Jaded leaders make for a weary electorate but that’s no reason to stay at home

Jaded leaders make for a weary electorate but that’s no reason to stay at home

The colourful promises and policies that used to energize our democracy have now become monotonous and lacklustre. It’s a stark contrast from the lively atmosphere we used to see in previous years.

Elections in India are often dubbed the festival of democracy. They has always been charged, colourful and fun. The ongoing Lok Sabha election is the dullest I have encountered in my three decades as a registered voter. As the heat rises in May, the election discourse was expected to become frenzied. Instead, we are getting a tepid, emotionless, dull election with the same old tired speeches. The colourful promises and policies that used to energize our democracy have now become monotonous and lacklustre. It’s a stark contrast from the lively atmosphere we used to see in previous years.

It is particularly alarming when the youth stays away from the polling booth. Less than 40 per cent of the eligible first-time voters have registered to vote. And not even half of them are marching to the polling booth. We can’t blame them.

Why should they vote when all that the biggest leaders have to talk about is the food habits of the opponents or what happened five hundred years ago or dividing the society further with more of caste-based reservations? How can we expect the mutual mud-slinging of politicians to excite the youth to brave the scorching heatwave?

Like a worn-out record playing on an old gramophone, the election speeches echo hollow promises and regurgitated policies. The incumbent is busy reminding us about the mistakes committed by his predecessor seventy years or five hundred years ago. The assorted medley of the Opposition parties are busy throwing mud at the leader of the ruling party for anything and everything.

Unemployment is at an all-time high and yet, it isn’t an issue for any political party. Hallowed institutions like IIT and IIM are finding no takers for 30 per cent of their graduates. Farmers are on the streets, but no one cares. As per the government’s own admission or boast, 90 crore people are getting free rations.

It should be a shame for all political parties that so many people have to depend on free food after seventy-five years of Independence. What are our priorities? Is it to make a few billionaires and a minuscule middle class who will be employed by their billionaires, leaving the vast majority to find sustenance through free water, food and electricity. Of course, freebies are an easy way to win elections and we know why politicians love to dole out freebies.

Does our vote really count? Does our voice truly hold any weight? As the lacklustre campaign trail drags on and voters stay away from the polling booth, it’s clear that the politicians care little about what the common man wants. They care nothing for the struggling farmer, the unemployed youth, blatant corruption, criminal-politician nexus, unaffordable housing or any issue that really matters to us.

All they care about is to hang to the power or grab it by hook or crook. Their speeches are filled with obnoxiously communal issues, caste-based reservations, religion-based discrimination and such emotive issues. Loud talks about women’s safety abound, and the elected MPs flee to foreign soil to evade arrest on multiple rape charges.

We get promises about gleaming air-conditioned and bullet trains. But when we try to travel by railway, all we find are crowded trains that are dusty, dirty and stinking. Except for the few Vande Bharats, the rest of the overcrowded trains that ply across India show a pathetic picture. Take out the electric engines and put in a steam engine, and we can easily shoot many scenes of the Gandhi film again in our trains plying now.

Year after year, we get unending speeches about ending corruption and returning black money to India. Yet, it requires a Supreme Court diktat to know which corporate tycoon paid how many crores to each political party. It turns out that even the electoral bond is not an issue, as every party is guilty of this blatant corruption. All political parties are tactfully silent about this issue.

All we require is some semblance of governance and what we get is emotional dramas and rhetoric. I will vote on the 20th, but even now, I don’t know who is contesting to represent my constituency in the Parliament. Not that it is going to make any difference to my life or any other voters in this constituency. The roads will remain dug up like war trenches, streetlights won’t work, traffic will remain horrible, and water supply will remain erratic.

All I will get is colourful and bombastic WhatsApp forwards sent by propaganda coolies about how great India has become. If we switch on the television, we will not see the media keeping the ruling party and the opposition on their edge like how it should be in a true democracy. Instead, we get a media circus, with court jesters singing praises to whichever political party has purchased them and mindless criticism of the opponent. Scripted television debates are not even yawn-worthy now. We are bored with this political circus, and this is reflected in the worst voter turnout in our history.

But none of this should be an excuse not to vote. In democracy, that is the only power we have. Before pressing that hallowed button, think whether the person who you are going to send to Parliament is worthy of your vote. Would he or she solve at least a few issues you face? If he or she can’t, it doesn’t matter which political ideology, caste, community or religion the candidate belongs to.

Vote wisely.

Anand Neelakantan

Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy


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