As election time draws closer, public discourse takes many twists and turns. It is no different this time too. People’s issues get locked up in files. Temples and statues are being put on the front burner. Cry for an ordinance to build Ram temple at Ayodhya is getting shriller. Apart from the high decibel chores in this regard, there seems to be a competition to erect statues, the tallest ones in the world, in the nook and cranny of the country. Taking religious tokenism one notch up, a move is initiated for construction of a statue of Ram at Ayodhya which will tower over all statues in the world. The politics of temples and statues has an addition now – renaming of places to cater to the local vote bank. Thus, Allahabad has become Prayagraj; Faizabad gets the new name of Ayodhya; Mughalsarai station is made Deen Dayal Upadhay; and more such ‘renaming’ is on the way.
One can understand sants, sadhus, VHP and RSS leaders going to town pampering to the wishes of their people. But it sets alarm bells ringing when ministers and top leaders of the ruling party vociferously echo the same demand. The deafening silence of the Prime Minister and other responsible leaders makes matters worse. The rule of the people, by the people and for the people is slowly being replaced by partisan consideration. The Bharatiya Janata Party seems to be getting increasingly worried as opinion polls and recent by-poll results in Karnataka have given it a shock. Even party’s strongholds and bastions are becoming unsafe seats for it. Hence it seems to be reworking its poll strategy. And what better way to reach people’s hearts than emotive issues of religion and communalism.
The trend is disturbing. People’s agenda is being scuttled. It is slowly dawning on governments at the Centre and States that they don’t have much achievements to showcase to people and seek votes. BJP is bereft of political or economic ideas to go to people and convince them on its performance of the past five years. Hence, it is taking recourse to issues that touch the emotive cord. The Sabarimala is one such issue. The party’s State unit chief’s assertion that everything is falling in place according to the party’s plan and it would help it to attain power is a case in point. Some have even asserted that they won’t mind shedding blood to protect a tradition that has been overturned by the Supreme Court. Such gimmicks might pay short-term dividends for political parties. But in the long run, it will do irreparable damage to the body politic.
Elections in a democracy are yardsticks to measure the performance of governments. It is an occasion for people to punish or reward those in power. Every government gets a taste of it during elections. People are able to separate wheat from chaff. At some point, they understand what is good for them and what is gimmick and jumla. Those who have not learnt this lesson from the past will pay a heavy price.(Published on 12th November 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 46)