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Capitalism, Change, Democracy, Elections, Evolution, India, Knowledge Society, Politics, Religion, Society, Urbanisation

Stereotypes & Indian Polit(y)ics!

He is a Politician!

The young lady on the panel is an Activist!

We also have one of the best Intellectuals to weigh in on the topic.

No, we cannot allow Lobbyists on our Advisory board!

We have invited a group of Professionals to debate on the progress of urbanisation.

We normally use Stereotypes when pronouncing our judgement about others. Our motivation is fuelled by our need to either clarify that we do not like to be counted amongst them (in derision and with vehemence) or wish to be seen belonging to their circle (in admiration or for gain).

While this makes us focus on what we expect from them, it also obfuscates our thoughts on aspects we choose not to discuss with them. Quite democratically, ‘we’ too are similarly stereotyped by those we label in our minds and receive equally prejudiced treatment. The common man (Aam Aadmi), a particular vote bank, the salaried class, the farmers, the middle class, those with agricultural income or those migrating from Tier 2 or 3 cities, et al, all are stereotypes that get sliced off treatments in the minds of other stereotypes. Add to that the ones segregated due to their religion, caste or language and you have probably touched all shadows and ghettoes of the Indian polity. Interactions or communication between stereotypes are never about knowing or learning more about the other. It is rather a gladiatorial contest with each stereotype striving hard to maximise its influence. Stereotyping thrives on the natural psychological need to belong to one type and see the rest as the other. It rests on the belief that we understand the motivations that drive the behaviour and choices of the other side.


…so that ‘you’ can work on their motivations or create motivations for them and then drive their behaviour and choices towards your ends!

Stereotyping creates a transactional society where everyone is scurrying to get the best deal and remain divided between winners and losers. Over the last decade or two (depending upon which part of India you are looking at), the Indian polity has gone through a rapid change in its socio-economics combined with the emergence of an unabashed right-wing political narrative. For the first time in post-independence India, the polity has been offered a political counter narrative to the Nehruvian ‘please-it-all left-off-centre’ choice. And it is also for the first time that Indians have tasted the materialism blood, indulgingly labelled as the emergence of an aspirational India. Globalisation (another outcome of a transactional society), the promise of a demographic dividend and a strident majoritarian narrative laced with nationalism is a cocktail that can only be explosive. No wonder, stereotyping has raised a din that is quite shrill, with each type more inclined to go for the kill.

No, there is nothing poetic about it anymore!

The typing churn that the Indian polity has been going through has also simplified the stereotype landscape. The shriller stereotypes are surviving while the relatively muted types run the risk of vanishing into oblivion. Politics and its impact on the Aam Aadmi have come to bear heavily on most Indians, largely due to the echo chambers most spend their time in, thanks to cheap internet and smart phones. It is estimated that by 2021, nearly 2/3rd of the voting population of India (~ 1000,000,000) would be lapping up narratives peddled through their Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp forwards as news. Indian polity is no longer the unaware, disinterested or ambivalent majority when it comes to political narratives. Life in echo chambers have transformed even the most unaware into an Activist and many among them are even aspiring to a career in politics. But, fortunately or unfortunately – depending upon which stereotype you belong to – such activism is short lived since the impressionable majority do not come from an ideological trajectory.

These adequately populated echo chambers have almost replaced the need for massive political rallies or placard bearing processions marching through your neighbourhood. The Zuckerbergs of today have not only killed the erstwhile flourishing business of the Tent Wallahs and Loudspeaker suppliers, social media barons have become global suppliers of echo chambers with the power to influence election results in most countries across the world.

The shriller the narrative, faster the spread through social media, wider is the corralling of short-term Activists and higher the potential of a last-minute swing in voting persuasions. Yet, the trajectories of people and what they grow up with as their affinities or value system may determine the fate of Indian politics or polity more than what the Prashant Kishores can sway with their echo chamber strategies.

