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With elections for about 265 constituencies done by April 23rd, its a good time to do a half time report – to keep things consistent with the other big event , the IPL – that Indians seem to be engrossed in.
The biggest disappointment off course is our middle class and youth didn’t show up in these elections – the so called civil society , the group that has been the target, subject and participants of and in so much communication, advertising, debate and general noise , and who were expected to result in increased turn out didn’t come out – the turnout remains in the low 50%s even in youthful cities like Bangalore! Aamir Khan, Times of India, Karan Johar, The Band from Bangalore with their song ‘Shut up and Vote’ and the endless breathless and frantic debates on NDTV and CNN-IBN , essentially came up to nought.
Interestingly many responders to my early blogs where I had mentioned this so called youth and middle class turnout – were quite dismissive of my expectations and they were right and I was wrong ! How can we expect anything but being underwhelmed by the kind of I am good, they are bad kind of campaigning run by the political parties - that we all have been subjected to so far.
The other disappointment has been the political debates between the Parties and therefore the backdrop to this election vis a vis the voter. Given all the focus on these elections and the increased involvement of the so-called educated set, I had expected the media to push the debate in a more intelligent direction. But the media has established that independent Media doesn’t necessarily mean competent media. Big problem with our English media is that news has been replaced by Views. And Views that are put forward despite being lacked by little or no research. A media analyst or political commentator in Indian media used to mean something before, now it means anyone with half baked knowledge and the ability to string a sentence together in front of a camera! May sound harsh and a bit exaggerated but not by very much! Not one channel has really put together anything that sounds like an agenda for Political parties to debate on. The fact that Dr Manmohan Singh continues to duck a debate with LK advani also means this lack of a coherent set of issues around which Parties can position themselves to the electorate eludes us and so we continue to hear about Varun Gandhi, Imran Kidwai, Lalu Yadav and other ‘exciting’ issues while Development and governance remains in media’s twisted logic ‘unexciting!’.
If the second half of Elections 2009 remains bereft of issues and Political parties continue to hide behind rhetoric like secularism and terrorism, the odds are the first half will be repeated and turnouts will be low and the wise Indian instead of being inspired to participate will continue the trend of being underwhelmed and running away from voting!
I had put together sometime ago and circulated privately to Political parties what I believed was the agenda for debate and discussion amongst Parties. Have a look at India Agenda 2009. Development and Governance need not be ‘unexciting’!