2019 is going to be a defining moment in the countries history that will set the course of India’s growth and development for decades to come. It is that year when the ordinary voter will get an opportunity to exercise power and decide who is to hold the reigns of the country. The world’s biggest democratic exercise will see 900 million eligible voters, including a staggering 15 million first time voters aged 18 to 21 casting their ballots and electing their representatives across 543 constituencies.
Every five years, the world stops to watch this remarkable sight. But the truth on the ground is usually far from being remarkable. India for decades has been plagued by vote bank politics because of which votes are split based on religion, caste, community, urban and rural divides. People are attracted to vote for candidates by luring with money, alcohol and other “gifts” or are bullied into voting. The poor are paid money and then driven like cattle into vehicles and transported to election rallies to hear the influential speak.
Elections in India are no more Parliamentary, they have taken a presidential form, perhaps Prime Ministerial form. We no longer elect local representatives who in turn choose their leader.
We now directly vote for a face, for a personality cult. We vote for a wave, for charisma rather than on the ground performance of our local representatives. This cult worship reduces elections to a slugfest where the citizens feel cheated and disempowered, where the ultimate benefit goes to a criminal, to an inherently corrupt and incompetent man.
And above all, elections are now a management exercise-managing vote banks, managing online platforms, managing internal dissensions in a party, managing the lobbying and tussle for tickets etc . And in this periodic management and PR exercise, the real issues shift on a backseat.