Polls provide scope for political education

Polls provide scope for political education

Many candidates are millionaires and the rate of growth of their assets has accelerated. Thus, ordinary people are practically shut out from contesting, indeed a wrong signal regarding the promotion of democracy, equality and people’s participation on equal terms.

The Karnataka elections provide an opportunity for people to take a general view of the issues at stake at the state and national levels. And since parliamentary elections are just a year away, the state elections cannot fail to be a prelude of national significance. The 2,000-odd contestants provide much human and political material to educate ordinary citizens, and grist for analysts — and occasion for amusement, too.

Unfortunately, the campaign discourse is characterised by mutual recrimination and invectives rather than by issues of importance and welfare of the people — the idea of India stands neglected, a great political loss. Despite these proclivities of contestants and their parties, people ask questions about various issues. Thanks to the constant vigil of the Election Commission, the campaign is not as boisterous as it would have been otherwise. Ordinary citizens are saved from noise pollution, though social media trolls, with all their bravado, falsehoods and exaggerations are indeed a nuisance.

Karnataka has long been known for setting the trend in development — industries and educational institutions have dotted the state for long and have made it one of the most advanced states in the country. Bengaluru is among the highest tax paying cities, thanks to the efforts of the central and state governments, and is inviting people from other parts of the country and abroad for employment and training. How far the civic amenities are in good shape in Bengaluru and other parts of the country is an issue that requires attention. But voters know that no party has a magic wand to solve this issue, despite partisan recriminations.

Many candidates are millionaires and the rate of growth of their assets has accelerated. Thus, ordinary people are practically shut out from contesting, indeed a wrong signal regarding the promotion of democracy, equality and people’s participation on equal terms.

These millionaire candidates, our future representatives, are sure to convert administration into a pro-rich, pro-contractor plutocracy and the administration’s fair play cannot be reasonably expected when vested interests rule the roost. Political parties have preferred the rich, and much turmoil over seat distribution, manhandling and stone-pelting at party offices has been witnessed.

In India, distributive justice is avowed, but general economic development has failed to reach benefits to the poor. Various freebies, mid-day meals, Indira canteen, ‘anna bhagya’, ‘ksheera bhagya’, ‘arogya bhagya’ etc, are offered and need to be made efficient and universal. This requires to be studied and highlighted constructively, but this is being freely used as a pejorative.

The larger issue of government expenditure going haywire and transfer of resources as a part of distributive justice has not received attention, a part of the socialist ideal — an item for political education and closer attention at legislature committee level. These avowed acts of distributive justice are contrasted with general economic growth policies and inexorability of growth in investment, skills, allocations and taxation — the trickle-down theory of growth or direct attack on poverty.

The issue of sectarian violence – such as the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, the murder of Mohammed Akhlak, the manipulation of legislature majorities in Goa and Bihar, the turmoil in Mangaluru-Udupi regions, burning of churches etc, the obsession with murder of political opponents/partisans as murder of patriots/nationalists, the discharge of the accused for want of prosecution perspicacity in marshalling evidence, have all to be considered, and provide benchmarks against the adherence to the ideals of peace and inclusive politics, and justice and equality. This turmoil is feared to be engineered for political gains. These have not been thought about objectively.

Adding to this is the frequent reference to simultaneous elections to Parliament and state legislatures, and an attempt to enforce this simultaneity through the law and an amendment to the Constitution. What is meant by political strength and stability? Are Opposition parties obstructing development by raising legitimate questions about policy and administrative commissions and omissions? Independence of the judiciary and appointments to higher courts are worrying political questions; government is often seen as partisan. These questions have not received attention as a part of the election campaign.

The question of reservations is ever present, and parties are eager to assure reservation for larger sections of people and castes, indeed a poll ploy. But the country needs to discuss the efficacy of extant reservation practices and the pace of improvement among the backward and Scheduled Castes. The Muslims and the Other Backward Classes are largely consigned to social, political and physical ghettos. Reservation policies have not helped them significantly.

Prior to the ushering in of the Constitution in 1950, from almost the beginning of the 20th century, the reservation policy was practised in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These issues are central to the socio-economic and political development of the people of India. There is seldom any improvement in service delivery institutions in the country and election campaigners are not highlighting these all too important issues.

Thus, contributions from 2018 Karnataka election campaign to political education are almost next to nothing.

(The writer is a former professor, Maharaja’s College, University of Mysore)

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