Begin typing your search...
TN a pioneer in announcement of freebies as poll promise'
I am going to the holy river to cleanse myself of all the dirt hurled at me by my worthy opponents known and unknown, a seasoned politician of yesteryears had commented after the election campaign ended.
However, it wasn’t that he let his opponents just walk away after “hurling dirt” at him; they got it back in equal measure! Free speech is most misused in India and the number of defamations cases pending in the courts stand a testimony to this.
The sad part is that they make such statements and challenge the opponents to file a case being ready for the face-off in court, as if this is some kind of bravery. In several instances, the victims often approach the courts for a gag order to prevent the accused from making such vituperative statements.
There is multiplicity of newspapers and magazines in various languages and each vies with other to sensationalise issues or cook up news where there is none.
With digital platforms giving space to those who distort the truth, defamatory contents float freely on virtual world. Now, even established newspapers are joining the bandwagon to take advantage of the opportunity to sensationalise news and get the eyeballs connected! One newspaper, claiming to be a national newspaper, even quoted a sensationalised piece in a vernacular yellow magazine where a defamatory reference was made about a woman political leader. How low can people stoop?
Hindu Gods are the favourite punching bags for the low and smutty! A Dravidian leader has made the most derogatory reference to Lord Krishna recently which has deeply wounded the feelings of the Hindus. He belongs to the group which destroyed Hindu idols publicly to claim that idol worship was uncivilised and even branded those believing in idol worship as barbaric.
Another leader called Lord Krishna a thief and got away with it! Now, a very low and mischievous comment on Hindu religious practices at weddings has been made by a leader that too in a congregation of another religious group embarrassing them as no one would subscribe to such slanderous comment. This has not only raised legitimate consternation among general public but among his own party men.
Faith is one thing which cannot be rationalised. People believing in certain practices have to be respected. At the same time, exploitation and discrimination in the name of religious practices and superstitious beliefs should be condemned in no uncertain terms. It is all about vote bank politics and such extreme statements are made to get public attention and to polarise particular groups.
Society is caste-ridden but issue of caste comes to surface invariably on two occasions – marriage and elections! Though every politician claims that they will work towards a casteless society, caste plays important role in polls and politicians play it to the hilt. Be it a choice of candidates or manner of the campaigns, caste occupies the centre stage. Oft repeated cliché “cast one’s vote or vote one’s caste” seems to be true!
Election manifestos in earlier years had certain authenticity and sincerity of purpose to draw a road map to achieve egalitarian society. But over the years, it has degenerated from idealism to a farce and a joke! A national party claims to abolish NEET entrance for medical education whichever state does not want it. Another party has promises a government job and a village coordinator for all families below poverty line.
At this rate, they may even promise to abolish the UPSC exam and claim there was no need for any competitive exams for selection of candidates for government jobs, on the plea of state governments! Assured income of Rs 72,000 to poor families whether they work or not is again a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in liberal announcement of freebies as poll promise. This started with the promise of free TVs and many other political parties have taken the cue and announced plethora of freebies.
Election manifestos are truly getting scary as most of the schemes will remain on paper like the proverbial five-year plan schemes! Only saving grace is that people have become wary of such announcements and manifestos are hardly looked at and one wonders whether the partymen themselves will read and understand them!
An agenda in the manifesto for overall good of community like linking rivers, water tanks, canals, ensuring water supply, electricity and other essential infrastructure is most welcome but promising individual benefit like TVs and other consumer articles would seem like a violation of the poll code.
The matter was also taken up in court but somehow this has not got the much needed ban as of now.
There is serious concern about ‘cash for votes’ which has seen a cancerous growth in successive election. Unfortunately, people have been lured to be a party to this charade, a most unfortunate development. But, one wonders why a proactive action cannot be taken against the erring candidate where there is visual evidence.
It was former CEC Seshan who boldly implemented rules that were available in the rule book, interpreted them for smooth conduct of elections. Earlier, campaign used to go on endlessly throughout the night with no rest to the security personnel, but thanks to Seshan, it was clamped down at 10 pm.
Strict regulation is enforced with regard to the use of banners and posters, ban on defacing the public walls coupled with close monitoring of election expenses. Electoral reforms is talked about but needs to be implemented seriously.
Despite of all the ills in the system, somehow the Indian masses have cohesively thought in unison in every election to elect a government. Majority of ordinary voters are still blemish-less exercising his right sincerely which has stood the test of time.
There are some villages where on the polling day in all solemnity the village elder is garlanded and he leads the villagers to the polling booth with drums in tow with pride that they are going to elect their government! It is this rustic spirit which binds this great country together enabling democracy to march on.
— The writer is Mylapore MLA and former DGP