Democracy is not a tool to lure voters with unsustainable freebies !
“If a statesman is one who looks to the next generation and a politician one who looks to the next election, a political consultant must be one who looks to the next tracking poll.” James Carville.
Gujarat election has all the three in action. This election is a fight between two ideologies. On one side is a leadership which believes in withdrawal of subsidies by educating, rationalization of taxes, building the infrastructure, toilets,water,electricity, and cooking gas to every home, roads for every village. On the other side are leaders offering free ; electricity, water and similar benefits without making any provisions. It leads to deteriorating infrastructure, chaos and failing health services,and corruption.
Elections take place in India at such a regular interval that it leaves little room for the central government to do meaningful work! The present central government is an exception, the prime minister is working at jet speed. Media projects each state election as a verdict on the central government. Top leaders of leading political parties are always in election mode. Harry Emerson Fosdick said once,
“Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
Despite the above statement being true, India has a contradiction here. In India caste,religion and language play a pivotal role in elections while development,honesty and sincerity take the back seat most of the time.This phenomenon started as soon as the country became a republic. The most glaring example was set in 1967. Kamarajar the ruling chief minister of Tamilnadu, devoted his life improving the living conditions of the downtrodden by promoting education. He removed,”Hereditary Education Policy ” to liberate people to take up any kind of profession they aspire to be. Kamaraj introduced free mid-day meal schemes for school children, a precursor to all free mid day meal schemes, to improve school attendance as well as to reduce malnutrition. This move alone was responsible for the literacy rate rising from 7 percent to 37 percent.People started calling him, “KalviThanthai”, meaning father of education. Neither he married, nor he owned any property and he never ran after power. He left behind 130 rupees, 2 pairs of sandals, 4 shirts, 4 dhotis and a few books.
Kamrajar underestimated the power of film actors and script writers.Such a great leader was defeated using above lies.DMK played all tricks against him. Kamarajar was projected as corrupt, it was alleged that he is having crores of rupees in Hyderabad State Bank, an affair was invented with a lady in Madurai, a house was alleged in Chennai. personal attacks were made. Nationalist Kamaraja was defeated by DMK using a strong network of cadres , who worked day and night believing that they were fighting to restore cultural heritage. Even today the nation is paying homage to Kamrajar by continuing his mid day meal policy for students. But fake narratives told by superstars did the damage.Such is the power of setting a narrative.
Mrs Indira Gandhi gave a deadly blow to Indian democracy by eliminating dissent and promoting dwarfs as leaders of choice. She herself split congress so many times that most of the political parties had ex congressmen as leaders.Her reckless use of article 356 led to discontent and rise of regional parties.
When leading national parties could not get the majority on their own, regional parties started claiming their pound of flesh. It multiplied corruption, as authority without responsibility always leads to anarchy. Non performing governments opted to lure voters by offering freebies. Indian politicians have graduated from offering cash from personal funds to offering freebies from the national exchequer! giving up the cause of nation building all together. These Modern shakunis have mastered the art of luring Draupadi ( janta ) herself.
India as a nation suffered a lot, there is a long list of scams. Divisive politics empowered cast,language and religion based voting, boycott of Hindi movies in south, not sharing the water resources with downstream neighbor states and separatism were the curses India got from split verdicts for decades.
Some great mass movements initiated to bring change were failed by the corrupt followers. JP student movement was hijacked by leaders like Lalu, Sharad Yadav, Nitish and shatrughansinhaetc , VP singh destroyed the mandate given to him by unleashing mandalcommision report.
‘India against corruption’ movement was hijacked by the group of power hungry individuals, the fasting Anna Hazare who was the face of the movement has gone into oblivion.
On the other hand Gujrat gave a stable local government through voting for an all india nationalist party. The benefits it reaped were so stunning that the chief minister of Gujarat could become the people’s choice for being prime minister. The move was so effective that he has been given a second chance as well. This unique success of the Gujarat model has surprised the established media, congress and left parties. They were confident that labeling him as a Gujrat riot perpetrator, writing to the U.S for not issuing a visa will finish him politically. Failure of these tactics has convinced them that without destroying the Gujarat model, chances of revival of their fate will remain a dream only. A good opposition would have worked on neglected areas whereas present opposition is working with destructive motives.
In the last one decade many violent agitations have been instigated, destroying wealth and putting the public into discomfort. Leaders who led these movements got disenchanted and joined established parties very quickly.
