The poll bugle has been sounded. In a vast, densely populated and infinitely diverse country such as India conducting elections is an enormously complex process. Predicting the outcome of the elections is even more difficult. That is why most of the pre-poll and exit polls surveys go haywire and give out results that are no way near to the actual outcomes.
From now onwards, newspapers will be full of juicy news and television channels air hot, chaotic debates. Cities and villages alike will turn noisy as politicians hit streets seeking votes. Many politicos leave seemingly sinking parties and leapfrog onto the parties with better prospects to keep their political careers afloat. Parties deploy their best spin doctors to defend the seemingly indefensible things and level all types of allegations and counter allegations against their opponents with an intention to gain one-upmanship. Not only social media but even the mainstream media will be abuzz with subjective opinions and even fake news.
In a democracy, the voice of the people is the voice of God. For full five years, the politicos voiced their “Mann Ki Baat” at regular intervals through various platforms and the people silently listened. Now, the ordinary people, including the poorest of the poor without an iota of social privilege will gain their momentary strength to collectively change the fortunes of not only the politicos but even their plutocrat cronies. Because it is mostly the poor who take elections seriously and queue up in front of the polling booths with infinite optimism and the rich hardly take them seriously except that some celebs flash their inked fingers on the polling day.
In this age of PR, mass media and lobbying only those who have the required resources at their disposal can make their voice heard and get what they want. They write and speak about the need of introducing more economic reforms and improving the ‘ease of doing business’ environment. They seek tax cuts, bailouts and various other sops that enable themselves to accumulate more wealth. And they also get more car-centric and bullet train-centric infrastructure built at the expense of affordable public transport.
The poor and the ordinary, who lack any resources, keep a low profile most of the time except when they vote and hit streets in distress. So, the elections, in a way, are the only platform for the poor and the downtrodden to voice their collective “Mann Ki Baat” and this platform must be utilized in an effective and judicious manner.
Now comes the question as to what the underprivileged want? They, undoubtedly, want opportunities to earn their livelihoods and want to lead comfortable lives, in other words, they want to get ‘ease of living’. They want employment opportunities, good quality education for their children and healthcare services. Unfortunately, most of these remain a mirage for them. The ruling dispensations, instead of taking concrete and result-oriented action to improve the quality of life of the people, always resort to tokenism in the name of various schemes just to hoodwink the masses.
So far, in the garb of governance, we only witnessed impressive sounding slogans, dazzling events, high decibel campaigns with no programs to bring about any perceptible improvement in the standard of living of the ordinary folks. The rulers, to divert the attention of the people, bring forth a host of non-issues to create an emotionally charged environment with an intention to distract the attention of the people away from the bread and butter issues. They, instead of asking for votes based on their good deeds, resort to social engineering to win elections.
Politicians, who act as “Choukidars” of the plutocrats and jealously safeguard their interests at the expense of the livelihoods of the commoners, resort to welfare tokenism in the last minute. And to cover up their non-performance, they coin new slogans to entertain and distract the masses. Maybe that is why Marx quipped about elections by saying, “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” So, in a democracy, the elections are all about opting for a lesser evil.
But democracy is also about optimism and hoping for better. Therefore, people should continue to explore various options in their pursuit of better alternatives. There are many who are calling for ‘stability’. Stability is good as long as it leads to welfare and ease of living. Stability laden with empty rhetoric is not only futile but also causes damage to the long-term prospects of the nation. Therefore, an enduring change for the better should be the mantra of the people especially the poor and underprivileged. Let us hope that the forthcoming elections will pave way for the change.