The Indian election scenario has always been predictable. And despite the any changes that one sees with regard to the rise and rise of regional parties, some of the fundamentals never seem to change. There has been enormous brouhaha over the manner in which some candidates have been handing out cash in blatant violation of the election conduct but that too is explained away on the altar of tradition, What however intrigues me, election after election, is the manner in which almost every political party makes such a song and dance of its manifesto. There was however, a time when there were some discriminators in these manifestos but in these parity driven ties, that too seems to have vanished and this is the biggest irony of the Indian political scenes. These are no longer manifestoes with plans and shared vision but instead documents which highlight freebies that parties promise but never deliver on. It is this ideological meltdown that should worry every aware voter.
But will the Indian voter have either the maturity or the sagacity to see through this façade?
Or will literacy still come in the way. These manifestoes are documents, which need to be read not heard. With swathes of the Indian population reeling from illiteracy, it amazes me how futile the whole manifesto exercise is. Neither is it a report card of that party’s performance nor is it a deliverable document in terms of what it will set out to do should it form the Government. Add to that, the fact that almost every manifesto looks just the same, the very basis of these political parties, which in essence should be their ideology or focus, is something that is now tokenism and nothing else.
The common man is the focus but rarely the driver of these manifestoes. Nor is there an iota of research that the party may have undertaken to either gauge citizen concern or citizen aspiration while drafting these statements of intent. Once again, grave dangers when it comes to the democratic process. How on earth do political parties hope to remain connected and what’s more, how can they be held accountable when the heart of the manifesto itself does not receive either proper or wide dissemination? I am a strong believer that in any functioning democracy, accountability of intent is what will keep Governments in check and if the manifestoes are anything to go by, then we have a document which is revisited only once every five years and is a collection of populist slogans rather than any serious discourse on the issues grappling the nation.
Which is why it is not strange that extraneous factors such as terrorism and the nuclear deal have become topics of public speeches rather than concrete suggestions of improving India’s ailing infrastructure or for that matter tackling a declining economy. People in this country are still looking for the basics: water, food and primary health not to mention education. And what are our national leaders shouting about in their speeches? Everything but these very issues. The country, with such a large youth voter population would be better served if these politicians had a plan to address employment and productivity; to address the issues of a declining share of agriculture in India’s GDP or for that matter the weakening export scenario.
But then seriousness doesn’t come easily to the rabble-rousing Indian politician, which is why hate rather than progress has become the leitmotif of this election too. And this does not portend well. When the world’s largest democracy compares to the world’s oldest, the United States, we are lacking as far as policy statements are concerned. We continue to live in the hope that people will vote only with their hearts and not with their minds.
Perhaps a good reason to indulge in ideological tokenism rather than some serious citizen initiatives that India so desperately needs.