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

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Green Politics and the Indian Middle Class

Four pillars of green politics--social justice, grass-roots democracy, non-violence, and respect for diversity--have become more or less established principles of Indian political parties. The integration of the environmental dimension of green politics, consisting of the twin pillars of ecological wisdom and sustainability, is in an evolutionary phase. It is likely that increasingly this integration will reflect the views of the growing Indian middle class.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, was a practitioner of “green politics” far ahead of his times. His politics in the first half of the last century embraced the six principles of green politics, namely social justice, ecological wisdom, grass-roots democracy, non-violence, ecological wisdom and sustainability, that were adopted in 2001 at the first Global Greens Congress at Canberra, Australia.

Despite Gandhi’s green politics, no established political party in India can claim to be a “green party” in the accepted sense of the term. Perhaps, a vibrant middle class of reasonable size, necessary to support such a green party, has emerged or is emerging in India only in the last couple of decades. In this context, two questions of considerable interest are: Why has a green party not occupied more political space in India for so long? (See for example Narain 2009.) How green is the politics of the Indian middle class? This article is an attempt at answering these questions. It is not about the right approach to the environment and associated lifestyle, including such important issues as consumerism, large-scale industrialisation and urbanisation. It is a simple attempt at examining whether, with the emerging Indian middle class, a conventional political party contesting elections is likely to champion environmental issues in the same way as green parties do in the developed North.

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