Voting for India's most awaited assembly elections, some would say perhaps as eagerly awaited as the general elections last year, takes place tomorrow when the voters of Delhi cast their vote to elect a new government. It may just be an assembly election for what is geographically a very small area, a city, that is not even a full-fledged state, but by all estimates, the polling that takes place tomorrow could be one of the game changer in Indian politics.
For all those watching these elections closely, and that number is big, with a huge interest abroad as well, one thing is sure – Indian politics is changing, and even more so in the urban areas where the awareness levels are high. And all of it is being abetted, in no uncertain terms, by the growing relevance and reach of the social media.
Voters, and the general discourse now, has started dismissing a large part of the dirty politics of the past. As I said, this is still referring to the urban areas, for the rural areas of the country are still years away from what it should be. What was a given earlier is now being challenged. Dirty tricks being played at the times of polls are increasingly under the glare, are noticed, and more and more people talk about it and are willing to punish those indulging in it.
If allegations and counter allegations were enough to influence the gullible to make a decisive shift in the polling pattern in the past, it seems such influences are increasingly on the wane. People question the timing, those behind it and all else and refuse to take anything at face value. All this is good, even though some genuine exposes, or stings, if you will, also get viewed with suspicion. Perception management was a game then, it still is. But how one goes about it is changing.
However, even as this positive shift seems to be happening, the role of the money bags in each elections is still a big big worry. Election funding is easily the biggest source of corruption in the country and seems no one is genuinely keen on curbing this menace. "Why me alone. Let others start" seems to be the general refrain. And one can understand why. Look at the businesses and businessmen. As part of their survival instincts, they generally go with the tide. You can't blame them. So many do so much wrong that it is important for them to be seen on the right side of those who wield power. Without the patronage of the authorities, the rich can't be powerful. And to get that power, they don't mind sinking funds into those who are in power or are likely to get some.
Even the most honest politicians realize money is critical. As long as the culture of buying votes through inducements, in cash and kind, including liquor continues, this umbilical cord cannot be snapped. Although the voters are becoming smarter and say one thing and do the other, it still does NOT address the issue of money and its misuse. One way out could be to bring funding to political parties under the ambit of RTI. Almost all politicos one speaks to admit that it will be a good way of reducing corruption, but none wants to be the first one to bell the cat. Corrupt businesses know this well, and also that irrespective of how clean the candidate is or principled or idealist, s/he still needs money to run a campaign.
Despite this, it can't be denied that the current elections are different. It shows that those who play the game well (not necessarily by the rule) and manage perceptions well can take on all others. And others can scarcely complain.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.