For the next five years, the UPA government did not give up entirely on the India Shining project. Instead, it worked hard to mesh it—with some success—with the needs of the aam aadmi. In the end, the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire became a metaphor for its efforts to try and create an environment in which everyone could aspire for—and get—a better life. The aam aadmi could, the party’s promotional films said, become the khaas aadmi and its prime ministerial candidate, Dr Manmohan Singh, even set a date for it: it would be possible, he said, to end poverty in a decade.
Today, as a new government (the results were awaited at the time of writing) gets set to take charge, the briefs that have been readied for it by the outgoing Prime Minister’s Office will only be a reckoner for what it considered unfinished business. The new government’s priorities will depend on its constituents—and there is no doubt there will be many. But, clearly, if India is to prosper, the aam aadmi must remain the focus of the next government (whether led by the Congress, the BJP or the Third Front) too; he (and she) must be the chief stakeholder in the country’s rising fortunes. For the Congress and the CPI(M), phrases such as "social justice" and "social equity"—used in their respective manifestoes—have been par for the course for long. This time, however, the BJP—even though it hasn’t changed its ideological spots and continues to plug into its Ram mandir and setu agendas, whip up emotions over cow slaughter and conversions—sounds in parts, like the Congress, circa 2004. "Our primary concern," the party manifesto read, "will be India’s rapid, inclusive, equitable and all-embracing development and stable growth that benefits the largest number of people."