Saturday, January 25, 2014

Disadvantages of the Underdogs & Few Successful Political Underdogs of India

In spite of reading Malcolm Gladwell's several books, some of them - several times, still one question remains in my mind. Why don't all underdogs outgrow to take on the Goliaths? What limits their advantages that they continue to suffer, can't think out of the box, and do not use unconventional methods to take on the powerful? Why don't they grab the opportunity as often as the advantaged do?

These questions kept pricking me as I was lying with bad cold, cough and fever in the second week of January. Is the the culture and social conditions that limit them? They probably do, and often possible. Social upbringing, cultural legacies borne and the weight of conditioned social controls can have long standing impact on persons who have often lived a subdued life of an underdog. But, such conditions also have had the opposite results! It is in such conditions often rebels thrive on, thinking totally out of the world comes up. Do economic situations have an impact limiting the free thinking of the supposedly misfits in society? It is possible that, even a great thinking may not have the relevant opportunity for want of economic security to overcome the hurdles. So, what we have is a mixture of Opportunity, Ability to utilize the opportunity, Environment that facilitates the ambiance to generate new ideas or use such opportunities. These three things Ability, Opportunity and Environment - even if one of them misses out, underdogs remain underdogs, or may even be pushed to the level of a street dog.

Let us look at the much talked about how the Aam Aadmi Party moved so quickly to pick the power in Delhi. The environment was ripe with rampant corruption and angry people around; Opportunity comes in the form of the RTI act that throws up many skeletons and the fast by Anna Hazare who calls for Jan Lokpal (Anti-corruption agency); and the Ability comes in the form of uniting the angry folks, giving a vision through a TRP hungry media, showcase participatory approach as a new medium of decision making, and break away from the shadow of Anna Hazare into a political movement. If we look at the case of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, she too was equally the same. When she broke away from the Congress, she was certainly an underdog, struggling to generate support for her fledgling party. The snubbing came after she joined hands with BJP. Learning the lesson she fought single minded nearly for a decade: rights of the farmers, poor, women (Maa, Maati, Manush). And slowly she gathered momentum. The opportunity came in the form of Singur and Nandigram. She grabbed on that. The environment was ripe : the stronghold of CPM was breaking with more and more of independent electronic media coming in the late 1990s and from 2000 - 2005, which needed more and more to show, the CPM party's hold on its comrades was slowly loosening as Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who is a very eminent and extremely good man, was putting people's free thinking and growth ahead of party, which led to increasing gap between the party and government. And finally, we cannot forget her ability to hold an army of men and women together, take the battle to the Lion's den without fear. 

In the South, the Dravidian movement is one of the most successful very early successes of similar kind, that was built on Anti-Brahminical and anti-Hindi agitations, that brought the Dravidian parties to rule in the state of Tamilnadu, and for the last 50 years, no other national party could set their foot, even after the original Dravidian party, the DMK, an off shoot of the atheistic Dravida Kazhagam has broken several times. Some underdogs have  the capacity to grow into mammoths.

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