Come elections and the tone and tenor of politics changes. The idea of a citizen making an informed choice perhaps gets drowned in the cacophony of confusion and chaos. No doubt the sense of choice of alternatives, which a citizen has in a democracy, is restricted to what is being offered by the political elite. After the 1990s, the configuration of Indian politics has changed comprehensively.
The federal nature of our polity, reflective of our plurality and diversity, has made its mark on the political map and we have entered an epoch of coalition politics. We are well and truly into an age of coalitional majoritarianism. The past 10 years were typically reflective of this orientation and perhaps on hindsight depicted its pitfalls as well.
The political horizon today is littered with four general visions: The old guard Congress with its broad vision of inclusive growth under a youthful avatar, its main challenger — the saffron brigade — with its proposition of decisive leadership and sheer growth as panacea to all ills of the past and present.
There are also in the fray a plethora of regional satraps, each entrenched in its own domain but nursing pan-Indian ambitions. The latest urban foray into politics, the Aam Aadmi Party, is built on debunking the existing political entities and has credentials of offering little beyond criticism.
In a budding democracy manifestos must transcend being mere offerings on paper, they should provide clear roadmaps of achieving what has been promised and elections should be fought not for debunking the opponent but what, how and when the candidate seeks to achieve for his constituency, district, state and the country.
Politics is the Aristotelian master science of bridging the gap between “what is” and “what ought to be”.
Elections are about making substantive choices much beyond the maze of posturing and polemics. The rational choice of the electorate should be based on programmes, policies and performance rather than personalities.
Political forums and platforms should facilitate in making an intelligent selection based on facts and figures rather than subjective backgrounds and brouhaha. The equanimity of electoral choice of a citizen is a quintessential ingredient in a maturing democracy reflective of the “wisdom of the multitude”.
Tarun Kumar is a bureaucrat
The views expressed by the author are personal