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14 April 2013

Voters' identity being exploited for poll gains

Written by Shri Jayant Chaudhary (M.P)

Jayant ChaudharyVoters' identity being exploited for poll gains

The emergence of individual voter’s economic and social aspirations to the fore has changed the way political campaigns are run.

The role of identity in politics and political campaigns has changed over the years. I have heard stories from people who participated in the massive public rally in Delhi on December 23, 1978. These are the people who remember being carried on the shoulders by their elders as children to be part of the rally. They could only hear the words but were too far from the stage to see the faces of the speakers. For them, this particular  rally was a historic and momentous occasion; a spontaneous show of strength by the silent majority, the landless, the tillers, workers and the rural artisans. Events that led to the public gathering of December 1978 had subsequently changed the tone and tenor of the political message given by the leaders of our country. The rural identity, the issues of the farmer and the mazdoor are part of any developmental debate that takes place even today. In this year’s debate on the Union Budget in the Lok Sabha, the word kisan (farmer) and krishi (agriculture) appeared close to 400 times—which is perhaps telling of this continued sensitisation. But, unfortunately, despite the change in the language employed to woo the voters at the ground level in terms of political strategy, in the midst of an electoral campaign in most parts of the country—from the selection of the candidate to the manifestoes—it is not the identity of the farmer or the mazdoor that is seen to be important. It is the fragmentation of the varg (category) into the jaati (caste) and even gotra (clan) that has an impact.

The emergence of individual voter’s economic and social aspirations to the fore has changed the way political campaigns are run. The individualisation of the political process has hastened the changes in traditional social structures. The diminishing political hold of the religious leadership and fatwas, the village panchayats and Khaps indicate that reaching out to the individual voter is important. As MPs, we need to be able to connect with individuals. The individualisation of the political process brings out the emerging power of the media.

The social media is limited in its reach, but is an important forum for the tech-savvy leaders. While the voter is getting empowered in certain respects, the individual MP is finding it harder to leave his mark. From freedom of expression in Parliament to making an impact in the district-level planning and implementation of Central and state developmental schemes, it has become harder for the MP to break free from the party line. As an MP whose party is in the opposition benches in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, I find that efforts made by me and others are often thwarted because of the partisan nature of our politics. The politicisation of the administration and police is also not helping. Rarely do I get replies to letters written to the district administration in my constituency on developmental concerns. The old tradition of chief ministers giving regard to the views and demands of the members of the opposition is dying out.

Jayant Chaudhary is General Secretary, Rashtriya  Lok Dal, and Member of Parliament

Article Link : Indian Express

Article Source : http://newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Voters-identity-being-exploited-for-poll-gains/2013/04/14/article1543892.ece?pageNumber=1&parentId=60259&operation=comment#

 

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