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Particularise the general

May 10, 2004 05:48 PM IST

Once upon a time, Lok Sabha elections were about national issues and assembly elections were about matters that affected a particular state.

Once upon a time, Lok Sabha elections were about national issues and assembly elections were about matters that affected a particular state. In the 1998 Delhi assembly polls, for instance, the skyrocketing price of onions — along with intense infighting within the ruling BJP — helped the Congress to come to power in the state. In the 1999 general elections, the BJP snapped up all the seven Lok Sabha seats and left the Congress a bit worried about its comfortable position in the state assembly.

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But Sheila Dikshit proved to effectively buck the so-called trend of anti-incumbency in the 2001 assembly polls by being an effective administrator. Never mind that the BJP accused the state Congress of pulling off a win at the hustings by taking credit for what the earlier (BJP) government had implemented — flyover construction, introducing CNG etc. Never mind that at the national level, the Congress is now accusing the BJP exactly in the same manner: of hijacking the Congress economic vision and sprouting the ‘India Shining’ slogan on the grass-bed that it had carefully nurtured. So it seems that the rules of the two games — assembly and Lok Sabha elections — have merged. Both versions of the electoral sport are moving towards localised, rather than national, issues. Take the recent Supreme Court order to the Delhi government to shut all illegal industrial units in the capital’s residential areas. One would have thought that this being a local issue, it would not affect a voter’s decision in today’s Lok Sabha hustings. But living among fumes, regardless of how enamoured you may be of a political party’s ideology, is a kind of living you can very well do without.

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Increasingly, politics is veering towards what is happening — or not happening — that directly affects the citizenry. Civil society in India, till recently notoriously dormant, is increasingly focusing on matters like bijli, sadak and pani. This is something that Ms Dikshit has understood; this is something that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also understands. As democracy rightly becomes more localised, whichever political party understands this better stands to — and deserves to — win.

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