ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Explaining the Anger

What explains the erosion of support for the ruling combine at a time of rising human development indices?

Ten years is long enough for an elected government to lose public faith and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has done much, both in acts of omission and commission, to ensure a steady erosion of support among the electorate. Large-scale corruption, the incompetence of the government in handling many important issues like inflation and letting other promises, like women’s reservation in Parliament, go unfulfilled, have all contributed to this decline. On the other hand, the past decade has also seen some of the most significant improvements in social and human development. The UPA has been trying, in its patentedly incompetent manner, to claim credit for these improvements, even though many of these trends are longer term and often have causations far beyond immediate government policy. Yet, it is also true that many UPA policies in the last decade have directly helped improve social and human development indicators of the Indian people.

Given this context, what explains the intensity of the anger against the UPA that seems to be spreading, and deepening, across the country; an anger that is filling the sails of Narendra Modi’s armada? There are two classical explanations proffered as to why citizens vote out an incumbent government. One is because the policies, actions and inaction of a government adversely affect a large number of citizens who then find the available political alternative(s) to be better or at least less iniquitous. This is what is often referred to as “anti-incumbency” by our television experts. The second explanation relies on rising or changing aspirations, where (typically) an emergent middle class with growing income, mobility, education and higher goals in life, is not satisfied with “traditional” politics, “older” political parties, and/or “conventional” policies, which, it feels, fail to deliver what it now aspires to. There is, here, a change in the terrain on which politics is conducted and those parties that manage to adapt themselves to these new contexts oust the incumbent in power.

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