Major Trajectories & Affinities we Indians grow up with

Four facts that no individual controls – where, when, of whom and as what we are born – determine our affinities and scripts our trajectories in life to a very large extent. Fortunately, there is always enough variance in the content, the motivations, the socioeconomic opportunities and the unknown to yet make each of us into individuals distinct enough to walk around without being mistaken as clones. Yet again, it is our commonalities in affinities that keeps us clustered enough to be part of a trajectory category. And that category is what makes us acquire a certain stereotype label.

Most Indians of today have grown up with either of the following primary Affinities:

  1. Knowledge (Vidya)
  2. Land & Inheritance – Wealth (Aishwarya)
  3. Ideology (Vichardhara)

Please note that these are the primary affinities. While we may have other affinities or cross affinities too, it is the primary affinity that drives our choices and points of view in life. Fig, 1 below depicts the Trajectories each Stereotype gets distilled from owing to the Affinities one is born in. In a polity that is no longer ambivalent or disinterested in politics the stereotypes that matter today are those that wield power or can influence policy making. Gone are the days when national television or newspapers with large circulations were considered necessary for accessing facts, news or analysis about government policies or their impact upon the (unaware or politically ineffective) majority. Today they are no longer mainstream media but an amplified summary of the social media echo chambers.

Fig. 1 – Major Stereotypes, Trajectories & Affinities in India

The root cause for this intellectual atrophy lies in the rise of an ideological narrative that can and has wrested political power. And that is why the stereotyping landscape has become simpler and shriller. Only those that can influence policy making are of any significance today and hence the stereotypes to look out for are:

  1. The Politician (Ideologue)
  2. The Politician (Plutocrat)
  3. The Plutocrat (Capitalist)
  4. The Industrialist (Capitalist)

Power was never wielded without a support structure or an industrious army. The supply line for each major stereotype originates with the primary Affinities and follows the trajectories depicted in the Fig. 1 above.

  • Those born in/with the Vidya Affinity goes after acquiring Knowledge, become Professionals, Intellectuals or Academicians and a few go on to become Industrialists (Capitalist)
  • Those born in/with Vichardhara Affinity also invest in knowledge but are partial towards learning and practice of the Ideology they have grown up with. They may become Ideologues and then Activists and maintain the supply lines for the Politician (Ideologue)
  • Those born in/with the Aishwarya Affinity pick up very early the skills and tools of multiplying wealth. They learn to value their inheritance – land & wealth (Ploutos) – including their family ties, conserve them and grow as a closed tribe known to protect their own against the other. They run local businesses, a few grow into Big Business too and fund the Lobbyist and the Politician (Plutocrat).

The Politician (Ideologue) is inconsequential without his Activists. The Communists always had their ‘cadre’, until their ism failed to satiate the changing needs of an ‘aspiring’ or materialistic India. The right-wing Ideologues learnt their lesson well and invested over decades to develop their Activist army – the largest political party in the world. The Politician (Plutocrat) always held ‘durbar’ with their lackeys or Lobbyists. Nehruvian please-it-all politics controlled by the Politician (Plutocrat) not only delivered the 1991 bankruptcy but opened the doors for a knowledge society – a boon – that paved the way for the Industrialist (Capitalist) to influence policy making. If not for the bankruptcy of 1991, India would have remained a perfect feudal society controlled by the Plutocrat (Capitalist), perennially mistaken for the liberal façade idolised by the unaware, gullible and poor majority.


The Stereotype (& Affinity) Product Mix

The Affinity Product Mix of the Indian Polity in the 90s was probably,

Knowledge (20%) : Ideology (3%) : Land & Inheritance (77%)

On a relative basis, today (2020) the Affinity Product Mix could be,

Knowledge (40%) : Ideology (15%) : Land & Inheritance (45%)

Anyone with an interest in socio-economic change could predict the mix in 2025 to be,

Knowledge (50%) : Ideology (10%) : Land & Inheritance (40%)

Note: The numbers given above are indicative of relative change and not a result of any academic research.

Indian polity, like any other feudal society, was and even today is largely influenced by those born in/with the Aishwarya or Wealth Affinity. Vichardhara or Ideology as an Affinity has always been a product of history or misdoings of the powers to be. Not many are born in or with this affinity. All ideological movements, Christianity, Communism, Islamic republics, the Greens, Nazis or AFD in today’s Germany or Hindutwa have originated from ideologues. They were great influencers and built an army of Activists (Priests, Cadre, Taliban/ Jihadis, SS or the RSS) who believed or married into a certain ideology due to historical mistakes or their need to convert others to their ideology or ism. After all, ideologies are like viruses. They wither away without propagation.

