Corporate India has stake in AAP politics

It is said that a country that cannot dream cannot grow, evolve and develop. India has reached a defining point in her history. At 66, she is reinventing herself. She is learning to dream again. And it is indeed time that she did. The electorate has been for far too long fatigued by mainstream political parties whether it be the Congress or the BJP, which is but a congressised version of its Nehruvian counterpart. Both are characterized by what may be described as a poverty of ideas. Under the circumstances,   the electorate decided to opt for change and substantive renewal.

The Aam Aadmi Party, headed by Arvind Kejriwal, made a spectacular entry into the political landscape of the capital by registering an impressive presence. Its victory in the capital city reflected the fact that that the aam aadmi is sick and tired of both the Congress and the BJP and do not have either the time or patience to listen to their sectarian bickering. The message the electorate is giving them cannot be clearer, louder and less ambiguous: learn to reinvent yourselves because if you do not, you will land up precisely where you are headed! Are they listening? The signs say they are not.

The government of Sheila Dixit has paid the price for its arrogance. The BJP for its part displayed its own lack of grace by refusing to congratulate the new chief minister of New Delhi. Instead it was harping on whether the AAP will deliver on its promises. One of its senior spokesmen went so far as to say that the party is actually preparing for repoll! It was hard to understand the statement because it failed to capture the mood prevalent in the capital.

Point of departure

For my part, my money is definitely with the AAP. Its leaders and followers have moved with audacity and dogged consistency. The broom that is stamped on their caps reflects a telling yet appropriate metaphor: the piles of dirt that have accumulated over six odd decades of independence Aegean stables need cleaning. 

The AAP needs corporate support and the corporate India will have to wake up to its social responsibilities and dovetail its agenda in the creation of ethos that is in consonance with the needs and aspirations of the Indian people at this juncture in her history. It represents the rising voice of the burgeoning middle class which is asserting itself and wants to carve a space that it can call its own. The combination of corruption, misguided policies and alarming deficits in trust, governance and credibility proved to be lethal. This has laid the grounds for a new point of departure and the opportunity must be ceased with agility.

There are three things that corporate India can do here and now to advance this objective. The first lies in spreading awareness of what the AAP stands for and forcefully endorsing its campaign to remove corruption. There is little doubt that the party has touched the pulse of millions. There is even less doubt about the fact that its intentions are honourable and above board. Corporate India needs to boldly and unambiguously voice its support to the cause and not hide behind rhetoric. It needs to strongly espouse, develop and consolidate what people want: a better future for themselves and their progeny.

Secondly, it must educate the populace of the stakes involved in the task of effecting profound social and economic transformation that is capable of transforming the nation. For example, a vigorous public campaign needs to be instituted to make corruption an anti-patriotic act. The sentiment needs to be widely advertised. Similarly not paying taxes needs to be portrayed as an offence against society. In countries like Sweden it invites nothing less than a ten year jail sentence.

Thirdly, it must partner with the government and the civil society coalition to widen the canvas of corporate social responsibility. The canvas is not just social but national. India is going to have the largest number of young people in the world for the next twenty to thirty years. This statistic alone is sobering. What we are witnessing today is an extraordinary upsurge of the creative talent of our people and it cannot be stopped. 

Corporate India needs to appreciate this fact and ride the wave and not be submerged under it. Having been a munificent beneficiary of the licence-raj, it now needs to give back. Urgently.

(The writer is a senior professor at IIM Bangalore)

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