhan. The leaders of various political groups attended Kumaraswamy's oath ceremony, signalling the road Opposition politics in India is likely to take in future. 

While analysing the current political scene in India, the role of RSS in the making of a Hindutva power on which the BJP has gained considerable electoral success needs to be remembered. The Sangh cadres have been working to mobilise support for the party during elections. The culture of opportunist politics is making inroads in the BJP as well, and changing its character. It is here that the RSS tries do a balancing act, often times working on damage control as well.

While there has been a remarkable change in the country's fabric during the past four years, most of the trends noticed today are a continuum of earlier ones.
Badri Narayan is the Director of the G B Pant Social Science Institute in Allahabad. He tweets @poetbadri

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. They do not reflect the view/s of Business Standard.



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