Middle class: vote and revolt

The Congress won the 2004 election and believed it had won because the ruling NDA was suggesting that India was a different, and differently, considerably less poor country in 2004 compared to the India of 1950 or even 1980. The Congress felt glorious not only by winning but in being vindicated in its belief that India remained just as poor and not shining. So it put in place NREGA, a stone-digging employment programme, something that the state government of Maharashtra had introduced in 1973! A period when India's per capita income was one-third the 2005 level. The 2009 election came along, India had grown at more than 7 per cent an annum for five years, and the Congress believed that the poor had voted them in not realising that it was the middle class that was increasingly important, and dominant, and one that had indeed voted it in. The middle class does not much care for populist platitudes; it worries about how its taxes are spent. It is concerned about corruption, and about both crony socialism and crony capitalism. Which is why it is increasingly disappointed and disillusioned with the Congress party, and Sonia Gandhi.

The table also documents what has happened to female and male education, 8-24 years, and female to male wages, 15-24 years, urban areas. If you want to understand a changing, and changed, India, just look at these figures. Female education was one year less than male education in 1983; in 2009-10, it was the same. Women earned only 71 per cent of male wages in 1983; in 2009-10, they earned, on average, 3 per cent more!

There are some, and perhaps many within the ruling party, who believe that the anti-rape, pro-equality demonstrations are just another manifestation of angst on the part of the "painted and dented". That these protests will go the way of Anna Hazare and India Against Corruption. Nothing is further from the truth. Those demonstrations were the equivalent of affirming the goodness of motherhood. Nobody disagrees. The recent anti-rape and anti-inequality protests were much more about the affirmation of individual, particularly female, identity an identity that is demanding equality in all aspects of their existence, and especially vis--vis males and especially vis--vis the system.

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