There is a high pitched debate going on among Indian bloggers whether India can produce an Obama or not. (here, here) By “producing an Obama” we mean the very rapid rise of a particular leader at the national level like Mr. Barak Obama in USA. We know that India always has tradition of old leaders, leaders in their 90s, 80s. We have Mr. Advani, age above 80, Mr. Karunanidhi, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Devegauda as patriarchs of Indian politics. But we do not have any leader in his 40s or 50s, who has a national appeal (I do not consider Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Sindhiya as leaders), Though Mayawati, Narendra Modi, Prakash Karat have shown promise. Let us examine what are the factors responsible for average old age in Indian politics.
- Family run political parties: India’s political system has been converted in oligarchy. There are few families who control almost 70% of political space in Indian top level politics. Generally leaders, who create a large base of voters for themselves, transfer that base to their sons/daughters/family members, as they do not trust their own followers. Such political parties turn into a family business, even if son is incompetent. Congress, SP, RJD, NC, INLD, ShivSena, DMK, JDS, TDP and many more are dark examples of this phenomenon. There are some cadre based parties like BJP and Lefts also, but leaders in these parties promote their family within the party. This whole thing leaves very little space for a young promising leader. There are some other routes to enter politics like student unions and RSS. But chances are very few.
- Multiparty system: Multi party system makes it very difficult for a young leader, with very less contacts compare to old jadiyas , to get support of many parties in this era of coalition. Even old leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee face a lot difficulty in managing an alliance. Multi party system also involves very tough fights for local seats. So a new leader has a major preoccupation to think about his re-election and national issues take a back seat.
- Diversity of language: India is a diverse country with as many 10 prominent languages. If a leader is good speaker in one language then it is very less probable that he can barely speak another language. This restricts the appeal of many new emerging leaders. I am not saying that it is a negative point, but it is a fact. It is a major reason that there has been no national level leader from south India unlike north Indian Nehru, Indira, Atal Bihari as south India is more diverse in terms of language.
- Education system mess: As pointed by this blog, a major problem for any highly educated, English speaking person to enter politics is that he/she cannot attach themselves to psyche of a normal Indian (70% Indians live in villages and more than 85% cannot understand English). So the situation is lost in translation. On the other hand a mildly educated person can understand local problems well, but not the international issues. In this way our borrowed education system is a large tax on our progress.
- Police-politicians-criminal alliance: Police-politicians-criminal alliance does not allow a new entrant in their world of power. So, if you want to enter at local level politics, you need money, muscle power and backing of other local leaders.
- Apathy of “aam aadmi” towards politics: People in general are not interested in doing anything about politics. They can talk about politics for hours, but cannot go to vote once in 2-3 years. They have found an easy way to blame politics for everything. This non-resistance has made life very easy for power hungry politicians. This also makes it tougher for a new leader to get even a chance of representing people.
I am not saying that our system is worse than US political system, but it can be improved by injecting new blood in it. We have a new hope in economic sector due to opening of market. Let us see when the playground of politics will open to generate the same kind of hope for country.