By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
State elections are just round the corner and the air is hot with speculations. In any gathering you hear about nothing but elections and everybody seems to participate in these exciting talks. In these volatile times anything may happen. Alliances of diverse parties may be formed or broken. It is something accepted and possibly approved as well. Political alliances are very flexible and the basis of such alliances are self-interest, self-promotion and self-benefit. Hence the parties are very cautious regarding the selection of partners. It depends on the popularity and influence of certain parties. This process of making and unmaking of friendship is going on in full suing. Every party wants to draw the highest number of votes and to form the government. For that they are busy aiming at some grand alliance in the style of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar. Till now we have no clear conception about the alliance between diverse parties. Apparently they are rather secretive about these confederations. Perhaps intrigue is the second me of politics. The politicians like to create something out of nothing and they thrive on that.
Meanwhile the star campaigners of various parties have been visiting the state to beg for votes. They may go to any extent just to sway the people to their way of thinking. Our state has suddenly attracted the notice of the tiol leaders. After all, during election times they cannot afford to ignore us. I think two star-campaigners in the tiol scene are our prime minister rendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president of the Congress party. Modi always draws huge crowds. Leaving aside other things, we have to acknowledge that Modi’s oratory is always magnificent—and he can keep the audience spellbound for hours together.
Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president and the star campaigner of the Congress party visited the state recently. He went on a padayatra in gaon and addressed a huge rally. This is his third padayatra in the state. Some time back he undertook two successful padayatras in Barpeta and Sivsagar. These padayatras have become a fashion and gimmick for the political leaders. They hobnob with the common people and try to impress them with their unconventiol behaviour. For the ordiry people these charismatic leaders are like some mini gods and they feel overwhelmed with joy and gratitude when they see these demigods walking with them. Both Modi and Rahul Gandhi seem to possess abundant charisma to attract the people. Quite a few leaders from diverse parties also have been visiting the state in quest of votes.
These VIP visits and rallies imply intermible traffic jams and as a consequence, the common people, for whom these leaders shed buckets of crocodile tears, go through lots of harassments. But the administration and the party big wings hardly bother about the problems faced by the school children, examinees, office-goers and others on the day of the rally. These rallies are also very unfair to the sick people, who may not reach the hospital in time due to all those traffic jams. But what does that matter to the political leaders? For them an ordiry person’s life is three a penny. The citizens face a multitude of problems and the city resembles a fortress on these days. The agony of the commuters is easy to guess. But there is a positive side also in these rallies and let us look at the bright aspect. If the rallies are organized for some VIP from the ruling party, the city looks spick and span for a day and artificial flower gardens spring up over night. The various roads are festooned with party flags and colourful hoardings, which lend colour to our drab and dull city.
Political leaders in this modern era are aggressive and often belligerent. They cannot take criticism with dignity and try to wriggle out of a bad situation simply by physical force. The elections seem to have turned into a free-for-all. The way some of our policy-makers behave would shame even the rowdiest child in a school. Some of these leaders often attack the members of the rival parties and hurl choicest abuses on them, forgetting that people living in glass houses cannot throw stone at others. Nothing is sacred for them—neither dignity, nor responsibility, nor the position they hold as the representatives of the people. There are instances when they become violent and hurl chairs or other missiles at the opponents even during parliament or assembly sessions. What would the young generation learn from them?
All these leaders from the various parties wearing a holier-than-thou expression suddenly feel very much concerned for the plight of the poor and the down-trodden. During election times lots of sops are offered to them by the leaders of various political parties. They promise to take various welfare measures for the uplift of the poor section, if they are voted to power. I think most of the people have learnt to take these promises with a large tablespoon of salt. They have become familiar with these hollow promises through the years. After all, you can fool some people sometimes, but not all the people all the time. All the leaders from diverse parties seem to have resorted to the time-tested vote bank politics. They have taken up the issues of minority welfare, development, secularism, commulism etc., besides promising steps to eradicate the evils of corruption. Suddenly the various party leaders have projected themselves as the saviours of the poor and minorities.
In today’s politics we note the emergence of dystic rule. In various states some political families have come into prominence; especially the sons have been shining and they have proved their mettle in a remarkable way and there is nothing unusual about a son taking the profession of the father. A doctor’s son usually takes the profession of his father, an engineer’s son usually becomes an engineer and the case is same in other professions as well. So we often see that a politician’s son becomes a politician and there is nothing derogatory about it. We already have Rahul Gandhi, the scion of Nehru-Gandhi dysty. He has come to the forefront and is the undoubted leader of the congress party. With his charisma and charming persolity, it is easy for him to conquer the hearts of the people. We can see political families in all the states including our own. We may call it son-shine politics. The sons have been projected as the supreme leaders of the people by some of our political big wings. Old equations are making way for new ones, as a younger aggressive generation pushes for quick gains with pragmatic thinking. We can see some important sons of political leaders in various states. They are young, aggressive and very impressive crowd-pullers. We have already heard the mes of some famous sons, who no longer bask under the mantle of their fathers’ popularity. Rather they have made a me for themselves and they can stand on their own legs without papa. Now they have the authority and even the fathers have to listen to them. There are also a few daughters in the political scerio.
