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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Struggle at the Heart of India

An exceptional struggle is going at the heart of India at the moment. I am not just talking about the anti-graft movement epitomized by Arvind Kejriwal and his political antics, but which very well be a part of it. It is the struggle of the generation-X to launch itself to India’s center stage whether it is politics, cricket, business, film or any other walk of life. It seems that they are already there but not yet!

In short, the baby-boomers still hold power in India and the generation-X is yet to make its presence even though India is tipped to become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group by 2020. (The baby-boomers refer to people born after World War II (1945) and generation-X refers to people born after 1970s). This transitional pain is aggravated in India, just like in any other Asian country, because of the traditional cultural values that draw apparent links between seniority and productivity, which may not be true all the time.

This struggle is exemplified in Indian politics where we have Narendra Modi on one side and Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal on the other side, as prime ministerial aspirants.

The Struggle

The baby-boomers – the post freedom generation of India – have used their opportunities well and turned India into what we see today – a potential superpower that could take on the world. They worked with less, maneuvered intelligently, reconciled dichotomies and often created complex ways of wealth and prosperity creation tools. They inherited a legacy from the freedom fighters and produced Ambanis and Adanis along with shred but effective politicians.

On the other hand, the generation-X grew up in the shadow of the security and prosperity created by the baby-boomers. They had enough and were never exposed to unhealthy competitions to the extent their predecessors were exposed to.

But now when they want to take up the mantle from their predecessors, the generation-X faces some stark choices and hard decisions. This dilemma is epitomized in Rahul Gandhi, where he has inherited a legacy institution – Indian National Congress –but with its huge baggage of recent history of corruption and mismanagement. The organizational elements in his party still wanted to hold on to what they are used to. But Rahul can easily see that this will not play well with the generation-X and the subsequent generations. If Rahul really wanted to make his organization relevant and competitive, he needs to change it for good. When Rahul says that he was working to strengthen his party for the past few years, he means this transition, for sure.

 The aspirations of the generation-X have expressed itself in the unprecedented anti-graft movements and anti-rape movements in Delhi and elsewhere in India. As far as I can see, the generation-X in India dreams of a new world – they deliberately wanted to part with the past. They like to enjoy the benefits created by the baby-boomers, but wanted to move away from the perceived negativities associated with its prosperity generation tactics.

At the moment, Arvind Kejariwal occupies this free space in Indian politics. How good the intentions of Rahul Gandhi are, it is almost impossible for him to change the ways of his party in a short time, without the support of his senior organizational members. Arvind Kejariwal presents a clear alternative and an easy way to part with old ways for the generation-X. It seems to be appealing and practical, but how deeply he can dig is yet to be seen. Interestingly Rahul and Arvind are in their early 40s.

And still there is the other formidable force – the might of the baby-boomers – represented by Narendra Modi, who presents the vision of prosperity and stability, but by mostly holding on to old ways. That is a tried and tested model and still appealing to masses.

The Choice

The question is, what will India choose, especially its younger generations, for now and in the future?
  • Whether they will choose to keep the old ways of winning at the cost of gravitating towards conservative values?
  • Whether they will decide to part with the past to create a new sky and new earth at the cost of relative instability and experimentation?
  • Whether they will be given a chance to renew their legacy institutions to a winnable position, with the support of their senior mentors in their organizations?
  • Whether they will go for an all-out reversal of the system, if not now, later, if they feel that they are left out of options?

Those choices will determine the shape and social fabric of India for the foreseeable future that I can see.

It will be interesting to watch the coming elections.

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