Six blissfully hellish decades and here we are at the threshold of yet another ‘watershed’ in Indian history – the 16th General Election. What makes it so special? That the Grand Old Party of the Grand Old Family could be routed by a right-wing nationalist party led by a man variously hailed as a gamechanger, demigod, murderer and fanatic? Or that the unexpected rise and rise of a populist third party can change the rules of the game? Or because over a billion of humanity will turn up to vote in democracy’s biggest warm-up?
2014 will be the first time I’ll vote. So, practically, it’ll be my first year as a citizen. As will it be for 100 million others. So what does the billion-strong electorate want?
A superpower with a formidable economy and a bad-ass military at the end of five years? A self-sufficient nation with a stable population and a thriving scientific community with a globally-linked indigenous industry network? Or an enclosed yet fraternal community of a variety of religions where everyone belongs to the posh literati?
And who do we want as our Prime Minister? Who can, with actions and footfalls, realize the overriding dreams of millions of disillusioned and righteously furious Indians? Who is willing and suited to engage in sciamachy for the aspirations of millions? What sort of a Leader does the Indian electorate – particularly the youth – demand?
First and foremost, we demand an honest, accountable government. The Leader must have an iron sway over the political setup, phase out all sources of corruption and retain only clean faces.
We want a stable economy. Engineering students may not know much about commerce but we’ve read enough of “dollar rocks, rupee shocks” stories to know it’s not running right. Raghuram Rajan gave the stock market a breather but we need more. The Leader must take a more active and fruitful role in boosting India’s floundering economy and solve inflation.
Next, we want India’s Leader to give high priority to foreign affairs. The past five years have seen India’s relationship with the US, China, Pakistan, Europe and Sri Lanka dither. The Leader must be a person who’ll make friends for India everywhere.
Naxalism didn’t strike headlines much in the past year, but that’s not to say it won’t in the future. With positive and patient dialogue with the militants, and suppression if necessary, the Leader should curb and eradicate Maoism once and for all. The same goes for insurgency in the North-East.
And now we come to beautiful, inevitable Kashmir. I may be biased in saying this, but I know I’m right – Kashmir belongs to India, to us, and no one else. This issue has plagued India’s relations and image since independence. We need the Leader to be strong enough to settle this matter with either the diplomat’s tongue or the undertaker’s fist.
We understand that no leader comes with a magic wand or a bottle of panacea, but after years of unfair stagnation we deserve to expect and receive more. India has amazingly paramount potential, and an amazingly negligible net growth rate. The Leader must understand that when a billion of us will turn out to decide her/his destiny, the world’s greatest nation is not only reaffirming its faith in democracy and the vote, but also in the idea of India. The Leader must deliver.