Bitumen and elections

Once in every five years, Indian cities, towns and villages wake up to the smell of freshly grounded Bitumen.

Bitumen, according to Google, is a highly sticky and viscous liquid which is mixed with rocks to lay roads. It is commonly known as the binding material for ensuring that asphalt does not disintegrate.

But in India, this same bitumen is considered to be more than just binding the asphalt on the streets. Fresh bitumen is also a symbolic gesture of political parties binding with the voters.
Come every election year, be it the gram panchayat, the corporation, the assembly or the Lok Sabha, Indian roads turn into vast swathes of freshly laden black surfaces.  Such is the symbolic effect of these newly laden roads, that no man, be it a citizen or a tourist, can escape the crude nature of announcing to the world that India, or a part of India is going for elections.

Earlier this year, Bangalore, like every other city in this country, was caught in the midst of this symbolic gesture.

Even as citizens were crying over bad roads in 2013, the newly formed Congress government kept pushing its deadlines to ensure that they can kill two birds with one stone.

One by providing the respite Bangloreans begged for, and second by making that symbolic gesture towards the common man that the ruling party is the one which is providing you the same respite that was much needed.  

So much so, even on date, the City is witnessing large scale asphalting of roads which have been long overdue.

However, as has been the case in laying of roads, when bitumen content is low in quality or quantity, roads start to disintegrate faster than usual. Time and again, the same has been the case with this symbolism of politicians trying to bind with the voters.

While in reality contractors lobby coupled with the greed of ground level officials and politicians make sure that the asphalt makes way for large potholes and craters, in the symbolic sense clean governance makes way for corruption, scams and scandals. Disenchanted, the common man starts to feel that the potholes are appearing faster than usual in the same manner that political parties which promise long lasting results, in reality are providing only temporary respite.

Be it infrastructure connectivity with the heart of a City to its suburbs or policies which tackles security, price rise and inflation, roads and its symbolic effect will always be an indicator of India’s fortunes.

This election season,  can this symbolism be redefined with lasting roads for more than 10 years, or two election cycles in any city, town or village?

The Modi chant, the Rahul spirit, the Nitish efforts, the Jaya strength or the Kejriwal protests, can they give people good lasting roads?

Questions which may well be answered on May 16 in a positive manner, or the response which may disappoint the voters for the umpteenth time in the next five years. 

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