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Let poll promises not remain just words once the elections are over

Ever since the first elections held after Independence our politicians talk about development and social strengthening, but they get busy preparing for the next election instead of implementing these lofty ideas on the ground

columns Updated: Dec 17, 2017 16:44 IST
political discourse,gujarat elections,himachal elections
A woman covers her face as she leaves a polling booth after casting her vote during the first phase of state assembly election in Limbdi town of Surendranagar district in Gujarat.(Reuters Photo)

After many weeks I breathed a sigh of relief on the evening of December 14. The reason? The kind of language being used during the Gujarat elections over the last few weeks had left me distraught. This is bound to happen when politics turns into impolitic conduct. If you think the disaffection spread across the country will end with the election results that are revealed today, your assessment is far from true.

The manner in which elections are fought these days leaves an impact on people’s hearts and minds for a long time. If you disagree, just have a look at the last few elections. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections witnessed a number of high-decibel verbal duels. As a result the government in Delhi changed. The aftermath of the regime-change ushered in a new grammar for Indian politics. From that time till today, politics has transformed in its functioning, character and façade. Even after winning power, our politicians these days want to keep the fire of controversial and meaningless issues burning all the time.

Here I am not talking about any particular party or politician, but the repercussions are staring us in the face. Since the time the people of India began paying more attention to leaders and their politics than the real issues, their problems have kept getting compounded with every round of elections. Ever since the first elections held after Independence our politicians talk about development and social strengthening, but they get busy preparing for the next election instead of implementing these lofty ideas on the ground. Some of them begin filling the party’s coffers to achieve this while others stir up passions on an assortment of subjects. Politically convenient definitions of caste, religion and history are dished out in a way that the attention of the people is diverted away from the real issues.

That is why 70 years after Independence, a person who earns less than Rs 32 per day is considered poor in the country. Is this enough to have two square meals? Of course the descendants of Adam and Eve need much more than food to survive that cannot be procured in just Rs 32. A nation in which around 20 crore people are compelled to sleep on an empty stomach is bound to express despair.

I am often reminded of a dialogue from the film Upkaar that I watched in my childhood. “Ration par bhashan bahut hain, lekin bhashan par ration koi nahin (A lot of people give speeches on rations, but there is no ration on speeches).” It is the 50th anniversary of the film’s release. The conditions should have changed by now, but unfortunately, the harsh truth rings true even today. This misfortune continues because our politicians forget all the statistical jugglery and hollow statements made during elections as soon as they take oath. Self-damaging hysteria has become an important part of democracy and the blame for spreading it lies equally with every political party.

But our political class has become smarter. They have changed their tactics. The language they speak before they come to power changes beyond recognition once they assume office. Take the example of Jammu and Kashmir. When Mehbooba Mufti sat in the opposition benches, her views on stone-pelters and terrorism made right-thinking people squirm. But today she speaks a different language. Similarly Farooq Abdullah, who has embraced both the BJP and the Congress in the past, is speaking the language that Mehbooba used to speak earlier. Isn’t this a role-reversal? The ideological U-turns of politicians have become the stuff of legend. Not only have they made fun of the country, our culture, hunger and poverty, they have also put national security at risk at times.

Take a cursory look at the war of words during the Gujarat elections. Body blows were inflicted upon institutions, people and beliefs time and again. Why don’t our politicians realise that whatever they do or say in the digital age is recorded for posterity? A thousand years from now, when an enthusiast hears or reads about it, a question is likely to bother the person: Was there no difference between the Mahabharata fought during the Dwapar era and the elections fought in the 21st century? Does the mindset of Indians remain the same irrespective of the passage of time? Obviously, we’ll have to break free from this reputation, but how can this be done?

Let us pray that whoever wins in Gujarat today, after assuming power, honours the promises and claims that have been made. This is essential to keep democracy intact.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan

First Published: Dec 17, 2017 16:33 IST