The origin of the Indian party system can be traced to the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, under Allan Octavian Hume. Even after independence, the INC continued to remain the dominant party for at least 2 decades, while its journey post 1967 saw many changes, in terms of party splits, its loss in the 1977 elections and thumping victory in the 1980 elections. From independence to the present day, the Indian political scene has been witness to several party formations, splits, conflicts and reconciliations.
However, I personally feel that the last 2-3 years have been the most dynamic period in Indian politics, in the positive sense. Awareness of the people is pivotal to the efficient working of a democracy. It has been 62 years since India emerged as a functioning democracy and it has taken about 60 years for the population to realize its role in public life. Even then it is a positive development. Today while on the one hand, caste is increasingly becoming a dominant factor in politics, corruption and dereliction of duty have become synonymous with politicians; we have on the other hand initiatives like Jaago Re!, which spread awareness about the importance of casting one’s vote. They even help people get their voter id cards. The 2009 general elections saw a marked difference even in terms of the people contesting them. We had an increased participation of educated and well-informed candidates, like Shashi Tharoor (who represented the Congress), Mallika Sarabhai (who stood as an independent candidate from Gandhinagar), Meera H Sanyal (she contested as an independent candidate from the Mumbai South constituency and is currently the chairperson and country executive for ABN AMRO Bank). Some of these new faces lost, some of them won. But what emerged victorious was the spirit which propelled these people to enter politics. They wanted a change in the way the country functions, so they decided to take the road less traveled and be the change.
India has a population of more than one billion; therefore a change in the mindset of every individual cannot come about over night. Even with all the awareness campaigns, a city like Mumbai registered a voter turnout of 43.52%, not even 50% of the population felt the need to cast their vote! This is disappointing and one can only hope that people wake up before the next elections because even the 26/11 terrorist attack doesn’t seem to have worked as an effective “alarm” clock. It can’t be doubted that we need more educated people in politics and while education is important even more imperative is a commitment to serve the nation. Being a huge and diverse country in terms of culture, geography, population, income levels and literacy every area has its own problems. The new entrants into politics have a huge task in front of them, they have to make themselves known in every part of the country and win credibility in the eyes of every Indian, as presently their influence is restricted only to a few urban centers. To all the politicians, old and new, I would like to say, borrowing a line from the Spiderman movie “With great power comes great responsibility”, hope they carry it out well.