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Electoral Misconceptions

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It is possible to envisage how politicians view the voters from the kind of issues they raise during election time. Going by these, the voters should actually feel insulted at being considered so simple-minded and gullible. With elections approaching in Uttarakhand, a plethora of such issues have raised their heads, almost all nowhere close to voters’ real requirements. It also reveals the understanding (or lack of it) among politicians of the problems and their solutions.

Unemployment, for instance, is always a matter of concern come election time. It is projected as a problem rather than the symptom of a deeper malaise. The solution offered almost always – particularly by politicians of the old school – is government jobs, which are shrinking because of the policy implemented by all those that come to power – less government, better governance. So, a populist like Arvind Kejriwal would promise a specific number of jobs regardless of how many need them. Young people are expected to believe that they would be the ones to benefit. Even better, some caste or economic criteria are also attached so that potential ‘beneficiaries’ feel already selected. That jobs can only become available if the fundamental economic issues are addressed through (unpalatable) reforms is entirely ignored. Freebies like the free units of electricity would come from already existing resources, not miraculously from the sky, but voters are expected to take the bait.

Then there are the ones that claim to be ‘secular’, but whose actions reveal they are just as discriminatory in their practices. They collaborate with the ‘communal’ elements in scaring minorities so that their votes can be taken for granted. How secular they really are gets revealed when they take umbrage at being called a ‘mullah’ for wearing a certain type of cap, instead of remaining coolly unembarrassed. Are the voters that dumb that they would actually believe participation in religious or social functions determines one’s religion? (The same goes for the hypocrisy over being photographed with a glass of liquor placed before one.)

The state has already seen the sudden emergence of the hills-plains, insider-outsider, Brahmin-Thakur divides in the hope people will lose sight of their actual concerns. The demand for a stricter land law is part of this, entirely overlooking the fact that Uttarakhandis have a larger presence in other parts of the country and the world than in the state. They should be the last pandering to such discriminatory laws. And, yet, consequences notwithstanding, political strategists continue taking voters for granted. The sooner the voters disabuse them of such thinking, the better.