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Making Distinctions

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The assemblies of Haryana and Maharashtra will complete their terms on 2 and 9 November, 2019, respectively. The Election Commission is expected to announce the dates for elections in these states, very soon. This will be followed by elections to the Jharkhand and Delhi assemblies. As such, it is going to be an almost continuous campaign requiring, particularly, the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as BJP’s Chief Campaigner. The Election Code of Conduct will be enforced sequentially in all these states. The obvious question is, how will the task of development be undertaken with all this continuous electioneering? It must also be remembered that elections also cause political parties to go hyper in their charges against each other, forcing them to take extreme positions that they would not adopt under normal circumstances. This is why electoral reforms such as simultaneous polls have been demanded by many. These are only some of the issues that urgently need to be addressed by the political establishment. However, the polarisation that has been seen, particularly on personal lines, has made it difficult to obtain consensus on crucial matters. The opposition is somewhat overwhelmed by the BJP tidal wave and is unable to function beyond survival mode. The Congress, the main opposition at the national level, has not yet recovered or rebooted itself. Perhaps, if each party were to have some stakes in the national project, there would be a greater sense of proportion in the approach to the future. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Congress has recently won the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the insecurity remains. This is because the narrow leadership base has made incumbent chief ministers greatly insecure, overly dependent on the High Command to survive. The inability to synchronise programmes with the Centre, due to the need to adopt a hostile attitude towards the BJP, has meant development suffers. This contradiction has been experienced by West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee for an unconscionable period of time. It is only now that she has, at least symbolically, exercised her ‘constitutional’ obligation of meeting the PM and Home Minister regarding her state’s needs. It has been seen that the voters have learned to distinguish between state and national elections. This provides an opening to the opposition, particularly the regional parties, to play their role. If only the politicians, too, could make the distinction between political rivalry and national interest, the speed bumps in India’s progress could get smoothened out.