Millennium Post

Refreshing priorities

Ideologies are secondary. Only after the basic necessities are met, the basic order maintained, and the normal mundane things of a people and community put in place can there be room for the luxury of delving into heated, raging debates and discussions of highest levels which happen to be of little consequence in sustaining a state and society well. There may seem to be many takers of greater national-level issues around a table, but when it is a matter of state polls, local issues take precedent over verbose nationalism. The Indian electorate has been discerning in making this necessary distinction. In the priority list of voter with respect to their state, national issues justifiably take a back seat. Local factors and matters pertaining to the economy that have a more immediate impact on the electorate play a greater role in Assembly elections. Such has been evident in the Jharkhand elections. With indications that the voters have been disenchanted with the Central government, performance along the lines of local issues, those closes to the people, is a healthier determinant of voting behaviour. Specially with respect to Jharkhand election result, the pattern of primary local concerns taking precedent over bigger but distant national issues comes out a little more prominently. Data from the Lokniti-CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) Post-Poll Survey underscore the difference in the roles played by local and national factors in determining the outcome. The defeat of an incumbent government in a election means much more when over 17 per cent of the vote is lost in merely six months. Such has been Jharkhand's response to BJP. The state level factors did and ought to determine an election result but the impact of such events in the larger scheme of things is something to give due consideration. Any government ought to primarily focus on addressing the basic requirements of the people and maintaining a situation favourable to the people. The lofty ideas of a grand nationalism had saturated the political air in the afthermath of the Pulwama attack which triggered a series of military exchanges between India and Pakistan—the faulty basis of the greatly exploited common conception of nationalism among naive Indians. Creating an environment of dominance over Pakistan may have temporarily lifted and/or the mood at large but while the spirits were high, the matters of more immediate impact such as the condition of the economy, state of education, the security and safety of women and crimes against them, etc. remain unattended and thus got worse. In the more recent times, the debates surrounding citizenship and the NRC serve the same purpose of distraction from the immediate issues that are most often local. But Jharkhand had little resonance with the likes of CAA and NRC; what it pegged its decision on is the performance of the government that impacted them the most and directly. CSDS-Lokniti Post-Poll Survey in Jharkhand brings to highlight the critical role of local factors and developments in explaining the electoral outcomes in the Assembly polls. About 43 per cent of the respondents in the Jharkhand post-poll survey indicated that economic issues held maximum importance and that influenced their voting choice. And on this account the state government was unpopular. What must be distilled from this event is that an ideologically-motivated outfit is free to be but a government has priorities and that is its people. Any deflection form this cannot sustain the image of a 'powerful' government for very long.

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