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Visual Clarity

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Skepticism is one thing, cynicism quite another. The first is necessary, the other often an affliction that causes self-harm, more than anything else. This is particularly so in making democratic choices. One should not, of course, take politicians’ words at face value and must exercise the power of discrimination, but one should not come to believe that they are all equally useless. There is always a choice to make, even if it is between the less good and the slightly bad. It is always the effort, however, of the very bad to eliminate these distinctions in public perception, so that they can be selected on the basis of criteria other than merit.
Voters should, therefore, be careful of those who push the line that their personal preferences do not matter and the political system will remain the same, that corruption is the default setting and the purpose of all politics is self-promotion. It is thinking that like this that allows demagogues, dynasts and the ‘deep state’ to remain entrenched in power through ‘divide and rule’. The entire purpose of the fake-news industry, today, is to confuse the people on important issues so that they become incapable of making informed choices. People are beginning to lose faith even in the conventional disseminators of information because too many of them are ‘committed’ to ideologies or parties.
The good thing, of course, is that the means of communication have become so democratised that people can themselves debate issues out of the control of ‘moderators’ and ‘fixed’ panels. This is already being done in lakhs of ways and while many might develop into ‘echo-chambers’, just as many retain diversity of opinion because they are structured along non-ideological lines, such as professional, family and other groups. In fact, as a defence mechanism, people have begun to avoid taking extreme positions. This will lead to, hopefully, more nuanced assessments of the political situation.
Also strong are caste and community affiliations that, in a matter of speaking, bring clarity to choices. While not exactly good for democracy, they do represent legitimate interest groups, and it is up to the politicians to see how well they can develop equations with them. If people do become cynical about the larger choices, they will fall back on calculations along these lines. It is this phenomenon, perhaps, that explains the sudden belligerence seen these days among leaders of small caste-based parties. They will need, however, to build alliances, which is when some larger vision of the future would play a part. Hopefully, it will be a consultative process, rather than a blind rush in one or the other direction. The result will reveal the level of maturity the Indian voter has achieved.