April 23, 2014

Polling Day: Persona, Perception And Politics

Mumbai goes to the polls tomorrow in the next phase of India's General Elections to cast its vote on who should govern India.

Stepping out early morning today it was impossible to miss the front page advertisement by the Shiv Sena in Hamara Mahanagar (Our City) featuring the late Bal Thackeray, the Sena's founder, and in whose absence for the first time in the party’s history, Shiv Sena will contest the Lok Sabha elections.

प्रगति में हो गति इसलिए महायुति

For Speed in Progress, Hence Mahayuti.

Mahayuti is a pre-electoral alliance between Shiv Sena, BJP, RPI (Athawale), Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS) and the Rashtra Samaj Paksha.

Sitting sideways, his legs extended, the rickshaw driver was busy reading the newspaper when I hailed him for a ride.

“That newspaper front page ad is the only sign I’ve seen in many days to remind me that a Lok Sabha election is upon us,” I said to him as we got in. He smiled before folding the newspaper and turning the key in the ignition.

The rickshaw chugged along through morning traffic.

I continued, “It doesn’t look like the election is upon us, unlike in the years before when large hoardings, corner meetings, road-side pandals with loudspeakers blaring, processions of party-flag waving youth astride revving motorcycles and foot marches were a common sight during Lok Sabha elections. It seems so quiet now.”

“There has been noise but it is less now,” he replied before commenting, “It’s good in a way that poll expenditure is being watched. It’s such a waste when so many are poor and struggling and here we had parties spending crores and being a general nuisance.”

While I agreed with him in part, I didn’t make the effort to explain the other aspect of poll-related expenditure – affording earning opportunities for poorer sections of societies. Crores are still being spent but less noisily than before.

Office-goers like your truly, bound all day in offices, are more likely to miss out on roadside campaigning as opposed to rickshaw drivers criss-crossing the city. Even then I’ve found election campaigning to be relatively quiet this time.

Soon talk turned to parties and predictions.

“Which party do you want to see in power?” I pressed him.

At first he laughed before answering.

“I’m an AAP (Aam Admi Party) member but I want to see Modi Sarkar in power.”

Strange as his reply seemed, it made sense once he clarified.

“AAP cannot come to power (at the centre) so it’s better that BJP gets the vote to improve its chances at forming the Government. So I will vote for BJP,” he said.

Implicit in his dilemma and his eventual choice of the party which would get his vote was the rejection of the Congress “at all costs”, and the desire to ensure that his vote would not be “wasted” on his own party (AAP) that had little or no chance of winning the mandate to govern India. AAP, the upstart has a long way to go still.

BJP it seems has won the perception (that it will win) vote to an extent that party members of other political parties, clear in their mind on who should not come to power (read Congress), will switch their votes to BJP to make their votes count.

It’s anybody guess how much this reason alone will affect parties like AAP (written off) and how strong a factor will it be in pushing the BJP-led alliance ahead of the Congress-led one.


"Arvind Kejriwal ekdum perfect aadmi hai, ekdum perfect," the UP-wallah rickshaw driver said before continuing, "par jhoot ka sahara leta hai satta mein aane ke liye (but he takes recourse to lies to come to power). He says he won't do a thing, and then reverses his decision and goes ahead and does that very thing."

While this in itself cannot be construed to be a lie in the context of lies used to escape responsibility for actions, cover up frauds, evade punishment and the like, the Indian street however sees what constitutes a lie, a tad differently.

Here, it's about the honour of your word. If you say you won't form a Government with the help of the Congress, you will be held accountable for your word by people who cannot stand the Congress and voted for you to make a clean break with the seemingly much despised national party largely seen to be corrupt and inefficient on the back of successive scams uncovered in its latest term in office under the helm of Manmohan Singh.

That Arvind Kejriwal went back on his word of not taking the help of the Congress to form the Govt. in Delhi after the assembly elections there has not been forgotten by many.

The perception (of going back on your word) looks likely to cost Arvind Kejriwal (and AAP) many votes. How much is anybody's guess.

It's benefiting the BJP. By how much is again, anybody's guess.


VioletSky said...

Your elections are so very different from ours, and I've been fascinated to read what I can about them (though I admit I do get lost in the number of people who have running!)

Anil P said...

VioletSky: I'm sure they're very different from yours and I can imagine why :-)

Not that I'm any better at keeping track of the parties, the dynamics or the people running for office. It's a nice and proper circus :-)