Transformative elections bring post-identity politics

elections-women-2Elections are like mini-carnivals in India. The 16th general elections, which began on April 7 and will continue till May 12 through nine phases, are watched world over for not just their sheer magnitude but for signs of what kind of government they will throw into power.

The 2014 elections will be a verdict on the performance of the two terms of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that are increasingly seen as ineffectual and leaderless and that have drowned the much talked about “India story” through a combination of scandals and policy blunders.

The elections have been less ideological and more into tapping the growing public anger and discontent against current form of politics.

In a number of ways, the 2014 general elections are markedly different from previous polls.

First, this election is about new demography. For the first time, more than 100 million young voters will be exercising their franchise. Unlike their older counterparts, these voters are mostly educated, tech-savvy, well-informed and significantly urban.

And with one-third of Indians living in urban areas, the traditional “pro-rural” orientation among major political parties have changed to a considerable degree.

Leading politicians are talking of building 100 new cities, metro rails, and offering attractive schemes to the urban poor.

In short, the 2014 elections signal the arrival of urban politics in India.

But what makes this election unique is the arrival of post-identity politics.

The spectacular success of the Aad Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi recently depended largely on the narrative of citizenship and governance, rather than caste, religion and other parochial identities. This has persuaded major political parties to package their campaigns as part of an agenda of development and good governance.

Although it is too early to give up on identity or other parochial issues, this is a positive indicator that voters, especially young ones, may pick a party based on performance, rather than the caste and religion arithmetic it conducts to win power.

And the elections demonstrate the significant telecom density that India has experienced in the last few years.

Today there are more than 1 billion mobile phones in circulation in India.

elections-kejriThis means mass communication technologies, new media, and social media are playing a significant role in shaping voters’ preferences and outlook. Political parties are striving to tap into these empowering and transformative tools to their advantage.

Finally, this election is going to be a verdict on the alternative politics offered by political newbie, the AAP.

Riding the rough road from Delhi’s epic victory in December, the AAP has put up candidates all over the country and has notched up a radical agenda for governance including the establishment of direct democracy, setting up ombudsman-like institutions to fight corruption and crony capitalism, and removing privileges granted to high officials and other bureaucrats.

The 2014 general elections are all about the economy, jobs, good governance and rising aspirations.

Survey after survey that gauge the mood of voters conclusively agree that for most voters what matters is stable employment, steady income, corruption free governance and a decisive leadership.

Surveys indicate that unlike past elections, voters are not only better aware, they are utterly unforgiving of tentative or faltering leadership. They would like to see results.

The new government will have a hard task in finding a balance between growth and equity, development and environment, populism and hard decisions, rural and urban and bringing back the economy into growth again.

In short, the 2014 elections appear to be transformative ones for India.

Courtesy: ORF, The Global Times

 

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