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Mainstream, VOL52, No. 22, May 24, 2014

A Tale of Two Promises

Friday 23 May 2014

by Asif Nazar

This article, written before the outcome of the just concluded Lok Sabha elections, reached us after the

results were out. It is being published since its contents have yet to outlive their relevance.

The great and glorious festival of democracy will conclude very soon. And there will be party-time for a few political parties and exercise of introspection for most of the political parties. Ideology may be the lifeline of any political party. And there is a tolerance-band around which a political party can take liberty to deviate. The political parties stretched this tolerance-band in varying degrees in the past. It is to be seen how this limit will be manipulated this time. A few U-turns in terms of ideologies and many new tolerance-bands are expected.

The existing platform of delivering the promised manna to the electorate needs improvement. Presently, the systems are not responsive enough to isolate themselves from unwanted shocks and pressures. This has led to many scams. Silent evasion of responsibilities and denigration of offices have been the hallmark of current politics. This needs immediate and urgent attention. Vibrancy and responsiveness in all democratic institutions should be brought back as soon as possible. Limping and toothless systems that are responsible for development and well-being of citizens, are causes of disillusionment among them. And the ruling party loses its relevance, and becomes the object of apathy among citizens.

The 16th Lok Sabha election is a tale of two promises. One is the tale of failed promises and the other of new promises. Yes, it is the story of the UPA’s failed promises and the NDA’s new batch of promises. Political parties should not take the electorate for granted. There are genuine expectations of citizens and no political party has the right to betray these expectations. ‘Development’ and ‘Good Governance’ are the two elusive mantras citizens are eyeing for. Anybody promising these two talismans is bound to evoke interest among the electorate.

The UPA-II was marred by corruption. Further, the leader was less visible, more tolerant and disinterested. The silence of the leader at important junctures undermined his authority, and put a question-mark over his ability and willingness. A country needs at least a strong leader, if not a visionary. These gaps were very well highlighted by the BJP under their professional advertisement gurus. And the UPA was painted as the most incompetent government on every front. The UPA should blame itself for this sorry state.

This election will also be known for its bold experimentation by advertising gurus. Ad gurus brought classic examples from the management textbooks and applied these in election campaigning. The prime ministerial candidate of the BJP was packaged as a saleable product. The features of the product were magnified and improvised. Evidences were brought to support the colour and texture of the packaged product. This successfully enhanced the visibility of the product in the election market. The product is now on the trial phase. It is to be seen how many onlookers are genuine buyers and users of the product. As the election campaign advanced, some characteristics of the product got revealed thus seriously denting the capability and utility of the product. And its obvious impact was visible during the last leg of the election. But the magic of branding of the product influenced the electorate in the initial phases despite the obvious limitations and exaggerated claims. The void and gap left by the UPA was very well analysed by ad gurus in favour of the BJP, and an alternate and substitute to fill those gaps was put well in the vacant slot.

This election had good tidings for poets, creative artists and writers. They chiselled and shaped many speeches to bring life in them. Some enthusiastic writers didn’t hesitate in re-writing history to make the speeches ornate, live and matching to the charisma of the leader. The art of oration was modified taking cue from textbooks to elicit support from crowds. The war of words, to take psychological advantage as practised in the battlefield, were keyed in programmed speeches.

There are lessons for all parties including the Left. It is time for deep introspection. People want concrete work, not mere rhetoric. Ideology and tolerance-band need to be fine-tuned. It is the question of survival for many political parties. Now it is time to work on the basic strength, infuse life among supporters, and play positive and constructive politics for the betterment of citizens. It is easier said than done. But the real test is the delivery of the promise.

Whatever be the outcome of the election, it is time to build a strong platform with robust delivery mechanism. The streamlining, streng-thening and overhauling of all systems necessary to deliver the intended output should be the first and the foremost priority. It is the shared responsibility of all—be it ruling party, be it Opposition parties, be it the media, be it NGOs, be it the awakened citizens. The onus lies with all the stakeholders. This is the only way of ensuring a robust, vibrant, and alive India.

Asif Nazar is a PGDM (Gold Medalist), IMI Delhi, and a B.Sc Engg. (Electrical). He is an ex-SDE, MTNL Delhi.

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