Bubbles of dissatisfaction are bursting across political parties
In an evening of the beginning of last week, the political corridors of Kanpur were suddenly overtaken by a piece of sensational information. A two-sentence letter written in English had started making rounds on WhatsApp among leaders, political party workers, journalists and some selected people of the civil society. The content of the letter was as follows:
“Dear Voters of Kanpur,
Shri Ramlal General Secretary (Org.) Bhartiya Janta Party conveyed to me today that I should not contest the ensuing parliamentary election from Kanpur and elsewhere.
(Murli Manohar Joshi)”
Although Murli Manohar Joshi’s name was there, but his signature was missing. The skilled politicos know that even a letter without signature carries profound political meanings. It’s clear that Murli Manohar Joshi wanted to convey that he has not been given the party ticket and he will not accept this bitter truth as silently as Lal Krishna Advani. He had no hesitation in saying that his candidature was cancelled. Clearly, while leaving the scene, professor Joshi created some obstacles for the new BJP candidate Satyadev Pachauri.
It’s not that such dissent was seen only in Kanpur. It was being assumed that Tejaswini Kumar, wife of the late BJP leader Ananth Kumar, will be selected as the party candidate from Bengaluru South. She too had been preparing for the electoral battle for months. In politics, to give the seat of the deceased husband to the wife or a family member is an old and tested formula. But when the list was released, her name was missing. At first, she flared up but later accepted the party’s decision saying that it proves that we are a “party with a difference”.
Some people showed black flags to law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in his own city of Patna. Sources say that a Rajya Sabha member reportedly instigated these protesters. They probably knew that the saffron party will nominate him from Patna Sahib as the party’s Lok Sabha candidate instead of Shatrughan Sinha. These three examples are related to famous personalities. Smaller protests occurred in many places but the national media did not or could not cover it. A few days ago when BJP president Amit Shah was holding a rally in Agra, Babulal Chaudhary, representative of Fatehpur Sikri in the 16th Lok Sabha was holding a separate meeting, in village Kiroli. Chaudhary was denied the ticket for upcoming Lok Sabha polls. He is considered a firebrand leader in the region and is still showing a rebellious attitude towards the party.
The bubbles of dissatisfaction are bursting not only in BJP. Other parties are also a victim of this epidemic. This is the reason why many leaders are seen changing their parties, constituencies or groups at the eleventh hour.
There is another reason to worry for the parties. The voters have kept their fists closed. As a result, no issue is proving to be effective in the political atmosphere. Not only this, the political discourse in urban and rural areas are quite different. The urban voters seem to identify air strikes, Pulwama and nationalism with the political personalities whereas real issues on the ground have taken more prominence in the villages. The voters there do not want to forgo their caste identity besides paying attention to their problems. As a result, the 2019 elections are going back to the old ways. This is unfortunate.
Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which keeps a close watch over Indian elections and political personalities, conducted a survey in October-December 2018. The ten main issues which emerged during this survey are the same on which debate has been going on for the last 70 years. The issues are: employment, health services, clean drinking water, roads, public transport, irrigation, farm loan, better minimum support prices (MSP) for the crop, agricultural subsidies, and law and order. If you look at the slogans of all the political parties in the light of these issues, you can understand the reality well. The political slogans have neither eradicated poverty nor provided employment or water to every farm.
Are the elections for the 17th Lok Sabha also going to be just another joist in this deceit? I will give you an example. A few days ago K Chandrashekhar Rao’s party had won the Telangana Assembly elections with more than two third of majority. His daughter K. Kavitha won last Lok Sabha elections from Nizamabad constituency. This time 178 farmers have filed nomination against her from the same constituency. These farmers are unhappy with the fact that despite promises, no board was formed for the turmeric producers. It has definitely created problems for Kavitha but the Election Commission too is facing unprecedented problems as there is no provision for so many candidates on the electronic voting machines.
These examples should be sufficient to open the eyes of the electoral warriors. The piqued silence of the voters is now coming to an end. This is the time for politicians to return to the basic issues.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal