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Political Misrepresentation

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Theoretically, people vote for parties because they agree with the particular ideologies. These encapsulate multiple identities and interests as well as world views. Personalities, themes and symbols come to represent these aspirations. Often, the original ideological impulse is forgotten and the leader or the slogan becomes the critical factor. This can be clearly witnessed in present day politics in India, especially during election time. Very few have much knowledge of Pt Nehru’s political philosophy, or whether Indira Gandhi had, in fact, any. Yet, somehow, members of their family have come to represent India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi’s values, etc. Socialism today is identified with the caste based aspirations of the Samajwadi Party. The BJP’s Hindutva and nationalism offers no objection to taking on board opportunistic politicians from just about any political set-up.

This is why defections are increasingly becoming the norm before every election. The more emboldened are those who have managed to build a captive vote bank in some area that follows them wherever they go. In very few cases will the service they have provided their constituents be of the quality to justify such loyalty. Once again, it is a misplaced belief in the cause they supposedly represent that motivates voters. The smarter lot of politicians manufactures causes that have not much substantial to offer but seem to be full of promise. One such finding traction in UP and Bihar these days, for instance, is the demand for a caste census. The subliminal message is that the OBC, SC, Minority population has risen and job reservations ought to be proportionately increased. The chances of this happening are remote. The jobs available if it were to happen would be nowhere enough to meet the requirements. But present day politicians are more than willing to sell this dream.

Such politics naturally aggravates those on the other side of the spectrum who believe that demographic change is a deliberate strategy being adopted by certain groups. This provides a windmill to tilt at regardless of immediate and more real priorities.

Much of this has come about because MLAs and MPs have come to represent ever larger constituencies in terms of population. It is not possible for the voter to know the candidate well enough to make an informed choice. The number of seats in assemblies and parliament has remained the same even as the population has tripled. One way to have more representative governments would be to significantly increase the number of legislators. The expense would be more than justified by the increased quality of governance and less of the political humbug and hypocrisy visible at present.