Poonam Sinha, the wife of MP and actor Shatrughan Sinha, has been chosen to contest against Home Minister Rajnath Singh from Lucknow as the candidate of the Samajwadi Party and the UP ‘Mahagathbandhan’. What are her credentials? She is neither a celebrity of any kind, nor a practicing politician. According to reports, the justification given is there are a large numbers of ‘Kayasths’ and ‘Sindhis’ residing in Lucknow. Shatrughan Sinha is a ‘Kayasth’ by caste, while Poonam is of Sindhi descent. In today’s mindless acceptance of caste equations, it is only natural that things should have come to such a pass. The people of Lucknow are supposed to lack discernment and political consciousness to the point where they would vote blindly in such a way. Of course, all the leaders of the Samajwadi Party and BSP who have worked for decades in UP’s Capital deserve nothing in the face of such ‘family’ connections that parachute into their constituency!
In such an environment, how can it be expected that politicians stay clear of caste and community in their private assessments and public speeches? When entire communities are addressed by leaders like Mayawati and Kamal Nath as though they are flocks of sheep to vote mindlessly at their behest, it is only to be expected that Yogi Adityanath and Azam Khan will not be far behind. In fact, Maneka Gandhi was quite honest in her appraisal that an MP could not be expected to perform if the votes are cast consistently on the basis of other criterion. The only response would be to ignore the needs of such voters in favour of those who appreciated the work done.
The EC has, very rightly, imposed bans on the transgressing politicians for various periods of time. In the case of single leader parties like the BSP, it will certainly hurt. Even so, there are limits even to the EC’s powers – it can only conduct the elections according to the rules, it cannot change the political culture by itself. This is absolutely the job of the voters, who have to look through the political tactics of various kinds that dumb down complex issues to ridiculous levels in the belief that it works. Quite clearly, having succeeded so long in politics by flogging the same horse, the politicians are confident they are ahead of the game. If people want better results, they must destroy these assumptions through the choices they make. They must prove themselves to be smarter than they are believed to be and get the leaders they need.