Dhume begins by reminding us that India has fallen into rather difficult economic times.
"Flagging growth isn’t the only cause for concern. Foreign direct investment plummeted 67 percent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, to $4.4 billion. The rupee has spent much of 2012 touching historic new lows. (By mid-September, it had lost 20 percent against the dollar over the past 12 months.) Though arguably a one-off event, the massive power outage in July that left 600 million people without electricity dramatized the parlous state of Indian infrastructure to the world."
Dhume illustrates the difficulty any government faces in trying to initiate reforms.
Dhume defines his concerns:
While India’s democracy has been remarkably stable, in the sense of assured peaceful transfers of power based on elections, it has unique characteristics that are not healthy. When the British left, the country was in the hands of highly educated leaders. As the political system has evolved, competent, dedicated people who might wish to devote their lives to public service find it almost impossible to gain entry.
Such a political structure inevitably leads to the corruption that is now so wide spread.
"Today, nearly a third of state and national legislators have criminal charges pending against them, including serious ones such as murder, kidnapping, and extortion."
The influence of family on politics is best exemplified by the longevity of the "Nehru-Gandhi dynasty"
"Two-thirds of members of Parliament under the age of 40 are ‘hereditary MPs’ from political families. In short, while the right name gives a politician a leg up in other countries, in India it’s more like two legs and an arm. Fifty-odd families effectively run much of the country."
India is developing growing middle and upper classes of relatively affluent and well-educated individuals. One would assume that such people would become the core participants in a healthy democratic system. Whether from despair over the low probability of making a difference, or from self-interest, these people seem to have chosen to withdraw from the political system, and, as much as possible, from the nation that surrounds them.
It is this retreat of the affluent that Dhume finds most disturbing. These are the people from which one would expect competent political leaders to emerge. It is not happening—at least not yet. Dhume’s one hope seems to be that the economy will recover and the affluent classes will grow to the point where sheer numbers will grant them political entry and power. Otherwise, the future is not promising.