Moments and Movements
In the business world, there are two approaches to communicating new ideas: spend a lot of money in marketing to ensure repeated exposure to the message, or to hope for virality where an idea spreads person-to-person. In politics, it is a combination of the two: a leader crafts the message and a political party uses its organisational mechanism to disseminate it widely. In the Nayi Disha case, none of these approaches will work: there isn’t a big spending budget available, virality is desired but cannot be engineered, there is no great leader with the stirring message of freedom and prosperity, and there is no organisational structure (yet) to take the ideas to the voter. And then there is the constraint of time: national elections happen every five years, so miss one opportunity and the result will be a long wait.
Let’s look at the moments in the past when a large cross-section of Indians have changed their minds: the vote after the Emergency in 1977 that brought the Janata government to power, the vote three years later that brought Indira Gandhi back to power, the vote for Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998, and the Lok Sabha majority for Narendra Modi in 2014. I have excluded the vote of 1984 that gave Rajiv Gandhi a sweeping majority – it was an outpouring of grief and an emotional vote after the assassination of his mother and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. In 1977, Jayaprakash Narayan led a motley bunch of politicians in a vote against the excesses of the Emergency. In 1980, the failure of this experiment made the people turn to the very leader they had rejected just a thousand days earlier. Vajpayee’s leadership and NDA coalition led by the BJP made people turn away from experiments with the Third Front. Modi’s aspirational politics and rousing oratory punished a weak and corrupt Congress.
There have been other movements which had political ramifications. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement stirred the Hindus into action and the Indians Against Corruption movement woke up the urban middle class. The former led to the rise of the BJP while the latter birthed the Aam Aadmi Party.
In all these cases, there has always been a leader or a set of leaders at the top who have guided the change in thinking with an eventual change in voting behaviour. This is what we have to replicate – but without the benefit of a single political leader because that (party politics) is exactly what Nayi Disha is against.
It seems like an impossible mission, but the future of our nation hangs on this. Whether India will rise to claim its status among the prosperous nations of the world or remain a poor nation as it has been for centuries depends on whether Nayi Disha’s ideas can be piped to tens of millions who then collectively unite to bring about the political change that’s needed. This has to be done against the backdrop of two trends: an India in which free speech is increasingly under attack because of the collusion among the government, judiciary and media, and the rise of digital devices and high-speed networks which has put smartphones and social media in the hands of hundreds of millions of Indians.