The main opposition party congress has given up in the name of ‘Bharat jodoyatra’ The vacuum created is being filled by a shrewd man who has no ethics to follow.Without working in the films he has beaten all the great actors. He has ditched his honest founding members of his party,has mastered the art of leveling grave charges, taking benefits in elections and apologizing in the courts later.
He came in power,claiming to punish the allegedly corrupt, but opted to become chief minister with the support of the same people. Suicide by a follower in his rally did not disturbed his ongoing speech. Riots in Delhi didn’t hurt his vote bank. Arrest or prosecution of his ministers does not impact him!
Despite being CM,He has no portfolio.He is not accountable. He uses voters’ money to promote his career. He pays crores to other state victims and nothing to his own state people. He invited the auto driver of Gujrat to his home ignoring the plight of the auto drivers of his own State.
His education policy is best yet toppers in CBSE are from U.P, His allegedly non functioningmohalla clinics are a big hit with the media yet Delhiites were running to neighboring states for treatment during COVID endemic.He did not complete new hospitals for years,had no intention to collect oxygen and no infrastructure to distribute it, still he could blame the prime minister for not providing enough oxygen. Chided by courts many times. The most embarrassing was booking a five star hotel for judges during COVID endemic, luckily it misfired. To ensure that the old story of Kamrajar may not be repeated, the Gujarat ruling party has to counter the rhetoric being created against it. Each voter must be encouraged to vote. It is a common practice that satisfied voters opt to go on picnics to enjoy election holidays. Elections are managed by manipulating undecided voters.
The good thing is that in Gujarat, the opposition is not half as witty as Karunanidhi. Ruling party is a cadre based one. It is connected well with its vote bank. Despite ruling for more than 20 years it has not become arrogant. No major corruption charges are there. A state which witnessed riots on a regular basis has not seen any major violence in the recent past. Yet there is no room for complacency.The state which led the road to single party government by a national party should not fall prey to the public psyche manipulation using analytics. Cal Thomas once said
“One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are”
India has to invent some viable solution to the politics of freebies and false promises for reservations. Freebies have not allowed the building of the infrastructure and the greed for more reservations has divided the society. Railways was a live example, for decades minister after minister kept on presenting a rail budget without increasing the fare. As a result, infrastructure collapsed and rail accidents became the norm. Same is true for many states run by parties who lured the voters not by performances but by free electricity, water ,laptop , bicycle, scooties and what not. Both parliament and courts have shown hesitation to curb this menace. Offering free electricity,water or any other benefit, should be supported by some viable strategy else it is a blueprint for bankruptcy.
Gujarat election is a battle between financial prudence and the greed to ride a freebies wave to power. The magic of freebies has worked well in Delhi and Punjab elections. In my previous article in this magazine I have suggested that nationalist NGOs should stand up to challenge such malpractices. Socially aware citizens can only do away with these gimmicks. Voting is a tool to build the nation. It is not a tool to get lured and squander the dreams of our freedom fighters
It is a pity that a country which gained its freedom by sacrificing lives,wealth and comfort for centuries, has fallen for pittance. Our national heroes must be feeling ashamed in heaven, seeing their successors electing people believed to be rouges,murderers and criminals of all sorts just for the consideration of cast,region or language topped up by freebies and reservations. Every cast and region is eager to prove itself down trodden. Pride in great heritage has given way to patty gains. The poets, authors and social reformers who had awakened the conscience of the nation to send Britishers packing, have forgotten their duties as soon as India became independent.
Conclusion: nationalist NGOs have to launch a movement which must develop a commitment among citizens towards good governance.This spirit is visible in national elections. Yet in state or municipal elections a lot of patty issues take the central stage. A very big number of sensible citizens have given up their subsidy on domestic gas. This indicates that it is still possible to build an India which will shun personal gain for good governance. I will conclude the article with unconfirmed news shared by a friend at Ahmedabad station recently that a particular community has taken a pledge not to marry their girls in families who can not afford to pay their electricity bills and opt to vote for free electricity.I wish it to be true and let whole India follow this tradition.
In my childhood the slogan was ‘bheekhnahinrojgarchahiye’ which meant that we do not want alms but the right to earn by sheer hard work. The Sanskrit shloka below is a proof of the culture for which India stands for.
उद्यमेन हि सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि न मनोरथै: ।
न हि सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य प्रविशन्ति मुखे मृगा: ।।
work gets accomplished by effort and industry, the deer does not enter a sleeping lion’s mouth just because he dreamt about it.
Let Gujarat election set an example that Indian voters will no more succumb to the temptations of free bees. Let the legislators and the Supreme Court ban squandering of taxpayers’ hard earned money in luring voters.
By Rakesh Kumar