Five years is a long time in politics, 15 years an eternity. What matters for the common people though is governce, not politics. And the only way they can pull up political parties is through the vote. Usually that opportunity comes once every five years. This time in Assam, the buzz word is ‘change’. Change from what? That life has been growing harder for the common man, more so for the poor. Nothing seems to move on the ground to give hope that things will be better. Surely there is an administration, but it appears indifferent if not intimidating. Rather, many people consider it a misfortune to get entangled with government offices. Callous officials harass them, send them chasing after files, demand bribes at every step. For the poor and the disadvantaged, the only way to get some government succor is to fall at the feet of local middlemen of the ruling party. This way, they can become beneficiaries of some welfare scheme. In return, they need to pay the mandatory ‘cut’ to the middleman, plus a ‘tacit’ commitment to vote for their ‘benefactor’ when called upon to do so. For quite some time in Assam, to think about a responsive, clean and responsible government has been like asking for the moon. Yet the people of Tripura have been sufficiently approving of their government to repose faith in Manik Sarkar four times already. Can’t the people of Assam dare to aspire for something different than ministers and MLAs rushing about in convoys, amassing massive ill-gotten wealth and pooh-poohing public concerns like skyrocketing prices, inferior education, out-of-reach healthcare, potholed roads and police-crimil nexus? Like West Bengal did five years ago, Assam has now voted for change. Its people are crying out for clean governce, development, employment opportunities, better flood control, improved law and order, end to illegal migration, a foolproof NRC and protection of indigenous identity and land rights. If the new ruling dispensation shows willingness to work as a change agent, it will be rewarded as Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha and Nitish Kumar have been. If not, it may painfully discover that the patience of voters may not extend to 15 years.
food for thought