Thursday, September 19, 2013

The disconnected political class and the web of arguments

Onion prices have increased by 245% as claimed by a few news channels. The Consumer Price Index inflation for the month of July stands at 10.85%. It has been higher than 10% this entire year. Among other inflated things has also been the inflation in anger and hate shown by the Indian netizen on social media. I don't have numbers to back this, but any regular social media user will not deny. 

One recent example is the statement of Kapil Sibal, the Indian Law Minister as the Minister of Communications and Information Technology. In response to rising Onion prices, he simply said "Govt. does not sell Onions". I won't debate on the factual or causal nature of government and Onion prices but shall look at the reactions of the people to this statement. 

Top tweets on Kapil Sibal on 19th September, 2013
This happens to be just one of the many such trends that have cropped on Twitter in the last few months. If people think that the government is selling "Lemons", it is definitely an indicator of a disconnected political class. Congress backers might argue that this has been driven by Narendra Modi supporters but I don't think so. Even Narendra Modi or BJP has not been immune such trends. Although there may have been relatively fewer such trends against them. But that is not the moot point!

When Communities can't change things, they argue!
I recently read a very interesting piece by Patrick French in the Hindustan Times on "Why is India Arguing?" He had a very relevant and reasonable argument - When communities can’t change things, they argue. Communities and the people today are incapable of changing rising inflation, fuel prices, health care, declining rupee and poor infrastructure. So what else can they do? Log on to Social Network and express their growing anger. In the pre-internet era, the costs of complaining were higher but today the psychological and physical costs of complaining are much lower. Moreover to reach a lower state of dissatisfaction the only easy option is voice, and the other being exit (leaving the country).

They way forward
The path ahead is definitely not rosy but simple. Jairam Ramesh, a senior member of the congress party has said that the top leaders of the congress party need to communicate more. In reality, all leaders today need to communicate more (and not just during election time). This in the long run has the potential to boost confidence of the public in the government. Initially and even in future it will make them more susceptible to online muzzling and hate, but it is not very different right now. Also, communication needs to be more responsible as opposed to simply tweeting anti-sentiment. As more Indians get connected in the years to come this will also play a bigger role in policy formulation and growth.