Quiet transition

Over the years, in several states, the Congress has adapted itself to changing socio-political realities to keep its grip on governance. It brought in representatives from traditionally marginalised sections of society and gave them a share in power.

The party, however, did not find it compelling enough to herald such changes in a big way at the national level. The representation it gave to the marginalised sections like the Scheduled Castes and minorities and backward classes of society in the country’s governance were by and large very cosmetic.

However, whether deliberate or accidental, the party did something very significant on Sunday that the country has never witnessed before at the national level since Independence – it entrusted key decision-making powers to people who collectively signal a national political transition.

Look at the composition of the new five-member Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) – arguably the critical decision-making body of the Government of India: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh belongs to the minority Sikh community, Defence Minister A K Antony the minority Christian community, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid the minority Muslim community, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to the Scheduled Caste community, and Finance Minister P Chidambaram to the backward class.

It would, perhaps, be wrong to surmise that the change came about by way of a deliberate decision. Each one of them has been there in the Congress long enough and had shouldered many important positions of responsibility before being chosen to be on the most privileged Cabinet panel.

So, it cannot be that the Congress leadership chose deliberately to keep the upper caste representatives in the party, who traditionally wielded power, out of the panel. What the Sunday’s development indicates is that the process of socio-political transition in terms of political representation to weaker sections, which has been happening for years at lower levels within different political parties, and in state legislatures, Parliament and lower and middle levels of governments at all levels, has now moved to the top.

That this has happened without having to resort to a mandatory quota system should be very encouraging to the country’s democratic evolution. There has always been an impression that major political parties have only given symbolic political representation to the weaker sections. The new-look CCS should go a long way in dispelling it.

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