If ever there was an election campaign full of sound and fury, signifying very little - to take liberties with Shakespeare - it is the recent one to five states, but notably to West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The only thing that people can be thankful for is that despite it being a make or break election for the main parties in the fray, there has been very little violence. The overriding feature of the campaign so far has been one of unrelenting negativity. In West Bengal, the challenger Trinamool Congress and its volatile leader Mamata Banerjee have not gone beyond telling people that the ruling Left Front is not up to scratch. Fair enough, but perhaps the Trinamool would have done a singular service to the people of the state if it had spelt out some kind of blueprint to revive the moribund economy, attract investment and improve the dismal development indices. The Left on its part has failed to point out its rival's spectacular lack of any agenda, confining itself instead to taking potshots at her potential inability to govern. Bengal is long overdue for a change of guard after years of Left misrule and apathy. It would be a pity if the change, if it comes, will not really shift the goalposts in any significant manner.
Similarly, in Tamil Nadu the debate has been on who is more corrupt. Since the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has not covered itself in glory in this department, it has tried to redeem itself by flinging mud on the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam alleging that it is no slouch when it comes to feathering its own nest. But barring sops, what do either of the parties have on the menu for the state which is crippled by water shortages, agricultural decline and an increasingly skewed sex ratio to list a few? In Kerala, hobbled by poor infrastructure, galloping unemployment and a stagnant economy, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) have gone little beyond bellyaching about each other's faults. An octogenarian chief minister leading the LDF has gone over the tired old Marxist rhetoric in an idiom which people of today no longer understand. The UDF which hopes to topple the Left has confined itself to telling people how irrelevant the latter has become.
It is little wonder than that there is a sense of resignation rather than excitement in the assembly elections this time around. In the background in all these states are vague promises of bringing about development, though quite how and when are not spelt out. The bottomline seems to be 'give us power and then we will do something for you'. And we all know how that works. In short, people in these three states have very little to chose from among the main contenders in terms of real issues. It would be a pity if the development agenda which has paid handsome electoral dividends was put on the backburner and we went back to politics for politics' sake. Elections, which are so keenly fought, have to signify something for the greater common good, else they will be fruitless exercises in sound and fury.