I had published my essay ‘Theory of Power’ in the quarterly management journal of www.Swastik.net.in in May 2016 (Theory of Power - Idealist World vs Real World Who Actually Rules- http://swastik.net.in/journal/issue-3/07-theory_of_power-idealist_world-vs-real_world_who_actually_rules.pdf).
In this essay, I tried to analyse the idealist world of political power; a world in which we believe that people wield the real power through political and social activism. Many people work sincerely to change the system believing they are able to do it, especially when they win small battles against political rulers of the day. I felt that the reality doesn’t somehow fit into this idealist world if one looks at it dispassionately. This abovementioned essay was the result. It was a plain statement of facts. It was not a fatalist approach but it tried to remove rose tints on the glasses through which we see political action on the field and how it finally affects the rulers and the ruled.
To summarise a lengthy essay, I had explained how different groups in society live in different orbits that have very small intersecting areas.
I described three major orbits with some sub-orbits within a second and the highest orbit populated by microscopic members of the society. The lowest orbit consists of a huge mass of population that has no say in policy matters that just exists to vote (in the case of democracy) or support existing order (in autocracy or dictatorship). These are people existing in the peripheral vision of the leaders of the society.
The second group consists of people who are economically better off, and live a contented life. A large section of in this group consists of people who “were born>studied> got employed> married> produced children and died.” However, within this group is a higher sub-orbit that has people who wish to bring in change, who act beyond their mundane life: and they think, they rule. But, actually, they don’t (rule), nor do they have a decisive say in governance. They can influence to some extent but not really direct the rulers.
Highest, top orbit consists of the real rulers. People (could be industrialists, bureaucrats and top politicians) who get what they want irrespective of the label the ruling party carries. Anybody who has seen Delhi Club closely called Lutyen’s Delhi by some) will agree. These people are not easily shaken or stirred.
There is a sub-orbit arising out of mid-orbit that tries to move up from mid-orbit to highest orbit through connections, networks, influence peddling or wheeling dealing. They enjoy fruits of limited power, but they are expendable people and can be pushed back into mid-orbit by the powerful rulers at their whim.
This is a model that can be mapped onto almost any country in the world, with different political or economic models. If you observe dispassionately, this is a consistent model in India in last 7 decades and can be true in most political systems around the world.
I stated in my essay that there are minor breaches through which people from a lower orbit can move to the higher orbit. These breaches are not big enough. They are trickles – not flood-gate openings. Such upward movement is scattered and too small to make a difference to the overall size of these respective orbits. This movement could be through sheer hard work or through socio-political movements. This movement keeps optimism alive in average citizen’s mind. As I said, it has not been like a flood gate opening so far. Where and when such orbits were broken, say during Communist revolutions or the industrial revolution, new contours of orbits emerged with people faithfully falling into same orbits as described in this theory. You should read the complete essay to appreciate finer points of this theory.
However, recent incidents forced me to relook at my ‘Theory of Power’.
Why are large sections of people in ruling orbit so agitated at this time? What has PM Modi done to anger them and actually make them hate him? Why are people in lower orbits so happy, in spite of so much of hardships they are facing daily? Have they gained anything tangible so far?
In my earlier 2014 election time articles, I had tried to explain why all political parties and their latch-on media friends are so afraid of Modi. I had stated that Modi is a person who will disrupt all existing mutually feeding networks, as he doesn’t fall into the trappings of the rulers’ orbit. They feared that he will destroy the comfortable status-quo they have built over seven decades of independent India. This status quo would be shaken gently with some shadow boxing on and off, but no real damage would be done to either party.
Fears of opponents have proven true now with Modi’s massively disruptive policy of demonetisation. This critique is not about demonetisation so I will not analyse the policy. But, only look at its impact on other areas of socio-political environment irrespective of the outcome of stated objectives of the scheme.
Suddenly the power that corrupt money wielded is critically paralysed.
People in lower orbits feel emboldened that they are no more the ones carrying the ill-effects of corrupt society on their weak shoulders while corrupt thrive. They realise that the rich would no more be taking advantage of the law while they pay taxes honestly and live an average Joe’s life. They expect the momentum of fundamental change to pick up.
Two things have happened. An ‘Outsider’ who had moved up the orbit with hard work through socio-political movement has gone ahead to disturb the very setup of Rulers’ orbit, breaking all rules of the game. Worse, he refuses to be co-opted into the prevailing status-quoist system. Hell has broken loose. Second, he has attempted to make the breach points across orbits bigger in number and size. There is a sense of consternation at this blatant breaking of conventions and unwritten rules. A few making a breach is one thing can be tolerated. But if this sense of equality and empowerment creeps in and strengthens, who will save the exclusivist club of well-ensconced rulers?
With lowering of corruption, better chances of self-development, growth and lowering of gravitational pulls of various orbits, there are chances of more people traversing to the next orbit in the system. With the more equitable system and meaningful democracy, this trickle could become the flood. Slowly the size of different orbits and exclusivity of the top orbit may change drastically, affecting the existing balance of power within the eco-system. It is possible that political system may get modified and be closer to more equitable, more fluid socio-political model that Europe has followed in recent history so far.
This fear could turn out to be true if PM Modi carries on with transformational changes for another decade. Moot question is, will the all-powerful ruling elite allow this to happen? Or will hurdles be put on way to see that he stumbles? Or, will this Delhi clique re-energise Trojan horses that may inflict blows internally? There are high chances of this happening.
In my essay, I had come to the conclusion that democracy is the only instrument through which this scenario can change for the better, once we recognise the basic structure through this ‘Theory of Power’ and be more realistic in our objectives and changes that we can bring about as common citizens. This upheaval gives this idea a big push.
Venomous criticism based on wild assumptions and non-existing facts tell us how difficult it is to break the orbits and have the most equitable society. My ‘Theory of Power’ stands vindicated; current events only making its optimism more achievable than theoretical idealism suggested.