“Democracy is based on the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in the ordinary people”
-Harry Emerson Fosdick
It won’t be wrong to say that elections in India is less than any kind of festivities that the citizens of our country engage in. It is that time in the country when massive rallies, catchy and communal slogans, campaigning drives, controversial statements, name- calling game, corruption charges et cetera become no less than a thriller movie. As correctly mentioned by Mr. Harry Emerson Fosdick in the above mentioned quote that the elections are the time when people understand the extraordinary power they possess with themselves. It has been observed quite a few times that this nation during election forces the politicians to enter in “जनता की अदालत” which translates into “the court of people” where the public decides who should come to power and who shouldn’t. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. There are times when these elections are turned to a mockery when corrupt individuals turn this festival to a parade of dishonesty and corruption. But how and why? Do the politicians fool the public? Are they influenced?
The answer to all these questions are here, where we discuss the ‘pirouette’ or the ‘dance’ of the elections.
As mentioned above, Indian elections, be it the Lok Sabha election or the Vidhan Sabha election, the nature and dance remains the same. It is the same story of the practices that the politicians indulge into with further availing of benefits to the voters of the constituency which includes free liquor, free sari, cash to the people, et cetera. Now this is what we call as campaigning indirectly or discreetly because any kind of bribery and manipulation of votes amounts to the violation of the rules and regulations established by the Election Commission of India.
Now when we talk of campaigning, it essentially means a way of letting the people know about the good- things or the acts of political kindness coupled with proper maintenance of law and order in state/country done by the ruling government and the process of criticizing and finding loopholes in the current government coupled with the changes being proposed by the party/parties campaigning against the said ruling government in the state/country. However this soon turns into something what we call as the dirty politics and the subtle misuse of power by the party who has the reins in the government- controlled agencies. Not just the political leaders, but the media plays a big role in making an impact on the minds of the people by various talk- shows, election- related jingles and various debates that are aimed to appease the vote bank.
While we are at it, campaigning essentially needs a base. The base could be subjective in nature. The people/party/media/person campaigning takes due care to pick up the issue that appeases the public of the particular place the most. In the process, the Election Commission of India deploys range of rules and regulations coupled with the Code of Conduct that is to be mandatorily be followed by the people involved in campaigning. When we look at the campaigning practices in India, we see a shift in the culture of campaigning.
With the evolution of the independence of the country till today, Indians have seen certain shifts in the subjects chosen by the politicians to campaign. When India was a nascent independent country in the early 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, poverty alleviation policies, drought- prevention practices, economic reforms et cetera were the major highlights of the election campaigning. Let me remind the readers, the time period mentioned above was the time when the then Bhartiya Jana Sangh was still at its genesis stage, providing a one- game show for the Indian National Congress (INC). However, with the slowly collapse in the India economy, increasing debts, repercussions of India being constricted to being a closed economy and the uproar of the now Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) then shifted the campaign policies to the jargons of economic mechanisms and marked the great rivalry between the BJP and the INC. This rivalry intensified, when the BJP in the year 1996 sat as the opposition and showed the country a way of forming the government without the dominance of the INC. That way was by forming a coalition. However, this coalition government was still new and was full of deceit and malice. After all, सत्ता लोल्लुप्ता (lust for power) is a thing which continues till today, regardless of the party/parties in power.
It is not just the above mentioned policies and programs related to economics and policy- making that drives the campaigns. The politicians from the time of independence till today use the caste and communal angle to divert the illiterate and the disadvantaged to vote for them and continue their practices of hoodwinking.
However, this was something that I would like to terms as pre- COVID era. That essentially means that after the outbreak of this massive pandemic, the election campaigns have also changed. Now along with the lines of casteism, name- calling, policy measures and implementation, maintenance of law and order, health has become a pivotal issue. The politicians often target the state government of mishandling the COVID-19 situation and the state government which is from a different party alleges the central government for not supporting the state government for the handling of the spike in the cases. The prime example of that could be the Bihar Elections, where Tejaswi Yadav came out of the shadow of the caste and communal politics and decided to woo the Indian voters by the means of other aspects with modernization and betterment of health infrastructure in Bihar included. However, when we look at the West Bengal elections, the things have taken a pretty drastic turn and has wrapped the entire state in a state of verbal diarrhea. In fact, today in our organization’s group a discussion had erupted about the cabinet ministers from the central government addressing massive rallies without a fear of the explosion of the COVID-19 cases around the country. My senior also labelled a certain minister from the central government as the Indian Donald Trump, which seems reasonable at this point of time.
Though health managed to stay in the spotlight for the election rallies and campaigns, dirty politics took its place and sidelined health as the priority that is needed to be addressed on an urgent basis as of today. In fact, much to the surprise of the nation, the reports of the spike in the cases are coming from the states where the elections are not there and the lockdown is in place, completely disregarding the massive rallies and the crowd that may or may not be positive for COVID-19. Hoodwinking at its best.
To conclude with, the readers must understand certain things. Many of the people today decide to choose the path of being apolitical and yet at the same time hurl abuses at the government in power, both at the centre and at the state level. However, they don’t realize an important aspect of the influence politics and campaign has on the people. People very conveniently flow either on the waves of extreme left or extreme right, completely showcasing the skill of being educated yet uneducated folks. At the end, I would leave the readers with a question yet again. If the government is trying to fool us, manipulate us and corrupt the thought process to any extreme, then is it not our duty to analyze, study and research on the entire argument and the statement rather than establishing a false narrative and be a pseudo- intellectual with zero analytical, logical and critical thinking power?
Abeer Tiwari -Writer Bharat Bhagya Vidhata