Millennium Post

The people have spoken

The recently concluded state elections prove that the voice of the common man cannot be taken for granted

The people have spoken

The BJP has lost power in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – the Hindi heartland; and the people have spoken. Everyone seems caught up in the age-old fight of political one-upmanship – Congress' progress, BJP's debacle. To all of this, I say, that there has been a more serious outcome of these state polls. The biggest takeaway from these recent elections is that the mandate of the 'aam aadmi' cannot be taken for granted.

In the last four years, there has been a one-way communication from the government — it has spoken and we have listened. And, while we have listened and changed our notes, stood in long queues to withdraw petty cash, digitised our transactions and lives, agreed to pay a consolidated tax (GST), and even given permission to the government to peek into all aspects of our lives (Aadhaar), the government has not listened.

Even when the anti-people demonetisation dealt a crushing blow to the economy and the common man, the government did not listen. Even as farmers walked thousands of miles to get their voice heard, their hopes were met with a heartbreaking silence. When several incidents of lynching and cow-related deaths surfaced, the powers that be still maintained a stoic 'no comments' stance. The people of India were speaking but the establishment was in no mood to pay heed. But now it will. It will have to.

The strongest weapon in the hands of the public is the vote. It is our democratically-given right to exercise our franchise, which is our most effective tool to make the government accountable. The real accountability is not in the virtual world of Twitter or in the raucous sounds of television primetime debates, true accountability lies with the people. It is to us that the politician comes begging for votes and it is to us that he pleads for trust and support. When those promises are broken along with the lives of an entire trading class, when the economy is forced to shed a couple of percentages of growth because of a draconian policy like demonetisation, the political party seated in the cushion of power, must answer.

And when that answer is not forthcoming, when the common man starts losing hope, when businesses down their shutters, when farmers strip naked and protest – that is when the voter decides that enough is enough. Since the powers that be won't listen, since they won't answer, they, therefore, must pay. And, as we saw in the recent elections, the BJP paid for its faulty economic policies with electoral losses. The party's disregard for farmers helped diminish their wins and even their vote share. Its neglect of the traders sowed deep seeds of resentment. So much was the disillusionment and sorrow of the voter that even able state administrations were ousted; the anger towards the central government ensured it.

The recently concluded state elections may not definitively chart the political wave of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections (and frankly, no one dares hazard a guess), but I feel that these elections show the trend. The early trends were seen in the by-poll results in the last year where BJP lost most seats. This early trend is stronger now as the people seem frustrated with the central government. Heading towards 2019 Lok Sabha, political parties must be aware that the extensively squeezed middle class, the unhappy women voters, the marginalised farmers, the scared minorities and the larger Indian vote base that is Hindu, tolerant, and all-Indian in its approach to homogeneity, diversity and, most importantly, communal harmony, will take its pound of flesh. The BJP must be prepared.

(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Shutapa Paul

Shutapa Paul

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