In India today, the echo-chambers would have you believe that the right-wing Politician (Ideologue) holds the sway. No, it does not. It still needs the support of the Plutocrat (Capitalist) as well as the Industrialist (Capitalist). The grounding of a Knowledge Society in urban India over the last two decades has only made the less acknowledged Professionals implicitly significant to Policy Makers. The nationalist right-wing also acknowledges the fact that the future of India as a nation lies in urbanisation and industrialisation and that cannot be achieved without the knowledgeable Professional. Ideologues are good at history and know quite well that it is the Knowledge Affinity that catalyses social evolution, from an agricultural (feudal) society to an Industrial and Services based society. Hence, we see an intense war for knowledgeable Professionals influenced by Ideology.

Going forward, I see the Stereotype Product Mix going underweight on the Politician (Plutocrat) and a gradual rise in influence of the Industrialist (Capitalist) and the Professional. A full blown industrialised society (decades away) is the only thing that can flatten the ideological spread.

India 2025

  • Sensex @ 50,000; Coronavirus long forgotten. A new Novel Virus mutating somewhere in the most stressed polities of the world.
  • Social Media still reigns supreme as it will continue to feed the basic need for human beings to find others of their stereotype and ‘Like’ what they feel, say or forward.
  • Urbanisation and Industrialisation would have transformed the Affinity Product Mix quite near to my prediction above.
  • Indian Parliament may have a few Nandan Nilekanis, finally!

About amitbeyondex

Amit practices as an Executive Coach | Growth Facilitator to Senior Professionals, CXOs, CEOs, MDs of SMEs | Mittelstand Companies in India & Germany. Prior to that, he was the Managing Director of Sartorius group companies (a German MNC Subsidiary) in India for 15 years where he helped build up the company from a 20 man Start-up to a 500 man multi-functional 'Centre of Excellence' for the Sartorius Group worldwide.   He perfected the art of making himself redundant by developing leaders and professionals who could run the business and organisation thereafter…even better! ‘Beyond Expectations’ (www.beyondex.in) is a growth facilitation service to help Companies & Managers uncover their own positives, priorities, real options and arrive at their own decisions through their own convictions & resolutions. Amit facilitates you to come up with your own definition for Growth, Success and Happiness. He is neither a teacher nor a consultant. He is a practitioner, who dives deep into what is natural and facilitates the discovery of potentials. Amit specialises in coaching Top Managers working in multinational companies in India. He facilitates the entire process; from Strategy Creation - Change Management - to Execution. He facilitates the Selection & Grooming of Top Management teams; helps the Management to develop appropriate Organisation Design, Structure, Roles & Performance management. He is always available to your Managers as a bouncing board for their ideas and uses question techniques to help people discover Options and make Choices! Credentials: - Master of Management, McGill University - Diploma in Practicing Management, INSEAD - Visiting Faculty at IIMB, AIT - Published Author & Writer on Growth Management


6 thoughts on “Stereotypes & Indian Polit(y)ics!

  1. Well written.you think deep n different with a rightist lean😊

    Posted by KUMARAN | March 21, 2020, 5:04 pm
  2. Pretty original thinking, Dada; a touch Gurcharan Das-que though.

    The breakup of the ‘primary Affinities’ and its extrapolation to present day Indian Rajniti, I think, missed the fourth “Class” — those unfortunate enough to be born without any of the three privileges listed by you — the ones who generally swing the votes and most importantly those who decide whether the Politician would be a Madhavrao or a Buddhadev!

    Your ‘India 2025’ forecast is predictable. The ‘Nilekani’ prophesy though is debatable.

    A deeply thought out article with a lot of conviction of the author, I am sure. Wouldn’t dare to sit with you to nitpick.

    Keep dredging the myriad depths that interests you Dada.

