Arvind Kejriwal, Narendra Modi, Justin Trudeau, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders. Is there a message?
Whether it is Arvind Kejriwal, unafraid to sit on a dharna even as a Chief minister or Justin Trudeau who has redefined the liberal left as never before or Jeremy Corbyn, Labor MP and Leader of Opposition more frugal than Gandhi, doesn’t own a car and cycles to work or Bernie Sanders, who refused to be drafted for the Army as a conscientious objector or Donald Trump spelling out a right wing agenda which would shame the Klu Klux clan blush or even Modi, a pracharak-politician most of his working life, the message from the voter is clear.
Whichever side of the spectrum he or she may belong to, the voter is tiring of the been there/done that. The boundaries of possibilities have stretched and the mid-zone of lazy, cookie-cutter solution politicians is getting edged out. Voters are looking for bold and interesting solutions from even bolder and more interesting individuals. Boring people no longer interest the voter.
Death of the middle-of-the-road is a new phenomenon, coinciding interestingly, with the coming of age of the first social media generation probably signaling a shift from the earlier deal-to-deal politics of the past and signaling a of return of ideology in public life. And since it heralds a new beginning, its success or failure are anyone’s guess. Will Trudeau’s excessive liberalism create a backlash? Would Kejriwal actually be able to implement his socialist agenda in a full-fledged state instead of Delhi where he has very limited powers? What kind of a US will Trump create? Will Modi’s Bharatvarsh evolve differently from the India that he had inherited?
Will the austere Corbyn be able to give England a taste of good old socialism? Only time will tell.
Almost by definition, middle-of-the-road is a compromise leaving no side completely satisfied. Its success lies in its ability to spread dissatisfaction evenly. That used to be a good solution once but in the age of social media, equal dissatisfaction is no longer an acceptable solution. And with means available to broadcast dissent, and identify like-minded people across the world to create formal and informal pressure groups and convert every cause into a cause célèbre, there is obviously no middle ground.
For several years the Mumbai suburb of Mira Bhayandar would order closure of slaughter houses for four days in deference to the Jain festival of Paryushan. In 2015 the community was able to pressure the local corporation to extend the ban to sale of meat as well. This led to a fracas which became the headline news for quite a while. If for one side, simple closure of the slaughter house was not enough, the other side questioned the fairness of the ban to begin with. In the good old days a lightly imposed ban was a good middle-of-the-road solution. But in the surcharged atmosphere of 2015, neither side was willing to accept the middle-of-the-road solution practiced for years.
Are extreme solutions here to stay? Are they at all feasible? And if so, will societies integrate or disintegrate? Will they reduce or increase tensions? And how will the typical in-between parties like the Congress adapt? Will they naturally be forced to the extreme left?
Or will this new set of people also settle down to life as usual? Dekhte hain.