In Chhattisgarh, the manifesto of the challenger Congress Party promises farm loan waivers and rice at Rs 1 per kilo.
In recent decades, the election manifestos of major political parties for the Lok Sabha polls, but especially for Assembly elections, have typically consisted of tall promises, and were not taken seriously by voters. Far more important were the words spoken on the campaign trail by top leaders, like the blatantly fraudulent commitment made in 2014 to deposit Rs 15 lakhs in the bank account of every Indian.
But the manifestos as well as the spoken word in the coming elections in five states deserve to be noted to understand the depth to which the practice of democracy in India has fallen.
Top leaders resorting to rank falsehoods, and the open pandering to communal and nativist sentiments by the ruling parties and their opponents underline the organised attempt to hoodwink voters, who needs his/her socio-economic conditions to get better. This is a scale of regression not seen in a long time.
In Chhattisgarh, the manifesto of the challenger Congress Party promises farm loan waivers and rice at Rs 1 per kilo. The ruling BJP speaks of pensions for farmers and a dole for the jobless. These are absurdities. The state simply doesn’t have the resources for this kind of spending. Nor is this the best way to go to achieve the best economic results in the long term. Still, it is better to go this route than what we are seeing as the dominant mode of campaign discourse.
In Madhya Pradesh, the challenger Congress is speaking of crude communalism in order to outdo the saffron BJP when it speaks of dotting the state with cow-shelters and commercialising cow-urine.
It can come a cropper if it bats on the pitch prepared by its adversary, and departs from its own credo. This can’t be the answer to the BJP’s pretending that it’s the sole custodian of so-called Hindu values.
The Congress wouldn’t need to resort to these low ways if as a party it had taken up the cause of the people on a routine basis instead of showing up only at election time. But the way matters stand, the Congress — in some measure at least — stands indistinguishable from the BJP which, in Telanagana, promised to distribute free cows to villagers!
The BJP is stoking communal sentiment on a nationwide scale, of course. Look at the Sabarimala question in Kerala and the assault being prepared on the Ayodhya issue all over again. Besides, fake news is purveyed.
BJP president Amit Shah has said his party’s government had made Chhattisgarh “almost Naxal-free”. Union home ministry data shows that in October and November 2013, Maoist guerrillas launched 76 attacks. In contrast, the last 39 days alone have seen 107 assaults.
Distorting the fundamental narrative that concerns citizens — rather than their breakup in line with religious or caste denominations — detracts from the democracy project.