Millennium Post

Election 2014 gets bitter

India has completed the 6th phase of voting for 117 seats on 24 April, of the total of 543 seats that are in contention for the new Parliament.  We are now at mid point of the election which began on 7 April and the last phase ends on 12 May. Almost 400 plus seats have been voted for. The campaign from all sides who are’ party to the elections, has been largely one of abuse and recounting the misdoings of the opponents. One wonders if political ideology is dead, or is it that in the South Asian context, ideology has increasingly become irrelevant in the last decade or so.

A close study of political contests in this region would show that  elections in this region are more personality based than a vote in favour of one ideology over other. All parties opportunistically take right, left and centrist positions, so that their umbrella is all pleasing and all encompassing. This phenomenon is increasingly seen in the context of the ongoing elections in India. A seemingly weak prime minister for the last 10 years, has given this yearning for a seemingly all powerful, and a communicative macho representative who can show our economic and political enemies where they get off.  The economic showdown in the country has been attributed to a clueless and a dithering government who escalated the widespread disenchantment through excuses like global recession etc.  This is what appears to count the most amongst the voters – high disenchantment with the present government who compounded their sins of omission and commission by poor explanations and poorer credibility.  Their venality too, highlighted by a not so impartial media, has heightened the people’s expectations from the main challenger, the Bharatiya Janata Party led by a very savy and connected communicator. Besides, they gave themselves a headstart by naming Narendra Modi as the prime minsterial candidate.

 Indeed, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has run a very well coordinated campaign, though more than occasionally marred by communal appeals by people allegedly close to him. But in general it is the ingenuous selling of his sterling qualities to become the natural choice of the electors to be India’s prime minister that is most in evidence. A high octane campaign, if ever there was one.
The position as it looks now is that the BJP is heading to be the single largest party. By how much, is yet a matter of conjecture. The broad calculations are that they could win as much as 190 seats to 220 seats on their own and along with their alliance partners would get to the majority figure of 272. Realistically, this is a tough ask. The BJP’s presence is most dominant in 205 parliamentary constituencies, all in North India. So to score 200 out of 205 is not easy!

The ethical dimension of politics has been totally ignored by all concerned, including the voter.  The voter is not exactly looking for a morally and ethically sound candidate. Witness the fact that as per ADR’s analysis, that out of total number 6,727 candidates contesting up to Phase 7, 17 per cent have criminal cases pending against them. And they come from all parties. The average citizen is desperate to get a government that will uphold the rule of law for him, give him a chance to pursue his livelihood and control prices of essential goods. He is looking for some government which will ease up the strains and stresses of doing his business. This is an election of the young and aspirational voter.  His perception of present times is that the incumbent government led by the Indian National Congress has destroyed his dream of a good job, good house, good education and a good life. He is hoping that the opposition led by the BJP will allow him to recreate his dream. There are a 100 million first time voters who are going to make their choice in this election.  Add to this, there are 101 million smart phone users.

This makes it truly a big social media election. It is the largest public relations campaign of all times to make a human being look bigger than his reality. Tragically, all the others are only sniping at his heels, without bothering to carve out a positive image for themselves.

The tempo and nature including the content and the context has been set by the BJP’s PM candidate. He has positioned himself as the change that people want to see. The people of India are in the process of making up their minds on that. Another 100 plus seats to be
contested and the fight gets bitter and bitter. 

The author is director at India Habitat Centre

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