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Getting Sillier


Despite even the caste-community factor that flows as an undercurrent in Indian politics, people generally vote for two things – either a better deal, or to punish an incumbent government. And, of course, a little bit of both. The present challenge to the NDA Government is being posed on both fronts by the national party in opposition, the Congress. Demonetisation, GST, the Rafael deal, intolerance and mob lynchings have been among the broad strokes on a darkened canvas to put PM Modi’s governance in bad light. Even actions taken by the Armed Forces against terrorists and Pakistan have been questioned. Some kind of a spin will also be put on the demonstration of anti-satellite capability by India on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, this has not quite taken the sheen off the PM’s image. Convinced that the farm loan waiver promise had something to do with its assembly victories in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress is now encouraged to promise an annual ‘giveaway’ of Rs 72,000 to people below the poverty line. And it trotted out, of all people, the much-discredited P Chidambaram to explain the ‘better deal’ to the people. Once again, while there may be some takers – the gullible ones and those who agree in principle with the idea of a universal basic income scheme – almost all economists are aghast at the foolhardiness implicit in this political gambit. Amongst other things, it would send for a toss all the attempts of the past many years to ensure fiscal responsibility and build the economy along viable lines. Far from something to aspire for, the idea has given large sections of the population an even bigger reason to not support Rahul Gandhi, regardless of how displeased they may be with Modi. In that sense, this ‘better deal’ gambit has failed.
The long run up that it takes in India to finally obtain an electoral verdict somewhat exhausts the imagination of the spin doctors. It is always expected that at some stage campaigning will enter the realm of Never Never Land, but this time this has come very early. With not even the first phase of voting having taken place, one cannot say what flight of fantasy the arrested adolescence of Congress leadership will take the people. There is no getting out of it, either, because – barring the IPL – the election noise surrounds us everywhere and there seems no respite. This presents a good case for shorter campaigns and fewer phases, as present day technology makes it very much possible.