New Delhi, April 29 IANS | 3 months ago

The middle class people of India don't realise the value of their vote, said writer and former diplomat Pavan K. Varma Tuesday. Yet, he believes they can be the engine of constructive change.


"The middle class people of our country are angry... and they definitely want change. But being merely angry won't help, they have to engage with issues and see how they can address it," Varma told IANS.

"They can be the engines of constructive change in our country. If you ask me if it (middle class) is capable of playing a leadership role, I would say yes. But, if you ask me whether they are playing the role, I would say no," he added.

Author of many books, including "Ghalib: The Man, The Times" and "Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity", Varma's new book "The New Indian Middle Class" (Harper Collins, Rs.299) is about the educated and internet-savvy middle class, their active roles in serving justice in some cases, and their lack of knowledge about governance.

"One of the problems of the middle class is they don't know what they want. There are many young people who have superficial knowledge about Indian democratic structure or information, but they are angry at the incompetence of the government," he said.

In the book, Varma has mentioned three incidents where the middle class played pivotal role in ushering change: Jessica Lal murder case; the Dec 16, 2012, rape case; and Anna Hazare's agitation against corruption.

It was these three incidents where people came out on the streets, held protests and candle-light vigils to put pressure at the helm. And, ostensibly, justice was delivered.

Varma, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Foreign Service in 2012 to enter public life and at present is the cultural adviser to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, compared this middle class empowerment to the Arab Spring where people took to streets and protested against dictator governments.

But, this is not the case with India, as Varma points out how people are crippled with "magic wand syndrome" and the "messiah proclivity".

"It is unfortunate that people in India still feel that there is a magic wand that will change things overnight, or there is a messiah like Anna Hazare who will bring change," he said.

"It doesn't work like that. Unless they have an alternate vision about what they want and how important their vote is, things won't change much," he added.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, massive voter turnout is hinting how people are seeking change, but Varma feels people should drop the word "secular" before hitting the button.

"The word secular has been misused and abused today. People should demand good governance and vote for that...," he said.

(Posted on 29-04-2014)