Self-serving alliances: Do voters have a choice? 

Self-serving alliances: Do voters have a choice? 

Most political alliances seem bereft of moral or ethical considerations

The 2019 elections are on in India. Do voters have a choice? That’s a haunting question when it comes to voting on the side of value-based politics. Dilemma and confusion grip voters when they see and realize that political alliances cobbled with fissures by major political parties are bereft of moral or ethical considerations.

‘Winnability’, a catchy word, savoured by Indian politicians, seems to have become a metaphor for grabbing power by all means, fair or foul. Many of those who enter into alliances know and acknowledge that these tie-ups are just temporary and subject to change. Voters are aware that such marriages of convenience are not meant for long-lasting journeys.

It is sweet to hear proclamations such as ‘nation first, party next, and self, last’, but the reality, which is vice-versa, is bitter and painful. A honest scrutiny of most of these alliances makes voters see the pervasiveness of the seven deadly sins, Gandhiji, our forgotten Mahatma, had cautioned about, guiding these alliances.

In other words, we, the people, know that most of these alliances are warped and conditioned either by money power that sustains ‘loot and scoot’ culture with accountability to none, or by caste considerations which include religion and community, or both. Adept at being self-serving, many of these alliances bring in permutations and combinations to defend forming and breaking alliances, giving us a glimpse of how far they are removed from serving the nation.

The malaise underlying the system is too deep and complex to be remedied. It has been tellingly exposed by Mohanraj Jebamani, an anti-corruption activist and candidate for the bye-election in Perambur Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu, who has deliberately filed a false affidavit simulating the famous figures of the infamous ‘2G-scam’ as his income just to expose the failure of the electoral system. Shockingly, his affidavit sailed through the scrutiny process of the EC.

To return to the concerns on alliances, arrogation of power conducive to corrupt practices is their sole aim. It taints all democratic ideals and values cherished as great legacies. It abdicates the obligation to be answerable to the people. It absolutizes corruption. And still, it has the gumption to return to the people whenever elections are scheduled. It comes back with cash, freebies and liquor to be distributed on the eve of elections. Money, religion, caste, communalism, corrupt practices, media-controlled propaganda and muscle power determine the survival of the fittest. No politician comes out in the open exposing the parties or those who are behind the ‘deal-making’. This is India’s modern political history of tainted democracy.

The shameless perpetuation of dynasty-politics is another concern. As the 2016 book, Democratic Dynasties: State, Party, and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, notes, ‘ average of one in every four candidates elected since 2004 belonged to a political family.’ A good number of political parties and alliances accommodate dynasty-politics consorting with nepotism without any qualm of social conscience. It is a way of making their families stealthily rich and powerful. This is happening across the country. The tragedy is that the masses get brainwashed as if dynastic politics were meant for the good of the people and for good governance.

The point for introspection is that political sagacity and statesmanship with a profound commitment to uproot corruption, to address the burning issues of the people, particularly the masses, and to take the country to greater heights in terms of progress beneficial to all, are no more values cherished in the political arena. True, progress and development have happened in the past, and are happening now too. But the angst arises against the iniquity of indifference towards the future hopes and aspirations of the poor who are often left out. They too wish to have a choice of the kind available to the middle-class and the rich.

Noting a few other angsts in this context may be relevant here:

Agrarian crisis, joblessness, underemployment, and inflation are burning issues aggravating voter angst. More than 70% of the youth are of the view that these problems are not addressed effectively by ruling parties or those who have the power.

The lack of transparency in the so-called electoral bonds and enormous donations received by political parties from unknown sources is another major concern. Is it not baffling that the ruling party at the Centre has appropriated ‘553 crores as donations from unknown sources, 80% of the total of such income, in one financial year, 2017-18’ (Outlook Web Bureau report)?

Opposition parties are part of the problem, though not to the extent the ruling party has monopolized such receipts. The angst is against the goddesses of crony capitalism having a bonhomie with the political class.

Ideological phrases such as ‘Saffron India’, ‘Dravidian politics’, ‘Dalitism’, ‘OBC friendly Ahinda-affinities’, and ‘Garibi Hatao-proclamation’ are all projected as pathways not to make India progress but to arrogate power.

Lastly, it is painful to see that India’s multicultural and spiritual psyche feels hurt with the concerted push being given to the idea India should foreground and celebrate ‘one faith, one religion, and one ideology’.

It is against such a suffocating scenario that citizens, eligible to vote, feel powerless and helpless. Many of us among eligible voters experience and endure a mood and feel of perplexity that keeps us in an agony of indecision. NOTA does exist as an option on paper, but does it take us far in terms of finding concrete solutions to the angsts experienced?

What can be done?

Let us spare time to sensitize the people, particularly prospective voters vulnerable to the influences of money and other inducements such as caste affinities, communal influences, alcohol, not to yield. Help them understand that they are not ‘commodities’ as if they were sellable and buyable. Spread critical literacy. Our effort in this regard may be a drop in the ocean but has a leavening impact creating ripple effects in the long run.

(The writer is an intellectual activist based in Mysore)