The biggest human event in the history of the planet, the Indian General Election of 2014 is nearly over.Statistics have been repeated ad nauseum and it has been billed the most important election in the nations history.Not true, but that’s another discussion.For a generation of people like me who were born post the JP movement of the 70s, and have only seen Congress rule punctuated by the mindlessness of rouge 3rd front governments and 5 years of BJP rule, this election does feel important.Sitting at a distance in Singapore, observing whats happening back home is fascinating and sometimes stomach churning.
For a long time we used to believe, rather naïvely, that the opposition leaders were actually trying to oppose the bad stuff that the government was doing.Then we became sensitive to the political agenda underneath.Then we began to understand how the media is deftly manipulating us everyday, serving their masters who are politicians and businessmen or worse both.But somehow we assumed that come election time they will fight each other to death to grab power.Then we learned that Samajwadi Party and the Congress extend the courtesy of not putting up candidates when Akhilesh Yadavs wife Dimple, or Sonia Gandhi is standing( not fighting) for election.After all we are decent family men and cannot fight the ladies that we socialize with in the evenings.Basic Indian chivalry you see. But somehow a man called Anna Hazare came along and changed things a bit.I say “a bit” with utmost caution, since his actions could be compared to someone trying to wake up a sleeping elephant by tickling it with a straw in the ear.As his actions bordered on anarchy, the politicians cried foul.This was against the rules.We were supposed to speak with only our votes, a process they know how to manage. We began to wonder about the meaning of the mandate that we give to politicians.
After all in our “first past the post” system a politician who can corner one section of the vote and split the rest can get elected with less than even 10% of the total voting populations blessings in a constituency.Cobble together 272 such wise men and we have an all powerful government of the people with the mandate to ride roughshod over us for 5 years.Needless to say the system has been throughly gamed and we have became prisoners of vote bank politics.Then Mr Arvind Kejriwal came along and decided to throw his hat into the ring.He caught the fancy of the tired urban voter in Delhi.The genuine anti incumbency benefited his party entirely but he squandered a rare genuine mandate by resigning in haste.
Now he has done something even crazier, fighting elections across the country with a crowd funded campaign.He is expected to fare poorly in the elections.I doubt he will manage to defeat Modi in Varanasi or Kumar Vishwas will pull through in Amethi. This is David versus Goliath where David has a broken slingshot.But they are still expected to send a couple of MPs to the parliament which is indeed a big deal if we calculate the money spent on electioneering in those constituencies.This will hopefully give a voice to the common man in the parliament when the old timers are snoozing in the back benches or watching porn on their phablets. I was deeply moved to hear a university professor who is campaigning for Kerjriwal in Varanasi say with tears in his eyes that if elected Kejriwal will be like a shining diamond in the parliament. Meanwhile the Left has gone into complete hibernation. Democratically elected leftists were our best when inequality of income and crony capitalism are on the rise, but sadly they live in denial, thinking of themselves as youth leaders at the age of 70.
While we focus so much on who will form the government, as indeed we should, we have to be equally mindful of the opposition that sits in the parliament. Sushma Swaraj was the toothless leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha but she is completely sidelined as things stand today.So if the mantle of the leader of opposition were to fall upon Rahul Gandhi he is unlikely to prove any more effective than her (at least she has held public office many times).Once the government is formed out of power politicians will try to make the most of being unencumbered with public scrutiny and make more hay, even in cloudy weather, in partnership with the ruling government.To me this provides the most compelling reason de entre for the AAP.
The future of AAP will be determined by how well they work as the citizens watchdog, blowing the whistle loud, and lets indulge them a bit here, shrilly.But the AAP has another great utility.It is the only party which can be said to be the least casteist, although there are examples of them choosing their candidates tactically based on caste.Politics of caste and religion will take a very long time to erode and will undoubtedly be replaced by class based politics, the beginnings of which we are already witnessing in the urban Hindu middle class support for the BJP and Modi, who feel left out from the populist schemes and consider all subsidies to be a waste since they are not targeted and distributed properly.
I wait for the results with bated breath and while I still cannot bring myself to support a right-wing government wholeheartedly hoping that their agenda will be truly development and job creation, I sincerely hope that the new Lok Sabha has members who will not allow things to be business as usual and call a spade a spade when required. I end this piece with a word of caution. This is an election which has gotten people involved and lot of the heathy cynicism that we had for politicians has been swapped with passion and hope.It would be wise to continue to be circumspect and moderate our expectations from the next government.The low level of public discourse in this election tells us that not much has changed fundamentally.Not yet.