Akeel Bilgrami in The Indian Express:
In the United States, where I am domiciled, very little that makes for fundamental change in people’s lives gets onto the agenda of what is on offer in electoral politics. The two parties in the political arena merely represent competing “power elites”, to use a term of C. Wright Mills, and any basic opposition to this consensus of elite (mostly corporate) power has always come not from policies creatively formulated in the corridors of power by elected leaders, but from movements on the street which have occasionally forced elected leaders to make important changes — such as the labour movements of the 1930s or the civil rights and women’s movements of a few decades later. India, by contrast, has the distinct advantage of having a multiparty political system and so, even if there is a consensus among two of the major parties, there are others which may present alternatives outside the consensus, so long as the people are cognitively prepared to see the merit in the alternatives and their minds are not entirely shaped by the ideologies and ways of thinking underlying the consensus itself.
That brings us to the second question. The outcome of the 2004 elections in India is a telling example of what is at issue here. It is known that in the months prior to that election, pundits in the print and televised media were cheerleading for the utterly illusory claims of an emergent India under the policies that the government had been pursuing. Yet the government was defeated. In a sense, then, the mass of our people were saved by a combination of their illiteracy (the illusion of “India Shining” afflicted only the literate metropolitan classes who were cognitively fed by the media) and their knowledge of the causes of their own impoverished conditions, thereby revealing that everyday political knowledge and media literacy are by no means the same thing.