The business of politics hits a new low

The business of politics hits a new low
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The business of politics hits a new low

Highlights

Wheelchair to CM's chair seems to be a well-scripted action plan of TMC's political strategist Prashant Kishor. This reminds one of the minor attack...

Wheelchair to CM's chair seems to be a well-scripted action plan of TMC's political strategist Prashant Kishor. This reminds one of the minor attack on YSRCP president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy at Visakhapatnam airport and the controversy and allegations that followed on Prashant Kishor.

Trying to play on sympathy factor is not new in India politics. We had seen in the past how N T Rama Rao had gone round the country in a wheelchair soon after he was dethroned by Nadendla Bhaskar Rao when the then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister was in US for heart surgery. The agitation that followed, the unity the opposition parties showed and the sympathy people had showered on NTR was historic.

It forced the iron lady Indira Gandhi to restore NTR as chief minister. That was a genuine sympathy wave. Similar attempt by NTR later when TDP was split in 1995 by his son in law N Chandrababu Naidu did not work.

In the last elections, we have seen how the minor attack on YSRCP president Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy inside the airport lounge in Visakhapatnam played a role in garnering sympathy. Now it is TMC president Mamata Banerjee's turn.

She perhaps feels that sympathy would offset the damage her party had suffered politically till recently and would help her to get back into the chair of CM once again. Playing the sympathy card is not new for Mamata. In the past also she had suffered injuries during campaign and used it for gaining sympathy successfully.

Will the Bhadralok of West Bengal sympathise with Didi or will they look at this episode as one which is scripted by her political strategist, the results will show. It is natural that anti-incumbency would play a major role and more than that, she is being challenged by the BJP which is trying all the tricks it has up its sleeve to defeat Didi. At such a time the question is will sympathy help her to sweep the polls or reduce the damage to her vote bank?

If we look at the way polls were held in the last seven decades politics has undergone total transformation. From dependence on policies, programmes, omissions and commissions of the government, catchy slogans and the charisma of the contesting candidates, elections have reached a stage where votes and voters have become a commodity.

About three decades back, money power started playing a role and in the last two decades money along with muscle power has been playing a major role. If we look at the 2019 elections, technology also seems to have got added to money and muscle power.

An impartial assessment of the polls held during last decade shows that the process of privatisation began with the BJP hiring the services of its political strategist Prashant Kishor.

From being a public health expert with mastery over building public opinion working for UNICEF in Africa to joining Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's team in December 2011 as an advisor and managing his prime ministerial campaign during 2013-14 to taking up the task of helping Mamata Banerjee save her regime against the onslaught of the Modi-Shah-led BJP campaign, Prashant Kishor has marked a special episode in Indian politics.

In Andhra Pradesh, Prashant's trap that was set in the form of Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh halfway through Jagan's padayatra accusing Naidu of going soft on the issue (even though BJP went back on its promise) helped YSRCP to win over the people.

Naidu who was caught off guard started mounting pressure on the BJP. Locking horns with the saffron party TDP MPs and Union Ministers Ashok Gajapati Raju and Y S Chowdhary resigned and in spite of a warning from BJP that Naidu was walking into the YSRCP's trap, Naidu decided to part ways with the NDA and the stage was set for YSRCP victory.

Nevertheless, Kishor has emerged as one of the principal talking points in the state's political sphere – be it with the moves he suggested for the TMC to turn the game around, or the attacks targeted at him by disgruntled leaders. Nearly 2,400 young men and women are working in various locations and on different aspects across the state in association with Kishor's organisation. His team is playing a major role even at block level.

The struggling TMC regained its confidence and got back into the poll battle with renewed energy as the public outreach programme named 'Didi-ke Bolo', or Tell Didi, as Mamata Banerjee is popularly known – became an instant success.

A good number of policy decisions were made on the basis of inputs received from the Didi-ke Bolo helpline. These include starting monthly allowances for elderly people from the backward classes, and later also for people from the economically weaker section among the general castes, extending the benefits of the Swastha Sathi health insurance scheme to everyone and allowing the Centre's PM Kisan scheme to be implemented in the state despite that state having its own, similar scheme.

The 2021 battle for Bengal between Modi and Mamata has reached the climax. Amit Shah who claims to be the principal of the college of strategies is leading the BJP's Bengal campaign – instead of the party's national president J P Nadda – Kishor on the other hand is managing the TMC's campaign but is also playing a key role in the TMC's organisational changes.

However, PK has a tough job in ensuring that Didi is sworn in as Chief Minister once again as many of her trusted lieutenants had quit the party creating some ripples in the party. PK's domination over party affairs is something which many are unable to accept. They allege that that the party was no longer under Mamata Banerjee's control and that it had been taken over by a corporate agency.

There is truth in it. This has come as an advantage for the BJP which is giving a tough fight to TMC. May be that is the reason why Mamata wants to gain sympathy and has announced that she will campaign on wheelchair.

The way politics are taking new twists and turns, elections are losing their importance. It is not enough to quote verses from Bhagavad Gita during speeches whether it be the Prime Minister or any other leader whether it be the speech on 75th anniversary of Independence or any other such occasion. What is required is honest electoral reforms which do not appear to be anywhere on the radar of the political parties in India.

Worst kind of allurements and division of voters is being done even for elections like MLC Graduate's constituencies. These are the constituencies where only graduate voters vote and so-called professors and educationists contest.

We are seeing such a scenario in Telangana where polls for two such constituencies are to be held on Sunday. The voters are categorised based on gender and their habits to dole out gifts.

Male voters are given branded premium liquor and teetotallers are being give note for vote. Similarly, silver items and electrical appliances are being given to women. May be the next innovation will be dividing voters on basis of food habits, vegetarians and non- vegetarians.

When democracy stoops to such low levels and parties start saying all is well in war it is but natural that political parties which win and their strategists will be on their own ego trip and would start feeling that they can even make a lamppost win.

What would Mahatma Gandhi have said if he was alive because, "Hey Ram,' would not be enough.

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