Residents of Doon will have noticed the posters that have come up in every nook and cranny promising free electricity on behalf of the Aam Aadmi Party. It is like a corporate campaign for a product – well planned and geared to unfold systematically over the next few months. This signals the start to the election season for the opposition parties. The ruling BJP has, on its part, reconstituted its team well in time. This leaves the other major player, the Congress, somewhat stranded as it seems unable to get its act together.
Politics in the modern world has increasingly become ‘corporatised’, as technology, data analysis, social media manipulation, image crafting, etc., have taken precedence over the much harder approach of grassroots interaction with the voters. The latter requires party organisation and extensive membership as well as, in many cases, lifelong commitment. Social media influencers play a major role in communicating, if not ideas, certainly a ‘woke’ awareness of issues. Celebrities have enjoyed clout way disproportionate to their actual political understanding.
As ‘consumers’ of these products, voters too will need to ‘upskill’ so as to stay ahead of the game – it is easy to get carried away with the lure of freebies and the passion of emotive issues. For instance, a demand has recently emerged seeking what are described as ‘land reforms’. These require ‘outsiders’ being denied the right to purchase land in the state. Naturally, the UKD hopes to benefit from the narrow chauvinism that this evokes among those who identify closely with the separate statehood movement. This entirely ignores the prominent role Uttarakhandis have come to play today not just at the national level, but also globally. It is worth considering if they would like to be discriminated against in this fashion in other parts.
Other themes likely to emerge will be centred around farmers – the new agri laws; government employees’ demands; anti-privatisation of PSUs clamour; forced conversion and love jihad; poor civic facilities and, of course, inflation. In all of this, there is the possibility of losing sight of the more immediate personal and community goals. Casting a shadow over all of this, in this particular time, is the Covid pandemic. While it may be said that Indians have responded much more reasonably as compared to people in many other countries, there is a sense of resentment and ‘covidiocy’. The challenges the state faces are many but a failure of judgement could well plunge it into a much worse situation than the present for years to come. As such, people must recognise the value of their vote and act accordingly.