hange seems to be sweeping South Asia. The unassuming, unostentatious underdogs are winning elections. It seems like more and more Asians are coming out from the alpha-male syndrome they have been afflicted with for so long. Sri Lanka’s Maithripala Sirisena, an unpretentious leader with a quiet, somber demeanor -- a definite beta-male -- was able to overpower the larger-than life, macho Mahinda Rajapaksa, a leader who was thought to be invincible about six months back.
In the same way, a couple of days back, a common man named Arvind Kejriwal was able to win a landslide victory at the elections in India’s Capital Delhi, defeating India’s government in power led by non other than Narendra Modi, a leader with a whale of a charisma.
The election wins of Maithripala Sirisena and Aam Admi (common man) Party led by Arvind Kejriwal signal a lot more than political change in the South Asian region. It beckons a whole new socio-economic and cultural shift.
We Asians are slowly but surely getting out of our tribalistic mentality. We no longer want kings or figures larger than life to rule us. We are no longer awe-inspired by the grandiose shows put out by our arrogant leaders. We want a common man, somebody like us, to serve us. Hopefully, it may not be too premature to think that ours are becoming a developed society.
A lot of similarities could be drawn between Sri Lanka’s President Sirisena and New Delhi Chief Minister-elect Arvind Kejriwal. Both of them were extremely unostentatious characters, who were up against Goliaths. In their election campaigns they talked to the intellect of aspiring peoples. They hardly attacked their political opponents personally, but ideologically and principally. Both of them gave high priority to good governance, a corruption-free society and equality. And most importantly both of them were able to transcend their message beyond class, race and religion.
A surface analysis of both election results could establish this. The votes of Tamils and Muslims were crucial for Sirisena’s election win. Same way, the landslide victory of Kejriwal -- 67 seats out of 70 -- shows he was able to transcend all the divides of diverse New Delhi in terms of income levels, castes and creeds.
It is also a respite to see that this much-needed change in our political spheres to match the aspirations of the people is taking place with the ballot and not with the bullet. It appears that South Asia has found its own type of ‘Spring’ which escorts liberty and freedom without bloodshed.
Like President Sirisena, Kejriwal also has an uphill task. He is up against dilapidated but a deep-rooted system and a bureaucracy, which has developed an innate habit to resist change, despite its virtues. These leaders also have to satisfy their impatient voters who voted for them expecting change and media who are ready to dissect their every move. We all hope that these leaders are of a different breed and they will pave the way for a better political culture that our respective progressive histories very rightly deserve.