Will Indian Elections Lead to Change in Culture of Corruption and Red Tape?

Although the votes are still being counted, India's long-ruling Congress party has conceded the national elections to the BJP. Many voters gave frustration with corruption as their reason for voting for the clean sweep. Young Indians in particular are looking to new leadership to develop their economy.

978-0-8223-5110-8_prAkhil Gupta opens his recent book Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India with this question: "Why has a state whose proclaimed motive is to foster development failed to help the large number of people who still live in dire poverty? Why do regimes whose legitimacy depends upon bettering the lives of the poor continue to allow anywhere from 250 million to 427 million to live below the poverty line?" He argues that red tape and corruption are a form of violence against the poor, causing millions of deaths. 

Although the poor in India may not wield economic power, they have long been considered an important group for politicians to court. But this year's elections brought a larger turnout from urban voters than in the past. To many, the young urban Indian working in a tech company is the sign of the future, but Gupta counsels against forgetting about the importance of agriculture to the Indian economy: "Agriculture has recorded the slowest growth rates of teh secotrs in the Indian economy. Agriculture is the only place where the vast majority of the unemployed and underemployed population can find employment in the short and medium term, but that will not happen if there is slow growth in this sector." Gupta also cautions against rising inequality: "It is not just the widening economic distance created by the conjunction of class and sectoral differences that is of concern. Equally important is the fact that the lives and experiences of many people who are part of the new global economy are increasingly cut off from those the urban, and especially, rural poor. For most of the urban middle-class there is no possibility of understanding, let along sympathinzing, with the struggles faced by poor people."

The new government under Narendra Modi must adopt policies that aid all Indians, or they may find themselves out of office in a few years. Unlike in the U.S., Indians on average vote half their politicians out of office at each election. 

Read more of Red Tape for great background to today's election news. Check out the introduction here

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