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Staying Honest

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment on ‘short-cut’ politics is obviously directed at his political opponents, particularly the Aam Aadmi Party; but it also has larger relevance for Indian democracy. Just as is the case in sports, cheating can provide victories, but it can also destroy the very system by which that sport exists. This is exactly the case with democracy, especially the kind that exists in countries like India and the UK. Political parties are expected not just to abide by the rules that are ‘refereed’ by the Election Commission and the courts, but also adhere voluntarily to certain conventions. The latter highlight the quality and the character of those who would helm the government.

In a country that almost always has an election taking place at some place or the other parties do need to be in constant election mode, but to deliver what they have promised they have to function according to a more long term plan. A party should not undermine long term development goals by diverting precious funds to schemes designed only for electoral gains.

Of course, voters too are expected to be aware of these tactics and it is the duty of civil society organisations to constantly remind them of this duty. They need to be reminded that it is not just the Income Tax or GST assesses who pay the taxes that fund the state – even the poorest contribute through indirect taxation. They might feel they benefit from the freebies but actually end up paying disproportionately as a result of inflation and lack of investment in employment generating activity.

While, traditionally, some election oriented expenditure in the last year of an incumbent government has been the norm, the Aam Aadmi Party, for one, has taken it to quite another level. Considering the reality, its promises are little more than a con job, while some of its practices are nothing but deception. Like, asking people to ‘register’ for offered goodies, as was done in Uttarakhand not so long ago. It is only natural for PM Modi to acknowledge the acumen of voters in Gujarat, Himachal and Uttarakhand for having seen through these and other gimmicks. In fact, AAP’s victory in the MCD elections might end up as an albatross around its neck as the hollow promises are likely to be exposed even sooner. As even some of PM Modi’s long term detractors are beginning to say, it is better to learn from his politics than spend time creating dubious alternatives.