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Little voter enthusiasm this election

Whatever the results of the Lok Sabha elections, they will not be due to the full participation of the people.

columns Updated: May 13, 2019 07:56 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
lok sabha elections 2019,election commission,general elections
It’s clear that the voters are not as expressive as they were in the last election. Simply put, no one is raising any real issues which have a connect with the voter.(Praful Gangurde/ HT Photo)

The world of Indian politics has now become a victim of its own deceptions. Half truths or untruths are presented as the gospel truth by leaders who feel that this is the way to create a conducive environment for them to promote themselves and their ideologies. It is not for nothing that several sociologists call the present age the era of post-truth.

This is one reason why the voting percentage has not been increasing in India and many developing countries as much as was expected. Although the Election Commission of India has left many dissatisfied on several issues, even its staunch critics cannot deny that it has worked very hard to increase the voting percentage. Various attractive faces and celebrities were roped in by several parties to encourage voting. But no major increase has been noticed in the average voting percentage. A lot more was expected from a 21st century young India. Compared to the present election, a higher josh (enthusiasm) was witnessed during the first general election in independent India. In 1951, 61.16 % people exercised their franchise. At that time, along with election rallies and newspapers with very limited circulation, loud announcements from village to village were used for campaigning. There were not enough means of transport and people had to walk miles to cast their vote. Did the voter of that time ever feel the need to watch a film like Uri for inspiration to cast his vote? There is a difference between natural enthusiasm and a sponsored wave.

Our democracy is becoming characterised by pomp and show. South Mumbai is the biggest example of this. Only 52.15% voting took place in this area which is known to be upmarket. The millennials here also comprise a significant segment of first-time voters. But they did not show much enthusiasm. Clearly, the speeches given by leaders were too drab to get much attention.

But let us go beyond millennials. A feeling of discomfort regarding the current political attitude and conduct has been increasing in all sensitive sections of society. It’s true that people seem to be divided on the basis of religion, caste, region and language but it is also true that whenever Indians see a ray of hope in a political leader or a social pioneer they are drawn to him/her. In 2011, when Anna Hazare started his hunger strike, people of every age group and section came out in his support.

In the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi also left Ahmedabad riding on the same desire for change. Similarly, Arvind Kejriwal was a symbol of change. But now, we have an array of parties and personalities promising change. Whatever the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are, they will not be due to the full participation of the people.

The common man, constantly struggling with this endless hype and hoopla is neither indifferent nor particularly enthusiastic. You may recall a video from Jammu and Kashmir which had gone viral. During the first phase of the general election, a person was dancing at a polling booth. The hopefuls saw this as a example of the enthusiasm for democracy. But from the next phase itself, polling in the Valley started decreasing. It has recorded a 2.5% decrease in voting till now. Isn’t this more a symbol of hopelessness? Even if we don’t talk only about the Valley, it’s clear that the voters are not as expressive as they were in the last election. Simply put, no one is raising any real issues which have a connect with the voter.

Where have the farmers wearing garlands of skulls who sat in protest at Jantar Mantar gone? Why are leaders like Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani who came in to the limelight by delivering speeches on unemployment absent from the electoral discourse? The photo of women digging pits near a dried riverbed to collect water has also disappeared. Where have those retired soldiers and security officials, with the medals of bravery on their chests, who were manhandled by the police during their protest gone? This is the destiny of social movements. Without the support of the state, they do not last long. And as far as the state is concerned, it is driven solely by politics.

This is the reason that this election is creating a lot of noise but has not thrown up any meaningful solutions to the issues which plague much of India. This is not a good sign for any democracy.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan

The views expressed are personal

First Published: May 13, 2019 07:47 IST