The Indian Economy Blog

December 1, 2005

Liberalisation’s Children?

Filed under: Politics — Amit Varma @ 2:28 pm

Ramesh Venkataraman writes in the Indian Express:

Liberalisation’s children are less aggrieved than upwardly mobile. Along with Bunty aur Babli (but thankfully in more conventional ways), they are eager to get in on the economic action they see around them and on their TV sets. What they are demanding from their politicians are effective public services and infrastructure (the bijli, sadak, paani, padhai of the slogans), a measure of probity, and a push to attract investment and create jobs that will give them a fighting chance to move up in life.

In short, we are moving from a politics obsessed with redressing historic wrongs — Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao, militant labour and kisan movements of the ’70s and ’80s, Mandal, Mandir — to one focused on attaining future dreams. Equally, today’s electorate is starting to view government less as a mai-baap granting entitlements — seats in colleges, jobs in the public sector, subsidies — and more as an enabler of opportunities. This is a quintessentially middle class ethos in the making, even if material reality for the vast majority is still a long way from middle class levels.

Oh, I wish all that Venkataraman writes were really happening, but I fancy he is being a touch too optimistic. What he writes might be true of him and me and many of the readers of this blog, but it is not true of most of India, which still votes on issues that center around identity politics and populism. The results of this election are no more indicative of a larger truth than Modi’s win in Gujarat or Naidu’s loss in AP. The battle for progress is tougher than it appears.


  1. While I don’t disagree with your assertion that most of India still votes on issues that center around identity politics(caste and religion)and populism, I have to disagree with your use of Naidu’s loss in AP as an example of the above.

    I don’t discount Naidu’s accomplishments in improving urban(read Hyderabad) infrastructure and in being investor friendly in general.

    I don’t agree with folks who credit Naidu with IT revolution in India and I think they are on the same level as people who believe Al Gore invented internet. I think Naidu excelled in media management especially the english language media which helped him create a hi-tech reformer perception among ‘educated’ middle class and above. This perception is more prevalent outside of the state because people outside of the state do not get to see/hear other side of the story as much.

    Naidu lost because he did nothing to improve agricultural infrastructure. Irregular monsoons for 3 years in a row did not help either.

    Comment by Pusa — December 1, 2005 @ 11:44 pm

  2. Pusa, I think you misunderstood me. I am not using Naidu’s loss as an example of electoral considerations being identity politics and populism. They are two separate points. I am pointing to Naidu’s election as an example of the futility of generalising from the result of an election. Naidu was pro-reform, he lost, people made the fallacious generalisation that the voters did not want reforms. Now that Laloo’s lost, it is equally fallacious to make the generalisation that the voters want reforms. People vote for a variety of complex factors, and generalising the reasons is fraught with dangers.

    Comment by Amit Varma — December 2, 2005 @ 12:37 am

  3. Naidu lost basically on a term of High electricity prices(they rose twice in Hyderabad at very high percentages), poor importance given to farmers and more importantly lack of addressal to basic needs like water, poor roads(only a few roads were good during his time, in the old city and lower middle class living areas, the roads were pathetic) and employment to the people in AP. Another important thing is the Telangana issue which now seems to have died down (or calmed shall we say)To be realistic, some of the villages have poor nutrition comparable to many African countries .
    I believe he was riding just on the wave of the IT sector.But what is the use when it affects only the top part of the society. He had to lose in such a case .
    Yes one good thing of his was that he transformed Hyderabad and Vishakapatnam , got tourism and made East and West Godavri booming districts (from small sleepy towns to cities these places have prospered but the rest of AP, they still live in poverty).
    Basically it is a case of lack of balanced regional growth. He failed to differentiate between development and welfare!!

    Comment by Rahul M — December 3, 2005 @ 8:05 am

  4. Well I think it is wrong to generalise the result of any election as either pro or anti reforms. Because most of people dont think about such major things. They are bothered about daily necessaties like power, infrastructure. And Naidu ignored this to cost him dearly. Again only IT or OTES will not drive India into developed league. Both these sectors do not count event 1% of our population. Therefore we need to get out of this rosy illusion about IT/ITES created by our immature media.

    Comment by Vishal — December 14, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

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