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Vote Politics:DEVELOPMENT NEW MANTRA, By Dharmendra Nath, 12 Dec, 2012 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 12 December 2012

Vote Politics


By Dharmendra Nath

The past four-five years have seen vast changes in the socio-economic outlook of the Indian voting public. These have been years of high growth (leaving far behind what was euphemistically called the Hindu rate of growth), high employment, high incomes as well as unusually high inflation and a great hardship for many sections of the people. While jobs have come to many and their incomes together with those of the entrepreneurial class have risen very significantly there are others who have got left out. They have not only been the beneficiaries of this phenomenon but on the contrary have had to bear the brunt of a persistent high inflation over a very long time.

This kind of high growth induced prosperity coupled with high inflation misery is a totally unprecedented situation in our context. We have to remember that the public which will be exercising its votes in Assembly elections or the General election slated for 2014 has gone through this kind of schooling. The recent posturing of the political parties on the FDI debate and voting is a clear indicator.

Prosperity has come to all who were in a position to take advantage of the unfolding situation in terms of education, skills and foresight. It has been a class-less revolution. All sections irrespective of caste, community, region, poor or rich have benefitted. Equally the left outs too belong to all sections. Having seen it or missed it in their lives, the people today are more united than ever in a universal demand for development and its wherewithal. They want and insist on a second chance.

They have seen that development is caste, community and region neutral. If there is a Tata, a Birla or a Godrej there is also an Ambani, a Narayan Murthy and a Premji or a Sahara. It also makes no difference between the rich and the poor. In fact, most of the knowledge-based wealth has gone to the non-traditional classes. Post liberalisation there are many rags to riches stories where people have made it big by their efforts. Equally, they have witnessed the decline of the rich where that effort was lacking.

Additionally, these years have also witnessed a growing public awareness. Though there are vulnerable sections, we do have a very large chunk of an educated and informed citizenry, which has been empowered by education, right to information and citizen rights under various Acts. Governments now will have to pass their scrutiny. We are already having some fore taste of the turbulence it can generate. It is a situation like never before. 

In this situation divisive vote-bank politics, which has ruled the roost for so long, is unlikely to hit the mark. People know that prosperity is not a matter of class against class or region against region or a matter of some small concession given here or there. It is a matter of the sustained provision of those basic amenities which make development possible.

So far electoral politics has sought to carve out sheltered groups, who could vote en masse for the party in return for some small concession or some support to their sentiments. That was a relatively easy approach. However, that approach ended up playing the poor against the rich, caste against caste, community against community and region against region. But that may not work anymore. With rising public awareness and people having tasted across-the-board prosperity, the stakes are bound to be very different.

Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty) was once a very appealing slogan for the poor. Championship of communal interests was another creator of a solid support base. For some it took the form of Hindutva for others of minorityism. Similarly, appeal to local identity i.e. Marathi manush or Behari origin was supposed to ensure support in those regions. Caste calculations were universally considered to be the safest bet for an election victory. But one cannot be so certain this time. People’s perceptions are indeed changing.

Poverty is fast losing its constituency due to relative decline in its numbers. Communism too is losing its sheen. The call of Hindutva no longer produces the earlier response. Minorities are wooed by so many that they are losing interest in that game. Other Backward Castes are split among so many parties that no one can take their support for granted. Scheduled Castes have broken out of the mould in a substantial way. They are no longer home-bound. They have gone into various non-traditional jobs in far flung locations and are today petty contractors, distributers, transporters, handlers, security personnel and industrial and construction workers. Regionalism too is on a back foot. For one, the exponent of Marathi Manus Bala Saheb Thackarey is no longer with us and that psychology appears to be on the wane.

All this represents a setback to the divisive vote lobby. Moreover, while on the one hand the en masse constituencies are either getting outdated or are getting divided and subdivided thereby losing their meaning, on the other hand a unified voice demanding development is getting louder and louder. A better informed and more enlightened citizenry too is putting its weight behind things and bringing more rationality to electioneering.

The march of progress and the momentum it has generated is moving the nation away from divisive towards unifying concerns. Today, commonalities are overriding differences. A progressively more homogenous society wants to move on. It knows that it can do so if the Government creates the circumstances for it and does not come too much in the way.

People demand the infrastructure of development in the form of sadak, bijli, paani (road, electricity and water) and such other prerequisites for growth. They want fewer restrictions and freedom to act. They want a more transparent and corruption-free set up. Accomplishment of these tasks demands the willingness and the ability to show performance. That is why people are looking towards performing States and performing leaders. Nobody is talking of Rs2-a-kilo-States. That worked for a time. But times are changing and political parties will have to come to terms with it.

People are essentially looking for a responsible Government, which can streamline things and take effective action, not a please-all Government, which acts like a charity. That augurs well for us. Both our democracy and our economy are maturing and yesterday’s prescriptions are getting outdated. We have to face and answer today’s questions. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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