Who will have the last laugh?

With the advent of summer and the progress of the polls, the political heat is increasing. Amidst intellectually stimulating  debates, dirty tricks, mudslinging voters, where is the look at the future which all polls signify? Who said what to whom and when, is the main topic of discussion hardly voters’ concern? Due to a long nine phase polling, the trend clearly indicates the political debate getting shriller and nastier signifying a leadership deficit. Of the three arms of the government, the legislator, executive and judiciary, the legislature is selected by people’s choice, thus is the most powerful.

The selection of the legislature, if done on emotive issues where  capability takes a back seat, will inherently weaken the same yet retaining its undisputed all powerful preeminent place, thus the political guidelines will be lacking, thereby, reducing the manner and conduct of government. The legislature feels it has a right over votes and a might over peoples destiny. The manner in which it is seeking votes in a transparent environment reminds one of the old saying, ‘people get the government they deserve’. The voter has other pressing issues such as good governance, price rise, inflation, creation of jobs, economic well being of the country, creating infrastructure, and a secure environment for women. Sadly lacking is the security environment of the country! The huge voter turnout is a sure indicator that the Indian electorate has arrived in an assertive manner and that the voter will surprise all with his decisive vote.

The build up to this election was indeed different with the BJP nominating a PM candidate and the others fighting shy. Another difference was the vanishing of the old guard. One is reminded of Lord Alfred Tennyson quote, ‘The old order changeth yielding place to new and God fulfills himself in many ways lest one good custom should corrupt the world’. The old order has been shown the door while others have sought voluntary retirement, which was unheard of for the Indian political class.
Some BJP stalwarts willingly had to toe the party line, the only exception being Jaswant Singh who has decided to soldier on alone. The maximum number of old orders fading away is from the Congress – Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram, A K Antony and Satpal Maharaj. The generation shift also shows that not only will these people be sidelined, but it will also affect the way political alliances are framed. The younger lots of politicians are more self-assured, more answerable to the people and do not have a hangover of the colonial India and will also force the bureaucracy to change.

The AAP has changed the manner of interaction between the politician and the common man. The Congress had primaries yet the old malady of criminals in politics is not dying easily because win ability is taken as a key factor while allotting seats, which just proves that the political discourse, post the elections, will not be very healthy if these people win, hence the electorate may have the last laugh.

The next bane is political dynasty and regional parties. They also practice this most while accusing the Congress. Identity politics gave birth to caste identities. Thus Indianess took a back seat while, vote Yadav for a Yadav, the concept of Bahujan Samaj, upper castes for BJP, caste identity as such is slowing taking a hit, due to spread of education and empowerment. Caste will not die down easily but slowly the nation is accepting Modi on merit and not caste.

On the other hand, the Congress has shown its divisive policy by reserving seats for OBC in private sector. The leadership mantle is slowly slipping from the upper caste to merit, thus two great vote bank planks of Indian democracy are seriously challenged this elections.

The first is caste and the next is reservation in an indirect manner as it is no longer occupies the centre stage in electioneering. There was an attempt initially to bridge the communal divide and the word secularism was missing from the BJP’s manifesto. Yet old habits die hard and this fire had to be stroked to get votes, a retrograde step but a time tested formula, ‘will it work, the answer will emerge on 16 May’?

The only thing that mattered in these elections regarding defence was One Rank One Pay (OROP) sanctioned by UPA-II; the security situation has never been discussed. As far as the OROP is concerned the taste of the pudding lies in eating the same, thus OROP is still a distant dream.
At the national level, the BJP have added two new faces, General V K Singh and Col R S Rathore. The Congress did not field any new defence candidates although Lt General Negi’s name was discussed, thus the standard of debate in the parliament will always be low. There should be at least a dozen or so MP, to do justice to national security, which is not the case nor do events in 2014 point towards that direction.

The defence budget is 1.72 per cent of GDP the lowest; arms procurement in disarray. India says Professor Stephen Cohen in his book Arming without Aiming, needs to streamline its arms procurement, private sector is a non-entity in arms and ammunition. There is a lack of strategic culture and since 1990 the Brooking Institution of America is saying the same. Why has the Indian state not found an answer to the land mine in 26 years?

As the election process goes on it will only get shriller and shriller. At stake is India’s heart but not at the cost of its feelings. It should be built on hope and epitome of national pride, not vote bank politics. The ongoing election is all about how we the people of India see the nation in the next five years, it is not about the past, but about the future.

On the other hand what we the people are seeing is a retrograde step. It just shows the leadership deficit but the people of India will ensure that Indianness will come out a clear winner.   

The author is a retired brigadier
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