The air is hot with speculations and anticipations. The theatre of the absurd has started with a bang. The leaders of diverse parties are in frenzy, wondering how their respective parties would fare in the elections. Various parties are trying to forge alliances with one another and one may be pardoned for feeling dizzy with all these foes-turn-friends and friends-turn-foes. Apparently in politics there are no permanent friends or foes.
We have innumerable political parties in our country—some regiol and some tiol and it is nearly impossible to count them. It becomes even more difficult with some disgruntled leaders floating a new party when they get annoyed with their party bosses for some reason or other, mostly on being denied an important post or for not getting nomition for contesting elections in their desired constituency. On the day of election, in the polling booth you may find a mile-long list of candidates belonging to diverse parties, besides the independents, who may have a crucial role to play in the formation of the government.
With the elections knocking at the door it is time for windfall for the masses. These are the times when common man is wooed for votes; he is brought to the fore and given undue importance. turally all the attention he gets from the VIPs bemuse him and he can boast of being the destiny-maker. Of course the euphoria exists till the elections are over. After that he is back where he was before—unrecognized and uppreciated, and the illusion of being the destiny-maker comes to an end. The leaders know very well that in case of elections a lot depends on the common man’s choice and pre-election sops are showered on the common people. They dangle the carrot of innumerable welfare schemes before the elections to lure the masses. Various kinds of gifts are also showered on them. turally the poor people become bewildered with all the attention they get suddenly. But the political leaders forget all about their promises after the elections are over. After all, promises are made to be broken and our political bosses follow the maxim to the letter.
We have no idea if the proposed schemes would ever come into reality or if they would be relegated to the dusty files. But it is a golden chance to grab opportunity with both the hands. This kind of opportunity may not come for the next five years. As I understand one has to make hay when the sun shines.
The election fever has gripped the state and the speculations regarding various alliances are in the air. The party leaders apparently know that no party will get absolute majority, and hence to form the government they would need the support of other parties, even though their ideologies may be widely different. But these considerations do not count in the larger interest of forming the government. Friends are turning foes and foes are turning friends in the twinkling of an eye. Politics really makes strange bed-fellows. It does not believe in permanent friendship or permanent enmity. Changing party allegiance has become as simple as changing one’s tooth paste. In fact you have to maintain a daily tally to find out to which party a particular person belongs at the moment, that is, if you are interested in politics. But since I am not interested, I do not know who belongs to which party. After all, it is a matter of opportunism, and political allegiance depends on that. Loyalty seems to be unheard of in these political games and it is self-interest which regulates political exercises. One must have enough skill to manipulate alliances by scheming and adroitness.
Politics seems to thrive on intrigue. Till the last possible moment the war of words continue and the friend-ratio may change. Obviously persol advancement is reigning supreme in all these alliances. The leaders make friendship with an eye on the elections and persol benefit is the guiding factor. Violence also has become a part of the elections in recent years. Often you hear about unpleasant incidents occurring in diverse places—all due to the intrigues in politics. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of Ram Rajya never materialized and now non-violent India has become a hot bed of violence and intrigue. Assam which was a very peaceful state till some decades back, has now become a haven of violence. It is disgraceful for the peace-loving people of the state. As Abraham Lincoln stated, “To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots are necessary.” This statement is usually quoted as, “The ballot is stronger than bullet”. So the citizens of the state must be aware of their responsibility at the time of election.
Glamour plays a very important role in today’s politics. Various parties try to rope in film and television stars as well as sports celebrities to campaign for them. The famed stars lend glamour to drab politics. They give a boost to campaigning. There is really no harm in actors turning politicians. In the tiol scerio we can see quite a few actors in politics. There is Smriti Irani, the famous Tulsi of the Sas Bahu serial, who is the HRD minister in the Modi cabinet. Then we have Hema Malini, Satrughan Sinha, Raj Babbar, Anupam Kher, Kiron Kher, to me only a few. Actors may very well become politicians. Our netas too are not mean abhinetas. They can shed buckets of tear without taking recourse to glycerine; they can act in a superb manner and make their presentation a reality show. They can also make people fall for them like a ton of bricks. In fact, they can even shame the professiols with their histrionics in their own field.
Ad-campaigns can be seen in the electronic media and the news papers nearly every day. But we must not be deluded by illusions. We have to look closely into the real picture to find out if our state has really progressed in such a spectacular way. But we should realize that gimmicks are an indispensable part of the election process, which should not be taken as gospel truth. We are familiar with these pre-poll promises. But it is no use aiming at the moon. We have already noticed several times that after the elections are over, most of the winners seem to suffer from Amnesia.
Caste calculations often have a big impact on the election process, which is not really healthy for the country. But caste always seems to come into the forefront in the selection of candidates. The backwardness of certain states is directly linked with a brand of politics that privileges community identity over governce process. The main objective for any government should be to deliver the states from the caste conundrums, which seems to be far off or may not happen at all.
The common people should not be deluded by empty promises, the money factor and the overwhelming generosity of political leaders. The ball is in their court and they should exercise their franchise wisely. We need good, honest and able administrators for the welfare of the tion. Unfortutely the choice is limited. Now that the elections are round the corner, it is up to us to elect the right persons, who have integrity, sincerity and ability to deliver the goods. Berrd Baruch had said long back, “Vote for the man who promises least; he will be the least disappointing”. How right he was! Some of these leaders promise lots of things and when they do not materialize people become very disappointed. So the person who makes least promises is a better choice for us.