Voter With Teeth
The elections are round the corner for state assembly elections. The politically crucial states where elections would be held between this month and first week of December are Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Bitter fight is expected which would confuse the non-committed voters. Whom do they vote for would depend what do they want.
If they want change, then what kind, just overthrowing the UPA, or a change in the system itself? The status quoists who are the beneficiaries of the existing system and are well-entrenched would be formidable opponents to those who want change in the system. Rajiv Gandhi started with sincere intentions to effect change in the “feudal oligarchy” but within a short time the system rejected his plans as the body rejects any implanted part. Rajiv was taken over by the sloganeers who told him “Fund Collectors are Party Controllers”. Same thing happened to VP Singh. Within a couple of months quite a few of his ministers, ironically those who were closest to him, went on a money-collecting spree. Only Lal Bahadur Shastri had the steel in him to overcome the system and throw out its beneficiaries. Within a short span of his tenure he had cleansed the upper layers of political leaders and bureaucrats.
The general election is not too far away and the battle-lines for it are firming up. Congress’s Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s Narendra Modi have started hectic campaigning. Promises are less, but attacks on each other are getting personal and stringent.
The voter, especially the youth, has been what we can term “aroused” and greatly interested, principally by Modi’s style of electioneering. He has brought back the old rally style campaigning, addressing rallies where he tries to establish a rapport with the crowd—it is the best way to win them over. Rally speeches have indeed livened up the elections, 2014 election would certainly be more interesting than that of 2009.
Politically one might hate him but one has to accept that Modi’s public speaking is best. This is why all TV Channels, irrespective of their political leanings, cover his rallies—it boosts their TRPs. The result: people on the streets and in the drawing rooms abandon work to listen to the speech.
If the trend sustains, it will have tremendous implications on the way this election will be managed. For instance, interest generated by Modi is disproportionate to his investment in media resources. It must be conceded that through his style and the substance in his speeches and the manner in which he connects with huge audiences, he has been able to use even adversarial media as a “force multiplier to his own efforts”.
The youth and new middle class, mostly urbanites, are now getting interested in what is going on in politics and most likely would go to vote. This would have major implications. Politics could get a new direction which would affect the well-entrenched system that has done both—criminalisation of politics and politicisation of criminals.
But this class of voter too is pondering over what they should vote for. This is the vital dilemma before voters, particularly in general election. What is sure is that change, even drastic one everyone yearns for! The cost of living has dented pockets, inflation remains high, attacks on women have increased so much that a foreign report said India is the worst country for women. Some time the rampant lawlessness, makes one wonder is India degenerating into a banana republic? What a shame! One is forced to think on such lines despite the IT revolution and ISRO sending a craft to Mars.
The voter is being told by Rahul Gandhi during his campaigns that the Congress party’s programme is pro-poor. The Centre is sending food grains, has launched schemes like NAGERA. Modi or the Modi-led BJP claims to be anti-poverty and change life through growth-oriented strategy. Kejriwal talks of Aam Admi.
The voter, the educated youth and new middle class has been wondering for quite some time, that the dynasty has been in power for 56 years since Independence and has been trying to eradicate poverty since Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao plan. So, why millions even today remain below poverty line? Are pro-poor programmes in reality pro-poverty schemes, designed not so much to eradicate poverty but to perpetuate it, and with it perpetuate a vote bank of the poor who for the sake of a few handouts near election time will cast their ballot for the Gandhis mai-baap sarkar.
The discerning voter now does not trust Rahul when he claims that the Congress is for the poor. In contrast, even those who abhor Narendra Modi do tend to believe that he is capable of achieving, what he says during his campaigning—stress on growth, development and prosperity. His Gujarat record gives him credibility. He weaves a vision that is effective as a popular crowd-puller.
The finer nuances in Modi’s campaign are: he is not anti-poor; he is anti-poverty. In this his is a positive approach. Unlike the Congress campaign, it does not imply that India is a poor country, and will continue to remain poor. Instead, Modi’s campaign asserts that India is a country of potentially productive and if the trend sustains, it will have tremendous impact on the way this election will be managed.
Voters want radical change, unknowingly in the system, when they desire to get rid of the political class that considers itself above the voter and feels it is a ruling class, beyond the reach of law and entitled to amass wealth, because they are looking after the country’s interests. No court or investigative agencies have the guts to throw them in prisons. But such a change can only be brought by someone who has the will and steel in him like Shastri. Not someone like Rajiv or VP Singh who were really softies.
Most young are aspirational—they want a say in the formulation of policies, job opportunities, recognition of their merit and in national wealth which they would like to help make. They hate corruption and the corrupt and want to squeeze out criminals from politics. The haves want more, the have-not aspire to get out of the situation where they have to accept freebies.
They have been fed by TV and newspapers on consumerism. They would want to vote for more than the basics—roti, kapada, makan or a mobile and TV, which too have become basic items. They would vote for what they see in the lifestyle of the middle class.
They would want to vote for those who appear to be able to stimulate development, and thus create more opportunities and initiate and monitor progress of the country, and in all this they have a say. They would want to vote for one who can assure scam and corruption free government and one who is clean and strong enough to make the corrupt face trial.
India is on the crossroad. The political order dominated by the Nehru-Gandhi family is fraying, and it does not seem that any member of the family has the ability to regain domination. The voter while voting to see the back of this family which in recent years has been presiding over the most corrupt and shameless government, would want to vote for a replacement, a harbinger of change, a revolutionary change wherein the Indian polity is cleaned and the country is put on the rails to all-round development and prosperity. The aspirational having been brought out from their sedate, private life is now active and vocal. They would want to vote for an honest, honourable leader who has grown from the roots of the Indian society. But from now on no leader or leaders or institutions, be it the Election Commission or Supreme Court, would be able to behave like a ruler and consider themselves law and the common people.
A “New Order” is in the offing. The voter would want to vote for a leader who has become a symbol of change so that he can usher in the “New Order” smoothly. Any leader or a government would have to be on its best behaviour.
From now the voter would be a pugnacious watchdog with teeth.
By Vijay Dutt