Saturday, July 4, 2015

From CAG to IPAC

A major force in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and recipient of a special award from OTFS, India CAG (Citizens for Accountable Governance) showed a new, tech-savvy way of running an election campaign, a way that was unprecedented in India and at a scale that was unprecedented in the whole world. Now, with the Modi sarkaar having completed a year in office, another great election is on the horizon - Bihar. And it seems to be all deja vu again, if not for the fact that the main players have changed. 
India CAG was rather unceremoniously ditched by the BJP after May 2014, with its members not given any role whatsoever in the government. Agreed, it is wrong to involve party members in the government outside of official structures (as AAP is doing right now), but CAG was not a part of the BJP, it was a group of active citizens who wanted to work for the country. And it is that same CAG, give or take a few, that is now the India Political Action Committee (IPAC) that is spearheading Nitish Kumar's campaign in Bihar. 

What does an ideological voter of the BJP think of what appears to be a desertion of the ranks? As I already said, CAG was never a part of the BJP and Amit Shah should not assume that they are. But this defection does not really appear to be non-ideological, it is just not the BJP's ideology. CAG and now IPAC is driven by the desire to use strong leaders to change India for the better - a goal that many, if not most Indians, share (though not necessarily which leader). To them, it is not about the ideology but the individual - an acknowledgement that India has always been running a Presidential system of government under the garb of Westminster democracy. It is the BJP's failure that they were unable to keep such a non-ideological base with them and indeed, don't seem to be able to retain anything except the RSS!
 
But this is more than just about parties. Parties win and lose in democratic cycles. But something more radical is happening - party structures themselves are breaking down. From winning elections through largely feudal methods that depend on cultivating unquestioning loyalty - as the Congress and the Communists still do (at the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant) - parties are now having to depend on professional data analysis to determine strategy. The base of parties is breaking down from a top-heavy, family-centered system of patronage to something more democratic. This is happening very slowly, but surely. 

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