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Political Mirage


Even though ‘national’ leaders of political parties, primarily the BJP and Congress, are campaigning hard to win the assembly elections in five states, their impact will remain limited. This is because state level politics is very complex and electoral success is not possible without the local leadership playing a significant role. A lot depends on the performance of the MLAs in their constituencies. There have always been cases of individual legislators holding out against the general trend because they have worked hard to serve their constituents.

Then there are regional issues that may fire up voters, irrespective of the general trend. These can be regarding some particular project, long delayed promise, a sense of injustice, as also caste and religious issues. It is not easy to overcome these by focusing on national level rivalries between parties and leaders.

In the present day, with backroom analysts playing a major role in structuring party campaigns, there is an effort to identify and address issues that may seem closer to the voters’ concerns. Hence, the proliferation of various ‘guarantees’ in parties’ manifestos. Encouraged by its success in Karnataka, for instance, the Congress is presently going the whole hog in implementing this policy. Despite the fact that some of these are unimplementable and financially unsustainable, the politicians are hoping that enough voters will be gullible enough to fall for the lure.

It is in this sense that the assembly contests are a semi-final for the coming general elections. Similar strategies could be adopted that may or may not be anchored in the ground reality. The sudden eagerness for the ‘caste census’ is one such approach. The question that arises, then, is whether there are any genuine parameters remaining for assessment of good governance. Is there a real attempt to find a balance between economic growth and distributive social welfare? Or, is it a regression to the wishful thinking of the past that only created islands of the entitled, leaving the masses trapped in dole-based poverty?

At the critical stage India, and the world, are at the present, the price of misjudgment will probably be impossible to bear. In the midst of the political campaign, it becomes the duty of the media and civil society to bring forward the reality so that the voters can take informed decisions. Personal choices should not be hijacked through manipulation of data-based analytics. Elections must be kept real.