In the ongoing Karnataka election campaigns of contesting parties, it is back to caste, religion and freebies. Instead of debating the policies and programmes mentioned in their manifestos and debating the past performance or non-performance of parties in the fray , each one is trying to paint the other one blacker. After sometime, a victor will emerge out of this so called “dance of democracy”, writes former IAS officer V.S.Pandey
It is election time in Karnataka. All the parties are busy making a din with decibels reaching blasting proportions. This is a state which, barring a brief period, was ruled by the grand old party. Off late, others gained ascendancy and succeeded in capturing power. In the forthcoming elections, both the major claimants to power are now immersed in placating caste leaders and taking recourse to any and everything that can garner a few extra votes. For the past several days, Lord Hanuman ji’s name , our revered god , has taken center stage in campaigning. This commenced with the grand old party pledging, in its poll manifesto, to ban an affiliate organization of the ruling dispensation. The said organization included ‘Bajrang’ in its nomenclature. All hell broke loose, in opposition, with preposterous allegations of having insulted a revered god. This episode, like many in the past, interrogates our democratic culture.
It is an irony that a party, which has ruled Karnataka for decades, had nothing much to offer but proposing banning of some organisations with minimal influence in that part of India. This party had the fortune of governing India for more than half a century and had the opportunity and authority to change the face of not only the state of Karnataka but also that of our great nation. Logically they should be reeling off their list of achievements but instead they are resorting to chasing the same old caste equations like all other political parties and are caught in the turbulent whirlpool of playing the same pernicious communal card. Similarly, the party ruling at the centre for nearly a decade now, has to resort to using revered gods to win elections. What is happening in Karnataka currently, is what has been happening in other parts of India too -during and after elections.
The critical question is not which party will win elections in Karnataka or elsewhere or at the centre. The famous American political thinker Noam Chomsky pertinently asserted that it is not important who rules but the vital question to be asked by the citizens is what are the principles and values that rule us? This is the question that should be foremost in the minds of the citizens of India and of every other nation which enjoys an unusual legacy of freedom, privilege, and opportunity thanks to the struggles of those who came before them, and who now face fateful choices as to how to respond to challenges of great human import confronting us in governance.
In the ongoing election campaigns of contesting parties, it is back to caste, religion and freebies. Instead of debating the policies and programmes mentioned in their manifestos and debating the past performance or non-performance of parties in the fray , each one is trying to paint the other one blacker. After sometime, a victor will emerge out of this so called “dance of democracy”. What about the voters who will remain as voiceless and neglected as ever? Even after 75 years of self-rule, the ruling class of every hue and creed has remained absorbed in fulfilling their own greed instead of satisfying the basic needs of our teeming millions. Nothing can be more unfortunate than the tragic failure of our governments to educate and skill our people to enable them to live a decent life devoid of recurrent deprivation, discrimination, ignorance and injustice.
In the hullabaloo of elections one tends to forget that this salient democratic exercise is for the furtherance of people’s welfare and not for propping up a leader or a party. Humungous amounts of black money, extracted through commissions and bribes, is pumped into the election campaigns to let people elect a person, irrespective of his/her character and integrity. There is never any debate or discussion about the skill, experience or capabilities of these inept representatives aspiring to lead the gullible people. Issues discussed in the public domain remain as usual , about his caste, his clout/bahubal, money power and his political connections. How long all this should be allowed to continue, is the question, people need to ponder over . No country or society can prosper without an inclusive thought process ingrained in the ruling dispensation. For decades now, those in politics have been using the same old crafty tools based on caste, religion with added strength of black money . This potent cocktail has served the political class’s interest far too long at the cost of aggravating the misery of the poor.
Right thinking people of integrity must come forward, plunge into the political arena and correct the rot that has engulfed our democracy. To eradicate the wretchedness being suffered by millions of our citizens, we have to transform our political landscape by electing ethical leaders and rejecting those for whom lies, deceit and corruption is a way of life. As John Stuart Mill had aptly asserted that’’ the worth of the state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.’’ Let us elect the worthy now.
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)