If you close your eyes and listen to the ‘blistering attacks’ that the two main parties in Election Campaign 2009 have unleashed on each other, you might be forgiven for thinking that you are back in the early 90s. The only difference is that both the Congress and the BJP have stressed on the changing demographics of India and, to that end, have showcased how each has a ‘youth’ arsenal up its sleeve. But if anyone had hoped that we would see an Obama-like ‘Yes, we can’ paradigm shift in our political discourse, they are bound to be disappointed.
If the pronouncements made so far by the big two are any indication, all we’re going to get is old whine in old bottles. Coming out of its corner, all guns blazing, the BJP has spoken stridently about — no prizes for guessing — the Ram mandir. It had never left Ram, it tells us, so where is the question of going back to the fact that a magnificent temple will be built on the site where the Babri masjid once stood. Oh and yes, the customary attack on dynastic politics being the bane of the country. And, of course, there was the ‘genuine secularism vs pseudo-secularism’ debate. The Congress, on its part, hasn’t exactly set the stage on fire. Terror, ‘Indira-ji’ and the aam admi are right up there in the arc lights along with secularism. Where, you might well ask, are the indications that we are moving forward? Where are the signs that our future elected representatives will come to grips with the crippling economic downturn, the woeful lack of infrastructure, the worrisome development indicators?
Thankfully, outside of the political arena, some things seem to be moving forward. The first arrest of a police officer connected to the 2002 Gujarat carnage was made on Sunday. The wrongs of the past must be set right for us to move forward as a society and nation. But, at the same time, we must also leave behind issues that have polarised and divided us and that are used only as stalling excuses for realpolitik use. It is not just the youth who want change. Battered and bruised by economic reverses, a shrinking job market and terror attacks, everyone wants to hear ideas that spell hope. This is something that the campaign managers should pick up as the election show gets on the road.