Parties’ uses development plans as election campaigns
Unlike many post-colonial nations, which have descended to dictatorships or sham democracies, India has sustained to a reasonably stable democracy unhindered since independence. However, the success of the very same democracy in India would raise numerous eye brows if benchmarked against the best examples of it. Certain basic deficiencies in the country’s social and political dynamics have never allowed the nation to maintain a free and fair democratic setup.
India’s political outfits have time and again exploited the short memories of poor and illiterate (or at best the semi-educated) masses that forms the basis of the country’s electoral pattern. Therefore, the inefficiency and status quo of the country’s/state’s incumbent governments are ratified by the voters on the merit of just few months of developmental work, particularly before the elections. It is disappointing to see how voters are insensitively influenced by politicians, who otherwise are busy manipulating the nation and it is much more disappointing to see how people fail to see the devil in the stealth of such politicians! Every now and then, projects worth hundreds of crores are announced and brandished before election to tilt the electoral balance in favour of the ruling parties. And such is electorates’ psychographics that in many instances it works too! The best example of it has been in West Bengal, where for 34 years of Left Front rule there were no anti-incumbency factors at all despite their shoddy and slapdash work during the tenure. They derived latitudes by tall talks and announcing projects before elections that were either never implemented or remained incomplete once the election was over. The flaunting of projects and schemes just before election has become a norm throughout the nation in the hope of shaving down opposition’s margins. Before the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) election this year projects worth Rs. 519 crores were announced along with major reforms in the transport sector worth hundreds of crores. There are innumerable such cases.
To beat this, the Election Commission of India in its model ‘Code of Conduct’ has specified strict Do’s and Don’ts for the political parties. It has banned announcement of new schemes, projects, financial grants and laying foundation stones that are rooted towards the sole effort to influence the voters. Yet, the parties escape these rules by announcing schemes just before they come into effect, as has been the case in West Bengal, Gujarat and other places. The cliché is followed by each and every party, which provides no alternatives for the voters that can crystalize into a realistic change in governance.
Another interesting signal that helps decipher a phenomenon before election is the unearthing of scams and financial embezzlement! Every time one come across a infrastructure development or reconstruction of roads and drains, one can gauge that elections are round the corner. Such initiatives are not only a latent election campaigns but also are a way of generating funds through fixing tenders and kick-bagging.
Election Commission and Supreme Court should immediately bring such populist construction under the ambit of direct election campaign and should check any construction after the stipulated date prior to elections. Moreover, all projects announced during the tenure should be made to complete much before the election campaigns starts, thus keeping the essence of both the ends – election and developmental initiatives- intact!