Earlier this week, on the day Left and Right political parties called for the nationwide shutdown and strike, or bandh, I left home a little early for the office to avoid any road blockades that protestors might have set up to put the brakes on the city. I was surprised, though, at the large number of motorists on the streets of Delhi at 7:45 am—I guess many people had the same idea as me and were trying to skirt the strike.
TV channels, meanwhile, kept focusing throughout the day on grievances people have towards the political groups responsible for instigating the strike, including the BJP, rather than the actual price rises that prompted it all. It’s not that the price rise doesn’t affect the average person. But I think that there's a growing belief among the media and the people that parties like the BJP or CPI (M) are using these sorts of issues to serve their own political purposes rather than the people.
The BJP seemed a charming option for many back when it hadn't yet tasted power. But now, many see the Hindu rightist party as having ruled the country without an alternative vision and direction.
Then there are the Left parties, who purport to represent the public, but which have in fact only ended up ruining the economy of West Bengal. The people there are so disenchanted with their three decades of governance that they've been rejecting the Left alliance in every election for the past few years. And if the current mood continues, the Communists will be out of power by the next legislative election.
In India now there seems to be an urge to grow, and a restlessness to shed the historical baggage of backwardness—this new, emerging India isn't in the mood to tolerate forces that block the economic progress that has been unleashed by liberalization and globalization.
Yet although the population of India is getting younger, its politics are still rooted in the old ways of life. The Bhartiya Janata Party grew rapidly in the 1980s and 90s, but its decline from the first half of this decade has been steep. The party has demonstrated a remarkable disconnect with the people it claims to represent and the middle class, which was the backbone of the party, no longer appears to take the BJP seriously, at least if the last elections are any indication.
Similarly, the Communists' anti-Americanism and anti-liberalization has alienated them from young Indians, while rural India largely follows caste or community affiliations rather than ideological ones.
Maybe all those people who were rushing to their offices early on the morning of the strike were actually in some way not only skirting the strike, but also trying to avoid the old-style politics of disruption and destruction.