K’taka: Double anti-incumbency, urban voters and cynicism

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The Karnataka election presented a peculiar instance of Indian politics. The people of the state have felt terribly betrayed by the BJP, which had formed its first-ever government in southern India in 2008. But there was not much to expect from the rival national party, the Congress, for a strong mood of disapproval against it is blowing across the nation, thanks to the endless saga of corruption and other issues that have disturbed the people of the country, under the UPA II regime.

It was a case of a double anti-incumbency. And as various exit poll surveys are saying: The Congress is set to return to power and form a majority government, but it is doing so only by banking on a negative mandate. If the vote share percentage is seen, the Congress's share is going to increase by just 1-2% while the BJP's share is going to shrink by 9% (7% of which is because of the BSY factor). There is no way the Congress has emerged as a viable alternative to the BJP.


Parties have alienated common people

This situation reveals how much these two major political parties have alienated the common people, considered the real source of strength of a democracy. Particularly for the urban people, the Congress nationally and the BJP in the state have lost so much credibility that the electorate believe that neither have any utility to serve their well-being.

And this thinking is not without any basis. The political procedure in our democracy has become an end in itself instead of a means to achieve a greater aim, unlike a western democracy like the USA, and has in effect, turned out into a major impediment in the way of welfare. Twitter was abuzz on Sunday with regrets that Bangaloreans are poor voters but that is not without any reason.

Why urban people cast minimum votes

First, the elite class of the big urban centres is not a homogenous constituency and the outsiders identify them less with local issues. But the bigger reason is that this class is a self-made class and finds no attachment with a political style that serves no constructive purpose in its daily life.

When Bangalore touches great heights through its reputation as an international IT hub, all political forces try to win the accolades, but when the infrastructure of the city comes under stress owing to increasing population, none of them show the intent to improve the falling standards. In this way, politics alienates common people by creating obstacles in their way. The same applies to other urban centres as well. And it becomes doubly difficult for the educated electorate to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Many a times, it is heard and said that each individual should cast his/her vote to make a change. This sounds good but in effect, it should be understood that the Indian democracy is different from any other western democracy by the fact that individual identity has no relevance here. Ours is a community-oriented democracy where parties know how to engineer social alliances so that their vote-banks are secured. A real democracy is the one which is practised and not just preached. Are we still there? Doubtful.

Our democracy mocks individualism and hence one vote doesn't count

For a sophisticated, urban middle-class individual, participation in the democracy is a sham for he/she knows that his/her ballot means nothing in the entire scenario. Hence, the poor voting turnout is not surprising. The BJP had once managed to attract these minds for it had catered to urban sentiments but now, no one else other than Narendra Modi commands a respect among them in the BJP.

The reason is: Personalised leadership which stresses development appeals more to this class than a party and this enlightened class knows very well that casting the vote in favour of useless people doesn't help. It is not surprising that people like Arvind Kejriwals have emerged as darlings of this section despite the fact that they have done nothing so far to prove their political credentials.

Congress or BJP can't be the only issue

Finally, it is unfortunate that the only important question in our politics today is Congress or BJP? The mainstream media is also focusing on this question only before and after each assembly poll at the moment and will continue it during the next Lok Sabha polls. None of the channels are asking why there is a slide in voting percentage among the middle class? Is the number crunching all that matter in a political democracy?

Leadership is something which resides at the top of the political pyramid but it has a strong root connected to the ground. That is how it has worked out in the past. But today, the debate on leadership is devoid of any focus on greater details of the polity. Why shouldn't there be a consensus on important agenda serving a national cause, across the board?

The future of this country's politics looks dim. Just voting and getting the majority isn't the end in a democracy. Today, we are a democracy which completely believes in negative mandate because there is nothing positive in sight. The utility of our political model in the life of the ordinary citizens is diminishing fast.
The cynicism can't be blamed. There is no other way out.

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