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Votes Matter, Voters Do Not

28/05/2016 12:32 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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A polling official makes an ink mark on the index finger of a woman before she casts her vote during the second phase of Assam state assembly elections inside a polling station on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India, Monday, April 11, 2016. (AP Photo/ Anupam Nath)

"Democracy" in India continues to be severely impaired. It is mercifully loaned to the citizens only to cast a vote during elections, but at all other times "democracy" remains a mere throwaway phrase, conveniently molested by the Indian political class.

India's overall political narrative too has been eroded in present times. Scantily accountable, and abundantly opportunistic, the political dialogue and commentary in India is hurting the very citizens it is meant to safeguard. Politicians and the media are the sole culprits, guilty of distracting Indians away from matters of economic development, education, healthcare and social welfare. The political craft in present-day India increasingly relies on exploiting a largely burdened population haemorrhaging from malignant social, communal and economic ulcers.

Politicians and the media are... guilty of distracting Indians away from matters of economic development, education, healthcare and social welfare.

The Indian political juggernaut keeps on rolling, at a maddening pace. One election after another. The commentary and opinions that go with it, too, roll on at the same breakneck pace. No one, it seems, is keen on taking a step back to reflect. To take stock. To recalibrate. No one, it seems, has bothered to ask the question if India and its political system are headed in the right direction. Is the Indian political class of today serving its citizens duly or not?

Take for instance the recent elections in Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. The poll results from these elections have sent the political pundits into overdrive. Opinions from journalists and political analysts dissecting these poll results are rampant. TV news channels have yet again lapped up the chance to boost TRPs by hosting panels of eager political commentators.

Much of the noise and commotion centres on individual parties (and their leaders) outscoring each other. Journalists, across all popular forms of media, are also fixated on dissecting the political parties and their respective merits and demerits for getting into power (or not). Matters of governance and citizen welfare are seldom discussed. Indian political parties and the media, in my view, have got this debate back to front.

The political agenda across India has been shifted from good public policy and responsible governance, to meaningless, self-indulgent debates between various political parties and their politicians.

Corruption scandals, anti-incumbency and communal alignments are the cornerstones of election campaigns in India. The political agenda across India has been shifted from good public policy and responsible governance, to meaningless, self-indulgent debates between various political parties and their politicians. Citizen welfare and upliftment has taken a backseat and is shamelessly taken for granted. The vote matters, the voter, sadly, not so much.

On 24 May 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the bigwigs from the BJP and its alliances across the nation turned up in top swagger at the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected Chief Minister of Assam. There were speeches, there was rhetoric, there were slogans, and there was grandstanding by the BJP at this lavish ceremony. Yet, not a single meaningful word was uttered by any of the speakers (Prime Minister included) to assure the welfare of the ordinary citizens of Assam. And this is not unique to the BJP. It's the way any victorious political party celebrates in India these days.

Assam and Kerala are now done and dusted. Punjab is coming up next. Then there will be some other state. And so on. Political parties and politicians will not change their ways. It won't suit their cause. Yet, things must change. India and its citizens must wake up to this thuggery.

Corrupt, unethical, and manipulative politics must be punished. And the best way to weed them out is Indian citizens using their votes wisely -- one election at a time.

The Indian political class must to be taken off their pedestals and forced to become more accessible and answerable to the people who elect them. Popular media must take on increased responsibility towards educating ordinary citizens about their rights and entitlements.

The Indian political system is flawed at various levels, and such powerful establishments are not easily overhauled. Still, a united voice has to emerge from the grass-roots. Political shenanigans must be questioned; headline-seeking journalism must be discouraged.

Corrupt, unethical, and manipulative politics must be punished. And the best way to weed them out is Indian citizens using their votes wisely -- one election at a time.

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