Informed Choice: How Realistic
A healthy buzzword making rounds in this election is ‘Informed Choice’. The idea is to spread awareness amongst people about strengths and weaknesses of each political party in fray, and then expecting them to take their call. The environment created in the beginning of the season of elections, starting from assembly elections in Nov-Dec, 2013, was to contest elections on issues, particularly development issues. A tremendous zeal was witnessed amidst electorates for changed scenario of issue based politics in lieu of hitherto caste and religious fragmented politics. The new milieu generated lot of interest and excitement, particularly amongst the young first timer and rookie voters. Even the veterans appreciated and accepted the wave of change and, acknowledged and cooperated with the youths desire for informed choice, unheard for till date. The euphoria survived the assembly elections and has been carried forward into parliamentary elections.
Manifestos of political parties is widely debated, which is good sign of informing people as to what can they expect from coming government, either they vote them to power or not. The intention of informing in advance is to help them make their choice while casting vote. However, all is well and important only if the information provided is reliable and authentic. Nevertheless, even in this era of high-speed communication revolution, major chunk of electorate in India remains unaware of existence of any manifesto. They still rely on what is spoken from dais in the hustings. Only other source primarily making dent in mindset has been the social media revelations, which of course do not guarantee to be authentic information or devoid of manipulation.
For the first time (hopefully) lot of pressure was built on the political parties to inform from the electoral plank their stand on vital issues, which directly affected lives of citizens. The expectation rose beyond the conventional political game they had viewed for decades. And, perceiving this change in demand of electorate the political parties did start in unconventional voice. However, what has revealed in the course of days of campaigning is that impressionistic and exhibitionists are the real dangers. Paid news, falsehood advertisements and hyperbole image builders with concocted stories of well doing is turning out to be the malicious potent weapon to take the naïve and innocent people for a ride. Another aspect of campaigning that unfortunately picked up and is more damaging is besides own projection focusing on vilifying the opponents. This strategy, instead of giving informed choice confuses the voters beyond comprehension. The information provided to them to make choice has nothing to do with what they are going to gain, but rather is related to personal spicy character assassination of contenders. I don’t understand how intruding into someone’s personal life, digging out and exposing their private life are to that matter so important for national development. Certainly, strong character with transparency should be one of the prerequisite in public life, for they do impress on policymaking and judgments, which is vital while leading (or ruling) country. However, what form of private life has impact on public life has to be well defined. Corruption does have a meaning, but not about choice of food or any trivial family issues.
It was heartening to see that election preparation and campaigning at the onset took off with development as an issue of concern and slogan to woo electorates. Their high pitch statistical sharing of information on each other’s, ‘what have they done’, ‘haven’t done’, and ‘will do’ on developmental front was forerunner issue. Gradually, each one of the parties drifted away from their promised development agenda and pushed it as backburner issue, with below belt accusations steering the electoral rhetoric. As the end day of election campaigning is inching near the stakes have gone high and with that all attempt to polarize the voters by applying traditional divisive political instruments like caste and religious fragmentation have gained predominance. This is nowhere close to ‘informed choice’ as was designed and promised at the start.
We must at any cost not lose the tempo that developed and caught up in the pre-start and initial stage of election process. Indian democracy is waiting for change, with looking for getting away from plutocracy, gerontocracy, casteist and pseudo secularist era. India should now be governed for good governance and not to be ruled for power. Let the electorates be informed on what they should expect by the fresh stock of leaders who should honestly commit to give this country what is due to her since independence. Let there be transparency in accepting the flaws with promises to correct and highlight strengths with enough evidence to prove. Time has lapsed when by browbeating and beating around the bush orators managed to trick the voters to toe their line. Even if they are living in fool’s paradise, plethora of other available sources should pass on right information to expose their vile intentions, so that ultimately electorate makes correct informed choice. There is no need to wait and watch for the interested parties to get transparent, but instead they can be forced to be responsible and accountable by sharing information through other reliable means. Whatever the means, what matters is to make informed choice and the day has come in Indian democracy when electorate is seriously seeking for it.