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Battle of two competing ideas

Battle of two competing ideas
The next Lok Sabha elections are round the corner and Assembly elections to Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim will also be held simultaneously. What kind of Lok Sabha will emerge after the 2014 polls? Will it be better or worse than the 15th Lok Sabha?  Will the UPA make a come back though farfetched as it may sound? Will the Modi-led NDA capture power or will the third front form the government? Crystal gazing provides a hazy picture.

While the selection of the candidates is in the hands of the political parties their election is the responsibility of the voters. To make it better, the voters as well as the political parties should select clean and efficient candidates. The voters should vow to reject any one with criminal records or use money or muscle power.

The 15th Lok Sabha was the worst throughout the five years of its existence. The ugly scenes witnessed before the passage of the Telangana bill is a classic example of how the house should not function. In fact people are fed up of the unruly scenes and the huge waste of money in running Parliament when there are no productive results. Bills were passed without discussion and the use of Marshalls became more often a necessity to control the members. The violent scenes enacted in some of the other Assemblies like Jammu and Kashmir also should strengthen the resolve of the voters to choose the right kind of people who could add value to Parliament.

Look at how Parliament functioned in the past five years. Data from the PRS Legislative Research shows that the average number of bills passed has come down from 72 to just 40. It met for just 73 days instead of the normal 127 days a year. The sexual harassment bill – a result of the Nirbhaya gang rape  – was passed in just three minutes. At the end of the session 116 bills remained pending of which 50 lapsed. The blame is to be shared by not only the government but also the other political parties. Can the country afford such a colossal waste? At least now the political parties must include in their manifesto that they would discuss and debate issues before passing the bills and properly scrutinise the budget.

When you look at the electorate, the key lies in the hands of the youth and women who form big chunks. The youth got a chance in 1977 and later in 1989 when there was a complete change of mood of the electorate to throw out the ruling Congress party. The youth want to change the politics – a politics devoid of corruption, muscle power and money power. This has been amply showed by the success of the Aam Aadmi Party. The AAP candidates proved that unknown people also could get elected.

Some analysts cite the huge voter turnout in recent Assembly elections as proof enough. The Assembly elections to Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh showed a definite increase of young voters. According to one estimate, the AAP got 47 per cent of the youth votes. In all probability this trend will continue in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls as 2.3 crore new voters have been enrolled. No wonder the major players including Modi, Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal are vying with each other for the youth votes. In such a scenario, giving youth a platform is gong to be a big challenge for all the political parties.

The next big challenge is women empowerment, which Rahul Gandhi has been talking about as his poll plank. Unless women become stakeholders in policy making this cannot happen. For this the entire political class should make efforts to field more women candidate. The BJP and the Congress proved that together they could get any bill passed. Why did they not show the same determination to give women one-third reservation in parliament and legislatures?

For the smooth functioning of Parliament, a broad consensus is required on all major issues at the national level. The political parties should address this in their manifestoes. In a coalition phase, regional parties are needed to provide a working majority at the center. This has given a deathblow to the foreign, economic and defence policies. For decades we have had a broad consensus on these and they must continue.  Because of the falling moral standards both in the public and among the leaders, criminalisation of politics has become the norm. In pursuit of power politics, every major player seems to be playing a no holds barred game. Caste and religion have in recent years emerged as rallying points to gain electoral support despite the emergence of India as a ‘secular’ country. Candidates are selected not in terms of accomplishments, ability and merit but on the appendages of caste, creed and community.

Although the influence of muscle power in Indian politics has long been a fact of political life the party leaders are openly defending the criminalisation of politics.  Despite the countrywide debate that was generated by the Vohra Committee Report on criminalisation of politics, the system has changed only for the worse.

The people are yearning for cleansing the muddy politics and looking for good candidates to elect as their representatives. With the success of the AAP a new aspiration of the voters have emerged despite their disappointment that AAP failed so quickly to govern. It has to be seen whether the caste or the communal card will continue to work or development as the formation of the new government depends on this aspect.

IPA
Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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