Election time brings out the worst in Indian politics and politicians. It is not just the trading of insults that nobody would normally tolerate; there is also the dredging up of issues and causes that threaten the nation’s social and economic well-being. The desperation to retain power or topple incumbents makes politicians lose all sense of proportion. The only way this can be checked is if the people learn to see through all the fog and choose governments for the right reasons. Otherwise, there is the danger of matters going out of hand – democracy does not have inbuilt guarantees that it will survive just about any situation. One needs only to see how countries with fledgling systems struggle to acquire civilised functioning – Myanmar is only the latest example.
Promising reservations of various kinds and whipping up public sentiments on the issue for the sake of votes is a favourite ploy. This is being seen in the present situation with Haryana enforcing reservations for locals in the private sector; the Maratha reservation issue being pursued with renewed vigour and the SC asking if quotas can go beyond the present fifty percent ceiling; the AIADMK hoping to profit from reservations for Vanniyars; and so on. The TMC is banking strongly on keeping Hindi speaking Gujarati politicians out of West Bengal, while Assam politics revolves around keeping the Bengalis out.
And, of course, the opportunity has been taken by a Congress MP to hike the demand for 33 percent reservation for women in state legislatures and parliament to 50 percent, without explaining why over so many years this was not done. The reason, also, is well known – the demand for reservations within this reservation for the OBCs made famously by Lalu Yadav, who was most concerned about women with ‘bob-cut hair’ monopolising all these seats.
Sometimes situations develop when parties are cornered into acting on such promises creating long term problems. While reservations for SC/STs were meant originally to be for ten years, these have acquired permanent nature. On the back of this, other kinds of reservations are being pursued in the hope that it would result in social justice. It has been forgotten that without economic growth, these have very limited effect. And the economy cannot grow without strict adherence to deliverable quality. Eventually, the only result has been further solidification of the caste system. Of course, the politicians like to profit off that also, but it hurts the common people and the nation as a whole. People need to rise over seeming self-interest to vote intelligently on the basis of objective criteria if there is to be change for the better.