    Take Care

    Posted by Suranjan Sinharoy | March 22, 2020, 11:58 am
    • Thanks SinhaDa. I could convince you that All are born In either of the primary Affinities, including the 4th class that you think I ignored. But that would need us to enjoy a drink together 😊
      A cue: those born in/ with Wealth as their primary Affinity can be very poor people. But their circumstance makes them believe creating wealth will primarily add value to their lives. It maybe because they do / did not see any possibility of Vidya giving them a better life. That’s the reason, I see the majority born in/ with Aishwarya as the primary affinity. True in all feudal societies

      Posted by amitbeyondex | March 22, 2020, 12:51 pm
  3. Amit, very interesting perspective. Your canvas is quite large and therefore demands face to face duel along with adequate spiritual indulgence. A few questions and comments.

    *On Your Affinity Matrix:*
    1. Where would you put caste and linguistic (cultural) identities? Both these dimensions of affinity are major determining forces in state politics and thus they influence our central parliament through Rajya Sabha and alliance equation in Lok Sabha. While caste still plays determining role in Hindi heart land politics from Bihar to Haryana; Cultural identity and Language play major roles in politics of Bengal, Assam, North East, Tamilnadu, Maharastra, Andhra and Telengana.
    2. I would argue intellectuals are not merely influencers to policy making with their acquired status of Industrialist but a substantial part of them join politics directly. Even if you ignore Gandhi-Nehru-Ambedkar-Bose as matter of past, Manmohan Singh was our PM till recently. Kejriwal, Tharoor, Sibbal are other examples of intellectual/ professional turned politician. Therefore I would imagine a new block at the top of “Knowledge” stream- Politician (Intellectual)

    *On your Product mix:*
    1. Modi 2.0 so far is extravagantly ideological. Triple Talaq, 370, CAA, Ram Temple (now it is almost clear it was a purchased verdict) and their response to Delhi Riot- all are loyal execution of RSS agenda. Therefore I would allocate much higher percentage, possibly 50% to ideology for the 2020 mix.

    *On your 2025 outlook:*
    Your prediction is an outcome of linear progression. I can’t predict if Indian political scenario will be very different from what you have predicted but I may bring the following trends for your consideration. These may make 2025 looking very different also.

    1. Corona has been a real havoc in the very consciousness of the western world and will have long term impact. I may imagine emergence of a quasi International Government playing important role in global governance and policy making influencing individual countries much more than today.
    2. Three global crisis areas- environment, energy and water and politics around these will drive major policy decisions all across the world, India included
    3. A few technologies- Automation, AI , 3D printing and 5G have transformative potential to change global order including decentralising our production system. These possibilities combined with ecological imperatives may result in breaking of the large metros paving ways towards many smaller distributed townships. Although this one is unlikely to impact 2025.

    Posted by Srijnan Sanyal | April 1, 2020, 2:29 am
    • Srijnan, thanks a lot for a very thoughtful and useful response. As a co-spirited one, I would wait for an en-spirited duel as soon as we are over the corona hump or grotto:)

      Yet, let me respond to your Qs/suggestions:
      1. My take is that the stereotypes segregated because of caste, language and even religion are also born in/with a ‘primary’ Affinity like Vidya, Vichardhara or Aishwarya and the ones born in/with Vichardhara are still a minority while those born in/with Aishwarya are the majority. The poor too are born with Aishwaya as an Affinity when their circumstances give them no hopes of Vidya offering them a lifeline. Hence, despite their primary labels, they are more likely to follow one of the 3 primary stereotype trajectories as depicted in the graphic.
      2. I thank you for bolstering the possibility of a 4th stereotype trajectory in Politician (Intellectual). I did consider it but rejected it possibly because of my bias that even the Politician (Intellectual) get sucked into the Politician (Plutocrat) trajectory with a few exceptions like the Accidental Man Mohan Singh, while a few like Nandan or Jaya Prakash Narayan of Telengana today being the proof of this trajectory fizzling out like wet Diwali rockets.

      Your comments later are very valuable but needs a ‘spirit’ed discussion possible over an f2f interface.

      Posted by amitbeyondex | April 1, 2020, 12:36 pm

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