Vote-bank Politics And Task Before The Intellectuals

Ashok Chowgule

Sep 15, 2015, 01:28 AM | Updated Feb 11, 2016, 09:13 AM IST

Recent elections have shown that people’s aspirations are no longer rooted in communal politics but in the adoption of development. Have our intellectuals been able to spot the change? 

During the 2010 election campaign in Bihar, Nitish Kumar said, “Forward caste, backward caste, dalit, mahadalit, women, men, in every person there is a confidence that we will all remain united, and take Bihar forward.  This is not a trivial change.”

In covering the rally where this was said, journalist Sagarika Ghose commented: “Nitish Kumar is not the stereo-typical Bihari politician….This is a litmus test. If Nitish Kumar wins this election, the old style caste politics has ended forever…. He tells them not to vote on the basis of caste, but to vote for a united Bihar.”

Clearly, the massive mandate that the then NDA received in Bihar shows that people of the state no longer accept vote-bank as a basis of casting their votes. They were happy at the development programmes based on negating the vote-bank politics that the state government gave them.

All the recent elections, whether at the state or the central level, have clearly shown that the aspirations of the people are no longer rooted in communal politics.

This adoption of development as an appeal to the voters was adopted as a strategy by Nitish Kumar only because he was part of an alliance with the BJP as a near equal partner.  In a competitive communal contest (based on  religion or caste), the BJP will always come out a loser because the instinct of the leadership and the support base is nurtured by an ideology of Hindutva which seeks to unite and not divide.

When Nitish Kumar broke away from the NDA, not on the basis of an ideology but because he was brain-washed into believing that the rise of Narendra Modi would be a political threat to him, he had to revert back to being a communal politician.

The partner he chose, namely Lalu Prasad Yadav, has no clue about what development is.  Lalu ji only wants to have the reins of power in his hand, so that he can dispense patronage to his followers and skim enough on the side.

The tragedy is that the intellectual class, including the ones who are closely advising Nitish ji, are projecting that this reversion is actually a winning strategy.  They do not want to acknowledge the message of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

A few months prior to the event, Dileep Padgaonkar, in a moment of sanity, wrote: “One pointer is his (Modi’s) frequent allusion to the debilitating effects of exploiting caste, communal and urban-rural fault lines for electoral gain — as is routinely done, in his eyes, by ‘secular’ parties. This kind of narrative goes down well with those who believe that young India has other fish to fry: clean and accountable governance, economic growth that creates jobs and keeps inflation in check, social reforms that benefit only the truly needy, and pride in an inclusive nationalism and a pluralist culture.” (The Times of India, Date: October 22, 2013.)

In the October 19, 2013, rally in Kanpur, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi said: “Remember, a good government ought to pursue only one religion — India first. It should have only one scripture to follow – the Indian Constitution. And it should depend only on one power — power of 125 crore people. It must adopt a uniform system of working — for the larger and common good of all. It is time that we bury the politics of vote bank and evolve a new era of politics of development.”

It is very disturbing that the intellectual class has not been able to build up on the sentiments that are expressed above.  (Even for Padgaonkar the moment of sanity was a flash, and not an awakening.)  Good development can happen only when politics works on the basis of secularism in its true sense.  If a party is seeking votes on the basis of vote-bank then it will work out programmes which will benefit the vote-bank and exclude the rest.

In a recent encounter with young people, Lalu Prasad Yadav was clearly told that caste do not matter to them. When he persisted with his antediluvian line, the young people accused him of casteism.  I believe that the intellectual class has to take much responsibility for this type of thinking among the politicians.  In fact, one has to wonder if these intellectuals have as much desire to keep the poor in a state of discontentment as the politicians have.

Some are projecting that development and secularism are opposite to each other primarily because they have not defined what development and secularism really mean.  In a true sense, development and secularism are on one side, and vote-bank politics would negate both.

It will be said that caste equations do matter in the voting, and the example of Uttar Pradesh is given.  But in Uttar Pradesh there is hardly any development, and that is why caste and creed matter.  

The various groups are contesting to make sure the limited resources available for development would benefit the concerned group.  However, development will increase the resources and then there is no need to compete since there would be sufficient available to everyone.  

Bihar, under the NDA, has proved that this is possible.  And so has Gujarat.  And, in UP in the Lok Sabha elections, the overwhelming sweep by the BJP has shown that when a genuine development alternative is offered, the voter seized the opportunity and expressed their opinion.

If there has to be sanity in discussions, and the aspirations of the young people fulfilled, the intellectuals have to take upon themselves the task to put the issues and facts in the proper sense.  This responsibility is greater with those who think that development should be the agenda for the NDA.

Ashok Chowgule is the Working President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, India.

Ashok Chowgule is the Working President (External) of Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He is indebted to Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel, and many others whom these great souls have influenced, for understanding the essence of Hinduism. It is in this understanding that this note was prepared.

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