New Delhi: The group picture of political leaders at Sharad Pawar’s 75th birthday is all over the place. Leaders put aside their political differences to get together on the happy occasion. Two other issues require similar camaraderie: Growth and development.

Two centuries after the Industrial Revolution, India’s chance has come again. India is one of the few bright spots in a world moving to economic stagnation. India’s backwardness all these decades provides scope for spectacular growth. The economist Deepak Nayyar classes Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa among the country’s most backward states. These states occupy a large chunk of North India and constitute a significant portion of the country. Instead of squabbling, political leaders should come together and get North India up and running.

That won’t happen if divisive issues crop up time and again. The new India is past divisive issues. Caste issues, fundamentalism, communalism, “secularism”, “intolerance”, “political vendetta”, dynastic politics, etc, are irrelevant for the young. They have no use for negativity. They do not suffer the complexes of pre- or immediate post-independence generations. They are not colonized in the mind.

The political class has to transform itself to be able to lead this new constituency. For them, the internet is a great liberator. They practically live on the net. They are deeply attached to their roots but supple too to embrace modernity with all its wonders. The political class has to understand them to harness their energies and strength for the country.

The young abhor strife. They find it old-fashioned which it probably is. Caste wars, community battles and so forth appal them. This is particularly the case in urban areas. But urbanity is spreading faster than the state can keep pace. When there is a great disconnect between generations, it is sensible to focus on areas of common interest and concern. It is here that growth and development become so important.

Everyone understands these two issues. It doesn’t need explaining. It doesn’t come at the cost of something else. It is not like quota. It rewards hard work and talent. It keeps religion in the personal sphere and politics in the realm of rights and duties. It is a great unifier. Growth and development alone should matter to India. Divisive issues have kept India down too long.

It is always easier to divide than unite. You can easily criticize the government for a thousand perceived failures and come to power. But those perceived failures are not going to vanish overnight and will come to haunt you. Negative politics may even get you one or two election victories. But when governance repeatedly suffers from your victories, voters will get wise. They will reject you again and again where they repeatedly elected you prior. That voter wisdom has grown by leaps and bounds.

The sooner political leaders realize that only their record in growth and development matters to voters, the more expeditiously this will change politics. Without change, political parties face the threat of extinction. Today’s young are thoroughly individualized to be enamoured by dynasties. What works for them are ambition and success. Entrepreneurial energies in India are at a peak. Any political leader who is able to tap them is a winner.

In some ways, this is a moment of India’s second independence. At independence, India needed self-confidence as a nation more than anything else. Today, it needs action. The fewer roadblocks there are the better for the country. Laws need to be simple and effective. Governance must be transparent and efficient. Discretion must be reduced to a minimum in policy-making. Institutions must be optimally used. Parliamentary obstructionism directly counters growth and development. Courts must be trusted and all must accept subservience to judicial verdicts.

This is a historic moment for India. The 2014 election has the same watershed character as year 1991 when first-generation reforms commenced under a Prime Minister and Finance Minister from the Congress party. The spirit of reforms must infuse all political dialogue from now. Whatever political differences exist must be set aside for the country’s growth and development. Politicians must cater to a new India. It is what the young expect.