Monday, April 27, 2009

Once in Five Years

It's the time in every five years I dread. I don't care to read the first page of the newspaper nor pause the remote at any channel that even remotely has the possibility of touching on what I dread to hear. That is, politicians, their election promises and their mud slinging. People and their votes cast into equations with variables as religion, language, caste, tribe, the haves and the have nots.

They are seen suddenly, all over the place. They are back after a long hiatus, fresh to fight another election, knowing that public memory is short. Through posters, cutouts and loudspeakers, with hands together, smile pleasant as ever, and humility all over, they come asking you to vote.

Every year, the promises get stranger and wilder. Last elections, one politician promised TV sets and he did make it. This year, another has taken the cue and promises the same, for his state. One promises free electricity, in a country that has a major shortage of power. Another is issuing ATM cards, trying to get people to believe that the accounts will fill themselves later. Money is moving, in 2-wheelers, 4-wheelers, on road, by air for distribution. The tsunami and the earthquake wouldn't have seen so much money moving, so fast, in such big bundles.

India and us Indians. Most of us are plain. Meaning, naive and believing. We have the poor, the landless, the downtrodden, looking at these people, the neta log, hoping that they will do something that provides them some job, enough atleast to feed themselves for a meal a day. They vote, hoping against hope that something will change in their lives. That they will have a day, when they can go to sleep forgetting where the next days meal will come. A father hoping that he will have enough money to look after his family's basic needs (roti,kapada,makan - food, clothing,shelter). On the other side of the divide there are the rich. Some of them are honourable men, I should say. But, as of today, most of them are worried that the recession has nibbled a few crores from their overflowing purses. They vote, but they don't care much as they know the political class works for them. Then there is the huge mass of in betweens, the middle class. This strata is the strangest. This is the lot who are educated, have jobs big and small. Many in this lot especially don't care much about voting. No, not that they have given up. Many of them have not voted since they turned 18 because they do not think much of politics. They feel their vote doesn't make a difference, and who gets elected and who does not, makes no difference to them. But the majority do go to vote ofcourse, hoping again, that things will become better. Falling in this category, voting has been a time of happiness, for I feel the power of my vote, despair, for things have changed but not enough and sometimes for the worse. It has become difficult to decide who to vote for. The person is good, the party is not, the party is not good....... it is a time for tradeoffs. By good I mean, what she envisions, what she wants to do and what she has already done. And these tradeoffs cost so much finally.

The parties have different names, symbols and profess to be different. But finally, they are one and the same. They have on their printed sheets policies and ideologies different, but look beyond and they are all one and the same. Their allegiance is to the respective party high command, then their state high command, then the district high command, then the party, and last is the nation, if they care to and have the time to remember. They fight in parliament, out of parliament, fight everywhere, wasting time and money.

Once the election is over, they don't let it go. They keep dissecting it, in different ways and continue to see if some combination will get them where they want to be. This combination checking continues over five years till they touch the next election. They are never happy with the seat they have got. Instead of going about their jobs and letting their work move them up, they work to move up, their actual jobs relegated to a distant second.

Sometimes, I wonder. Am I asking for the moon ? Of course not. If good governance is asking for the moon, then I guess we should do away with elections. Clean drinking water, proper sanitation, good roads, proper health care facilites, avenues for employment - are these too much to ask for. Use the time in parliament productively, put in your best. This is all a common man in India would ask for. We are a people, who live within our means, who are happy with our simple lives.

Still, like every time since 18, I hope to vote this election too. For, as of today, all I can do is to vote. Vote for the person who I think is best suited for the job. And look forward.

1 comment:

Arun said...

The middle group (educated, salaried, "comfortable") should know that it is not only their right, it is also their duty - to vote