Elections 2016 prove India is a fragile State

The choices our democracy seems to throw up cannot be called genuine.

 |  5-minute read |   19-05-2016
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The elections to the four states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry are over.

As this piece goes up, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu’s Jayalalithaa, both incumbent chief ministers of their respective states, would have registered emphatic wins.

In Bengal, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) is set to win 211 of the 294 seats. In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK is on course to win 129 of the total 234 seats.

In Puducherry, the alliance of the Congress and the DMK won more than half of the 30 seats.

In Assam, The BJP and its partners have dislocated the Congress government and could win 83 of a total of 126 seats.

So, now what? Nothing. The show goes on.

Neither Mamata, nor Jayalalithaa has done much in their states. Corruption and sycophancy characterise the governing style of both women. And at least in this respect, they resemble their male counterparts elsewhere. As I keep saying, power is value that works across gender.

Also read: 7 reasons Tamil Nadu voted for Jayalalithaa again

Mamata still has no idea what development means besides populist measures in a state that demands little for being the same: lazy, thuggish, but articulate. She is also representative of a people who do not take lightly to being laughed at because of their presumed "intellectual superiority".

jaya-mamata_051916074734.jpg Both Jayalalithaa (left) and Mamata Banerjee have won emphatically in their respective states.

Mamata’s handling of cartoonists who mock her and her general impetuosity of conduct may endear her to the ignorant poor of Bengal. But the Left has done so much of damage in the 30 years they were in power that people still see hope in a lady who has come up the hard way, and without a dynastic claim to power or without political mentorship, all so crucial in a nepotism-driven country like India.

In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa, once a great star and a long-time associate of the Tamil superstar and politician MG Ramachandran, runs one of the most patriarchal regimes in the country.

Also read: Why I see Jayalalithaa versus Modi in 2019

To the human eye, there can be only two ways to greet Amma. Either you break into an adulatory dance, which happens quite often in front of Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence; or fall at her feet, which is an hourly occurrence in her office.

Grown-up men with large bank balances and fiefdoms of their own shamelessly prostrate before Amma. Not even tyrants like Hitler or Stalin, who have killed people by the millions, were shown loyalty in such an abject fashion. Many politicians keep a photograph of Amma in their wallet or shirt pocket. Like an identity card, or a talisman. And Jayalalithaa encourages it. Now that she is back, though she has been of late ailing, we can see more men and women demeaning themselves, so that some favour can be had.

Also read: Numbers reveal how close India is to a Congress-mukt Bharat

Puducherry, comprising of four non-contiguous areas, is on autopilot, no matter who comes to power. Pondicherry, as it was formerly known, was under French influence for a long time. It joined the Indian Union in 1963. But the French infrastructure and sense of sanitation and focus on education still continue, like a blessing from the past. It doesn’t matter really which party comes to power, the beaches still attract foreign tourists, and tourism is one of the biggest earners for Puducherry.

Assam seems to have salvaged some pride for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP's victory there was on the back of a divisive campaign which promised Hindus and native Assamese preferential treatment. Muslims from Assam, and those that have migrated from Bangladesh together constitute about ten per cent of the population. You would be surprised if in the near future a major riot did not break out, instigated by the majority community.

But development of the region is likely to be facilitated with the BJP at the Centre going out of its way to claim credit for bringing into the mainstream a crucial but isolated region like the Northeast.

Kerala has gone to the Left as expected. It’s a bipolar democracy there. The change of government is by shift: Congress for five years the Left for the next five. And nothing much really happens in between.

The CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan is likely to be the chief minister. His arch-rival VS Achutanandan who is 93-years-old may not stake claim perhaps out of kindness to himself. It would materially make no difference. Kerala is just genetically incapable of industrialisation, which accompanied the enlightenment of Europe.

The state has skipped that stage without too many problems on the face of it. But if the oil economies of the Middle East continue their decline, it is bound to exact a huge cost in the life values of the Keralites.

So the 2016 Assembly elections have become much like budgets. Like the ones before, these elections have been a festive exercise, but are not likely to have any real impact on the people who exercised their choice. For instance, no matter who rules Tamil Nadu, the growth rate will stay around ten per cent.

In other words, the choices that our democracy seems to throw up cannot be called genuine. Which is why history repeats every five years, alternating between tragedy and farce.

The state elections underline one of the most delusive aspects of Indian democracy: the lack of a real choice in terms of leaders, and that parties depend too much on the cult of personality, with accountability being non-existent.

It’s possible that India is reducing itself to a shell democracy. We may derive a spurious joy from seeing Pakistan as a failed state. We are not too far off the mark: we are a fragile state.


CP Surendran CP Surendran @cpsurendran

Senior Journalist

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