7 weaknesses of Indian voter that the political class readily exploits

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The ugly truth about Indian politics is that – largely, elections are won with agendas cultivated along religion and caste divide. Planned token development happens around elections so it’s fresh in public memory. Petty appeasement policies are used as another strategy, which may remind you of British divide-and-rule. Anti-incumbency takes care of the rest – and keeps circulating power between two sides of the same coin.

This is not very hard to understand, in fact, these patterns have repeated so many times in last 65 years that subconsciously every Indian is intimately aware of them. This is the same reason, why most educated people don’t vote. They know that despite endless debates in the media, actual elections aren’t fought on real issues at all.

The big question is that why have we let this mass-manipulation continue till now. The political class knows how to press our buttons. They know our weaknesses and they use it against us to control us.

Weakness 1:  Indian public has an extremely short term memory

Indian public forgets everything. Our leaders can do unimaginable crimes during power – in 5 years it’s a clean slate. As a matter of fact, Sushil Shinde once very smugly mentioned referring to Coal-block scam. He said, “Public memory is short. Coal can stain your hands for some days, but hands can always be washed. Yes, this (coal block row) will be forgotten in the same way as the Bofors and petrol pump controversies.”

However demeaning, this is 100% true. Any seasoned politician knows that Indian voter also has a very short-term memory. That is why, after committing most serious crimes – he knows that it’s just a matter of laying low for a while.

Weakness 2: Over time we learn to tolerate anything

Who didn’t know that corruption was a part of our everyday life – we overlooked it till Anna Hazare sat on fast in 2011. Yes, he brought corruption on the national scene – but were we not adjusting to it all these years. We had learnt not to question it. Slowly, it became a way of our life.

Then suddenly everybody woke up and realised that we can say ‘NO’ to corruption – and we can protest. But overtime that got old too. Second phase of Anna protest didn’t get too much support. Scams after scams were still happening. People learned to accept it too. They’d say things like “Politics hai hi gandi cheez. Ye sab toh chalta hi rehta hai. Kab tak shor machatey rahenge. Jao ab apney ghar jao. Bahut ho gaya protest.”

Same thing happened during Nirbhaya rape-case. First there was a big agitation, and then slowly people learned to adjust to it. Then slowly everybody was desensitized. Rapes are still happening. They’ve always been there – right in our backyard. We got emotionally charged for a few weeks – but there’s no follow-through. Media thinks how many rapes can be made the national news? Politicians think people are just getting excited – will soon be over once the cricket season starts. People think that how much can we protest – it’s better that we learn to accept it.

Weakness 3: Nothing comes above religion and caste

Let me ask you a question, why should a government put so much effort into working when they can simply keep you happy by throwing a “Dharam” or “Jati” bone once in a while? It is a matter of getting eyeballs and eardrums. Politics is more about accumulating crowds by hitting sensitive subjects than listing the advantages and disadvantages of certain boring policies which no-one understands.

Congress has been pretending to save minorities from a manufactured threat from the majority Hindus. On the other hand BJP has been balancing the equation by riling up Hindus in an under-cover ethnic cleansing mission of RSS. None of these parties have done anything to bring the diverse India together. Instead they have widened the communal gaps – and taken turns to secure votes and win elections.

Weakness 4: Political Ignorance, even among the educated

Political ignorance is not limited to the ones who don’t have access to education. The ones who’re educated – even among them the knowledge about how government works is scarce. Political class is happy excluding common man from day-to-day politics and limiting his role for voting-day only. Entry to mainstream political parties is though some secret backdoor – which can only be reached through money, muscle, celeb-hood or bloodline. This is why despite a democratic structure – India has a distinct political class – entry to which is limited and guarded.

Weakness 5: Petty Appeasement through freebies

Elections are not seen as a crucial time to pick the leadership for the next half a decade – in fact, I doubt if most people ever read the party manifestos. Votes are plainly based on what freebies pre-election. It could be petrol-prices, planned tax-reliefs, caste-quotas, free-laptops – the list is long.

Public doesn’t understand how important elections are for the future of a country. Personal freebies can’t even match the opportunities that’ll be created for them if they elect a good government. Common man forgets the power of “Right to Vote” – and settles for a freebie which sometimes is as petty as a “packet of ghee”.

Weakness 6: Indians love to hate each other

Unity in diversity is a cliché. In my view, beyond a point unity is unachievable in so much diversity that is found in India. Over the years, our “leaders” have misused these differences in riling up crowds over non-issues. Entire political careers have been made on “hatred”. First they manufacture mistrust and fear – then pose themselves as the saviour of a particular community. This gave birth to regional parties which thrive on religion and caste issues. Otherwise how can development and good governance be any different for different communities. Parties like Shiv Sena and MNS in Maharashtra, BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh – have used different strategies in harnessing and promoting “hatred” to gain during elections.

Weakness 7: Need to Hero-worship and follow dynasties.

This need has always been there and expresses itself in various forms. Half of India’s problems wouldn’t have been there,  if we hadn’t put ‘Gandhis’ on a pedestal. They keep disappearing and reappearing – masquerading as saviours of our country. You will find such dynasties flourishing in state politics too. The charm of surname is so effective on the voter that even the archrival BJP had to promote Varun Gandhi as General Secretary. Another version of this undeniable need for a “Hero” is seen in Modi followers who think that Modi will magically solve all problems of India. Some go to claim as far as stating that what India needs is a dictator and hail those qualities in their leader. There’re those too who vote for pretty faces – I can’t tell you how many times I have heard sympathy for Rahul Gandhi, because how innocent he looks, and his family has “suffered” so much over the years.

Photo Credit: Technofreak via cc

Written by Ishaan Mohan Bagga

Political Analyst. Social Visionary. Editorial Journalist. Founder of open-magazine Indian Exponent.

Follow him on twitter @IshaanMohan

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Indian Exponent: 7 weaknesses of Indian voter that the political class readily exploits
7 weaknesses of Indian voter that the political class readily exploits
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