Elections are almost nearing completion in the world’s largest democracy. But the developments leading to these elections point to the fact that muscle power, violence and abuse not of party policies but also of individuals have been manifest in most parts of the country. Special mention may be made of West Bengal, where violence has been manifest in each of the 42 Lok Sabha seats and musclemen of the party in power in the State has largely been blamed for the terror unleashed wantonly.
The other significant factor that marked the elections has been the abusive language used by the leaders of the major political parties. In no previous elections has such attacks and counter attacks been evident. It is indeed shocking that leaders could stoop so low as to criticise their opponents in such manner in a country like India, where leaders have claimed that its civilisation and culture has been among the best in the world.
Their clamour for such remarks has been so sickening that educated people are steadily losing faith in their capability to take responsibility for governing a state in a judicious manner. Issues where leaders cannot claim credit or which are beyond their purview are being aired time and again. The credit for the military or the ISRO performance rests largely with their capability and acumen and political leaders really have no hand in this.
In a diverse country with people from different castes, creeds, religious affinities live and work, the political parties have been trying to create a wedge in social relations. Reports suggest that minorities are attacked by one party, while the other criticises other parties by taking credit for giving special preference to them. In fact, religious issues have been frequently used by leaders to defame one another.
On the financial front, parties do not have any limit on how much they can receive in total; or from any single donor. Though candidates have a stipulated limit on how much they can spend, in reality the expenditure is much more. Now with the introduction of electoral bonds, even foreign governments can and are making donations to political parties. It is indeed a tragedy that money power is the essence in fighting elections and this is well known to the Election Commission.
It is no secret that politicians need financial support from corporate houses which turns out to be a quid pro quo. Obviously, businesses require politicians to get the legitimacy of the policies they prefer, most of which serve their own interests and are anti-poor and therefore are willingly ready to oblige at the time of elections with support in cash or kind.
All this has been happening when the nation is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who had all his life talked of communal harmony and unity of different religions. For him, God represented a supreme being manifested in truth and morality. It can very well be said that these values have been eroded in recent times with religious fundamentalism holding sway which political leaders are merrily encashing for petty electoral gains. Indeed, a sorry state of affairs.
The trends obviously reveal that our leaders have little idea about the problems plaguing the country due to wrong policies pursued by subsequent governments. At the very outset while morality has been lacking in governance matters, the lack of effective decentralisation and giving power to the people are basic reasons for such pitiable conditions prevailing across the country. Also the neglect of minorities and tribals has also been a major cause for concern, resulting in lop-sided development.
The moot point is that the role of the Election Commission needs to be questioned viz the conduct of free and fair elections. Though a section, like the Opposition, may openly accuse it of favouring the party in power, which is debatable, it is a fact that Nirvachan Sadan has failed to regulate the political leaders as far as their utterances and conduct are concerned and strictly upholding the Model Code of Conduct. An opinion gaining ground is that it could have played a more effective role in ensuring that candidates, of whichever party, don’t cross limits.
The values that we cherish and we want the young generation to follow have been missing during the campaigns. Moreover, some utterances are also said to go against the rules and regulations outlined by the Commission. But it has failed to take stern action and let off candidates by barring them for two to three days from canvassing, which many see as ineffective action, wherein some end up repeating their utterances.
Political analysts are of the firm opinion, and quite rightly, that political parties do not really want an improvement to take place. The quest for power and money, very much against Gandhian ideals, is provoking many a politician to win the election by hook or by crook. It appears there is actually no desire by most political leaders to adhere to democratic ideals, whereby giving the people a choice to vote for the right candidate based on his integrity, policies and morality.
If the present trend continues, it is feared the social structure could face a serious challenge. Similarly, inequality would further widen with the rich becoming richer and the poor stagnant in their incomes. Though corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been introduced, this happens to be a far cry from Gandhi’s theory of trusteeship. Way back in 1947, one may recall his momentous observation: “Today there is gross inequality. The basis of socialism is economic equality. There is no Ram Rajya in the present state of iniquitous inequalities in which a few toll in riches and the masses do not get enough to eat”.
The future looks quite bleak as the political parties are desperate to retain or gain power. And to achieve this objective, all values will be sacrificed and money power would hold sway. The Commission has failed in its onerous task and, with the passing of times, things would deteriorate further and society’s intrinsic structure would crumble. The question that arises before us obviously is whether we can expect most of those elected to ensure proper governance and welfare for the masses, given the means they adopt to come to power?