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Rediff.com  » Business » Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

May 15, 2014 15:43 IST

Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

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Barun Roy

While affluent India is there to stay, poor India is also a stark reality. The new govt needs a development model that combines the two, rues Barun Roy

By the time this article appears in print, returning officers will be busy with final preparations to announce the results on Friday of the world’s biggest electoral exercise and India will be sitting on the crest of great suspense about its eventual outcome.

This year is supposed to be a year of change, and change there will be of political leadership and alliances.

But throughout the electoral process, thanks to the wider ambit of coverage by the media, it became evident once again that there has been or is going to be little change in the basic Indian reality for the vast majority of its citizens.

Their problems still remain very basic -- electricity, shelter, roads, jobs, education and health.

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Image: An electronic voting machine.


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Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

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And the duality of India hangs over the country like an economic Damocles’ sword. Beyond the rose petals, marigold garlands and tall promises, images thrown up by this election have shown that this contrast is only getting sharper, as much across the urban landscape as across the rural.

Betrayal of trust was the one overwhelming buzz coming out of this election, never heard so loudly ever before.

‘We trusted them and gave them our vote, but they only took us for granted’ -- this was the universal complaint heard across the country, wherever one went.

Almost everywhere the demand was the same: we need regular electricity and water, better roads, better health services and sanitation, better housing.

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Image: Betrayal of trust was the one overwhelming buzz coming out of this election, never heard so loudly ever before.


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Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

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Cameras roamed among glitzy high-rises in urban areas and crumbling hovels of the poor in towns and villages alike, where the gloom was as thick as a piece of bread and could be cut into pieces.

As one India travels in swanky cars and gets into the flight mode, the other India has to walk miles to reach the nearest health centre or in search of water.

One India goes abroad for foreign degrees or spends millions to attend choice institutions at home, so they can demand fabulous salaries in the job market.

The other India sends its children to work on the field, or to schools with no regular classrooms and mid-day meals are often the only attractions.

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Image: As one India travels in swanky cars and gets into the flight mode, the other India has to walk miles to reach the nearest health centre or in search of water.

Tags: India , Indias

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Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

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One India revels in Western lifestyle and boasts the latest gadgets, while the other India only stares with admiration mixed with envy.

In Amethi, Rahul Gandhi arrived in a spanking white business jet to file his nomination, but the raging complaint of voters was that, for the better part of the day, every day, they didn’t have electricity or safe water, and health services were miserable.

All they have had so far are assurances that things would get better once the elections are over.

They never do.

These facts are nothing new but only have been brought into sharper focus.

What is new, however, is the feeling of widespread frustration and anger, and people’s determination not to put up with politicians playing games any more with their lives and future.

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Image: One India revels in Western lifestyle and boasts the latest gadgets, while the other India only stares with admiration mixed with envy.
Photographs: Reuters

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Polls okay, but when will the two Indias merge?

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One doesn’t know how much or in what way has this anger been reflected in the voting, but this alone will mark 2014 as a milestone in the history of Indian elections.

What also stands out is the fact that the traditional political attitude of the parties in the face of this rising wave of discontent hasn’t changed either.

The tenor of the entire campaign didn’t give any indication that leaders understand the gravity of the social fissures that have kept deepening over the years.

There were practically no statements on serious fundamental economic and social issues, except what’s contained in respective manifestos, and one got no sense of how these gaps and divisions are proposed to be closed up and removed.

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Image: A woman walks to a tap to collect water on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Photographs: Jagadeesh N V/Reuters
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As always in the past, campaigning ran along predictable lines -- accusations and counter-accusations, bad-mouthing opponents, hate speeches, communal propaganda and caste politics.

Only, this time they became uglier and so loud that people forgot about the seriousness of the problem of corruption.

Development found no platform. Caste votes were openly sought and communal sops were actively peddled.

Nobody talked of building a casteless, neutral country, and passion, not reason, took the upper hand.

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Image: Four-year-old Kiran, who is suffering from malnutrition, stands next to her mother Sheil Rani in Balabehat village.
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
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Yet, Indian politics has reached a watershed and it won’t be possible any more to turn a deaf ear to the clamour for a new beginning that can now be heard rising loud and clear from every corner of the country.

There are aspirations to be met and divisions to be removed that call for an economic agenda that goes far beyond trickle down, subsidies, quotas and guarantees.

While affluent India is there to stay, poor India is also a stark reality that will only be economically suicidal to ignore.

We need a development model that will combine the two as partners and not hold one at the mercy of the other.

That’s the challenge that awaits India’s new government.

Will it be able to bring the two together and heal the wounds?


Image: The Indian Parliament.
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: India

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