A New Beginning
Meanwhile, the 'System' itself was found to go back
on its commitments of removing poverty, unemployment, social exclusion
and growing atrocities on vulnerable sections, especially women
and children. Indeed, there developed in the elite a peculiar
amnesia on these issues.
Meanwhile, thanks to the widening gap
between the small minority that operated the system and the large
majority that was left out of it, there grew a generation of middle
and lower middle class youth that could not care less about basic
values, and which was instead almost wholly consumed by the new
economic logic of money, the yuppie culture of consumerism and
a free for all.
And of course, reinforcing all these pathologies
affecting the democratic enterprise has been the mass media and
advertising agencies, the most subtle manipulation of all ideas
and institutions coming from the very bearers of 'freedom
of expression,' both the electronic and the print media.
And yet, there is already emerging a whole variety of counterforces
to this degenerate and derailed system, based on the very premises
and assumptions of the democratic polity. Tired and demoralised
by the continuous slide-down of the system and its institutions
and operators, no longer willing to leave things to existing parties
and agencies of governance, there has been under way, for some
time now but particularly reflected in the 1996 election, an emergent
new politics of mass aspirations and assertions, in effect rejecting
the system as it operated, especially the political parties and
the party system as also the long held preoccupations with 'national'
goals, issues and slogans.
Six major parameters of this shift to a new set of actors insisting
on their rights as laid out in the very concept of democracy,
and seeking a new political order that could uphold these rights
can be identified. First, there has taken place a considerable
awakening, mobilsation and political and ideological assertions
of what can be called the 'dalit' movement in politics.
The concept of dalit being conceived as a broad, encompassing,
set of castes and classes, producing a new form of radicalism
than has been represented by either the Liberal or the Marxist
or the 'new social movements' perspectives, most of
which were found to lack of social agenda and failed to concede
to the dalits their rightful claims, and a clearly defined role
in running the affairs of the state through direct access to political
Second, there has taken place a large-scale politicisation of
caste groups and minority communities at the lower reaches of
the social hierarchy, resulting in a challenge to existing structures
and hegemonies despite efforts (which are inevitable) at sowing
seeds of discord among them by existing parties and governing
Third, thanks to a series of progressive legislative
enactments, a large variety of hitherto disempowered social strata
have been empowered through reservations and other forms of affirmative
action (building further upon the rights assigned to the SCs and
STs through acceptance of the report the Mandal Commission by
the National Front government) which have now been accepted, at
least in principle, by all parties and governments at different
levels and which, in consequence, has put quite a number of individuals
from these strata into positions of power.