Ending the great Indian political farce
Right after the ECI announced the details of the By-election for the five assembly seats of Manipur to be held on November 7, the political drama started unfolding with unerring predictability in the state. Campaigns are underway in full swing, and supporters of the intending candidates disregarding the threat of infection of the pandemic which is peaking in the state are laying even their lives on the line in attempts to win recognition and favour from the candidates if their gambit pays off. Even with the restrictions and SOPs in place in attempts to fight the Covid-19 menace, the aspiring candidates who consider themselves qualified and capable enough to lead the public are pathetically ignorant of the facts and gravity of the present situation in the state. Their one-track mind are obvious in their zeal to display the quantity of the supporters, failing to follow social distancing and other protocols nor having the common sense to ensure that the same is enforced among his followers during the campaign.
The dynamics of these fawning followers has changed with each successive election and have come to occupy a vital role in determining the outcome of the exercise while the importance of the attributes and personal integrity of the candidate has receded into the background. The result is out in the public domain for everyone to witness, and unfortunately, experience as well. Political ideologies and beliefs on the basis of which elections were contested are gradually becoming a thing of the past, and in its place the capacity of the candidate to provide instant gratification of its ‘workers’ who ‘camp’ at the candidate’s residence ready and at the back and call. With the rising number of such workers having the time and willingness to stand up and stand out for their candidates, it is no wonder that the show of might and resources has become a prerequisite for foraying into the world of electoral politics, and for those with resources from dubious backgrounds, politics has become the most lucrative investment option, both in terms of financial returns and political power which has come to be equated with legal immunity, although not on an official level.
At a conference on ‘Money Power in Politics’, the Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu highlighted Indian experience with democracy as a remarkable success story. However, he pointed out two distortions that require urgent attention: Use of enormous money power in politics and elections, and increasing attempts to entice the voters with short-term benefits (in the form of populist schemes for electoral advantage) at the cost of governance, besides adversely impacting the long-term interests of the poor and the middle class. It would not be too off the mark to state that India’s political culture has been vitiated by unprecedented waves of populism, jingoism, sectarianism and confrontational politics.
Although various electoral reforms have been taken up by the ECI, these measures are still more on the paper rather than in practice. Until and unless the public comes to its collective sense and consider the options based on the character, personal integrity and political ideology of the candidates, we will continue to be led down the path to regression. But for that to happen, we need to clear our conscience and make a decisive stand first. Till then, the great Indian political carnival will continue.