Modi panders to ‘neo middle class’, eyes national role

Gujarat CM seems to be taking over from Manmohan Singh as the economic reformer and pander to the market and the new entrepreneurs

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Ajay Singh | December 4, 2012



Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is quite innovative in his formulations. Only recently he surprised the planning commission officials in New Delhi when he said that his entire state is urbanised and there is no rural area in Gujarat. Similarly, he declared once that Gujarat does not have people below the poverty line. This obviously implied that Gujarat has no poor but only the middle class.

Given Modi's preference for hyperboles and bravado, such assertions were usually taken with a generous pinch of salt earlier. But as Modi unravelled the election manifesto on December 3, he seems to be banking heavily on his theses which throw a new light on economic and social development in the state.

If Modi is to be believed, Gujarat comprises a dominant social layer of the traditional middle class which is also aggregating a burgeoning neo middle class. Obviously this new class, which is restless and aspiring to be integrated in the mainstream, is the product of aggressive market economy and liberalisation that form the core of Modi's political economy.

That Modi has been relying heavily on mobilisation of this class is evident by the manifesto he has released. For instance, he promised to build five million houses to whet the appetite of this aspiring class for wealth accumulation. For youth of this class, Modi has promised to stand as guarantor for their loans should they want to explore their entrepreneurial skills. This is a major assurance for this class, which is driven by the spirit of the market economy and quite eager to join the mainstream. Since majority of this aspiring class lives on the edge, Modi has assured to take care of their health by providing them the best medical facilities free of cost. All these promises are intended to give assurance to the neo middle class about the benevolent role of the state.

Apparently, Modi is quite aware of the fact that in this neo-libealisation phase, this section has grown manifold and acquired a critical mass to influence the politics. Not only in Gujarat, this neo middle class phenomenon has grown all over the country. Significantly, this class is perceived to be not guided by primordial identities in its political preferences. For them, the quality of life cannot be compromised even if it means diluting abiding principles of democracy.

There is no doubt that in the past two decades of liberalisation, this neo middle class would be critical in determining the course of country's politics. Modi's pandering to this class in Gujarat is intended to project his state as a role model replicable for the rest of India should he take over a national role. Perhaps Modi is determined to take over from the original economic reformer Manmohan Singh who failed to convince the growing and desperate neo middle class about the benign role of the state. That way, Gujarat elections would also be the test case for Modi and his future politics.

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