View: India’s large churn rate offers mobility, opportunity and representation
Two chief ministerial resignations – Amarinder Singh from Congress in Punjab and BS Yediyurappa from BJP in Karnataka – have lowered the average age of CMs to below 60. To date, there are only seven CMs who are 70 years of age or older. Among them, none are from the BJP, one from the Congress, one from the CPI (M) and five from the regional parties.
Conversely, almost half of the states have MCs for the first time, most of them under the age of 60. In fact, a quarter of CMs are under 50 years old. After a long time, we have a situation where the average age of the Union Cabinet and CMs – essentially what you would call India’s collective leadership – are below 60. That’s all. makes an improvement in a country where generational shifts in politics have been gradual and largely dynasty-driven.
This churn was visible from the start of the 2010s. The rise of a group of young congressional leaders under Rahul Gandhi, the astonishing victory of Akhilesh Yadav in 2012 in Uttar Pradesh and the emergence of Arvind Kejriwal as a political force have been indicators of this change. But Gandhi and Yadav failed to build on a head start and pursue a policy by right. Kejriwal, on the other hand, managed to survive and gain relevance. But so far only in a limited political geography. The real winner then was Narendra Modi, who crafted a successful campaign against law and corruption, promising a transformative new start with new opportunities.
In the political arena, this translated into a “baggage-less” approach – no outcasts when it came to poaching talent from other parties. Within the BJP, followers of the old camp lost ground as new faces made their way. The fact that today an old congressional hand like Himanta Biswa Sarma can become Assam CM shows you the mental leap that BJP as a party has made.
Where’s the party tonight?
Entities, both within the BJP and outside the parivar, had to make significant adjustments to cope with these fundamental changes as the party took pole position in the political arena. But over the past 3-4 years, the opposition has grown stronger thanks to a deep-rooted regionalism, articulated either by parties or by regional leaders within national parties.
As a result, a decade later we have a mix of new political players, including dynasts, from different parties making up the political album. However, it is now a dynamic and not frozen photo frame, because that is how competitive politics has become. With voting percentages consistently exceeding 60-65%, the stakes for Indian democracy are only increasing.
The winning combination is now a complex mix of caste equations, governance markers, and leader-building storytelling. Getting that right mix is always a challenge. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that new leaders will increasingly come from CBOs, SCs and STs as democracy deepens its roots.
This does not mean that dynasty policy is on the decline. Jagan Mohan Reddy, MK Stalin, Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren are CMs with political pedigree. But the big difference is that each of them had to reclaim the lost political power by proving their worth. Stalin had to struggle for almost two decades, until the end of the Jayalalithaa era, to gain political acceptance.
Reddy broke with Congress, had to find his feet, build a new party, and rise up on his own political streak. Thackeray broke with the BJP, made alliances his father probably would have disapproved of in order to gain relevance. Soren combed through every inch of the Jharkhand to win back the tribal vote to challenge the BJP.
On the other hand, for those nominated CM by their party after an electoral victory like Adityanath, the next election becomes vital. In some cases, such as in Gujarat and Uttarakhand, the BJP has changed its CMs to oppose the ruling opposition. So while there is greater mobility and opportunities for aspiring politicians, the downfall can be just as rapid if one fails to deliver on promises. With out-of-the-box options, there is now less of a premium on the long-term investment of political talent.
One of the bewildering fallout from this generational shift, however, is that it leaves behind the scars of a broken relationship with the outgoing generation. At BJP, the Pillars enjoyed a smooth exit via the margdarshak mandal – a committee of mentors – while in Congress this led to a showdown, with some of them seeking to lead the charge against Rahul Gandhi. .
Age and time cannot be reversed. But the outgoing generations have generally remained as a source of guidance, largely for their pure institutional memory. They establish the missing links in parliament, remind leaders of administrative precedent and help keep the political compass in place. But the separation has left the outgoing generation bitter and the current lot rather impoverished in professional knowledge. As a result, many leaders increasingly rely on bureaucrats to fill knowledge gaps and make complex governance structures work.
Either way, the political space has now both opened up and stabilized due to this churn. A quick glance today at the gallery of faces that dominate Union and State Cabinets tells you that change is written in big words. The challenge now is for this generation to properly define its political paradigm and not to rely solely on the identity politics of the past.