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National issues were compromised in Delhi elections

The popular mandate in elections is always supreme in a democracy and must be respected in all circumstances

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The popular mandate in elections is always supreme in a democracy and must be respected in all circumstances. While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerged victorious by sweeping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) out in the just held Delhi assembly polls on February 8, 2020, its total tally of 62 seats in the 70-seat legislature declined by five from the 67 it won in 2015.

What do these results reflect and what did the voters in Delhi lose? Firstly, it signifies the primacy and significance of local issues over national ones among voters in Delhi. That has been the trend in other states too. Also, the allurement of freebies that AAP assured its voters also prevailed over issues like national security, cross-border terrorism including global terrorism and fundamentalism, environmental degradation, economic recession and, above all, the issue of national consolidation which is very crucial, given the mounting internal and external threats before the country.

Unfortunately, the feeling of nationalism in India is still marred by issues of caste, community, region and language, all of which continue to damage the cohesive socio-cultural fabric of the country. It is obviously due to these factors that regional parties like AAP thrive in extracting the voters’ favour, though at the cost of national issues upon which the BJP mostly relied in this election.

Such a localized vision of the voters and the political parties are the real threats to the unity and integrity of the country which, indeed, can survive only by emulating the concept of true nationalism. In fact, it is the mantra in countries like Japan, Israel, China, Britain, Russia and even in America, where national interests always reign supreme. These countries stand strongly united on the global stage as compared to Bharat because their citizens always give primacy to national concerns of security, stability, unity and solidarity, economic progress and common welfare, etc. over the local issues of cheap electricity, water, conveyance and other free conveniences.

In Bharat, unfortunately, people still want to retain their religious and communal identity which hinders the way towards making of a Common Civil Code for all citizens of the country. The caste-based reservations, though initially provided in the Constitution for 15 years only, still exist in the 21st century, even 70 years after independence which, in fact, mocks at merit and the meritorious and has become a potent instrument of vote-bank politics. The solemn acceptance of corruption by citizens in India and not making it an election issue besides issues like terrorism and religious fundamentalism, dignity of the individual, particularly of women, good governance, responsibility, accountability and transparency, are some other factors over which the country has failed to evolve a national consensus.

Further, there is no system of recall of the people’s representative who has failed to perform in his constituency. In fact, politics in our country has become a repository of power, glamour, unlimited money and hundreds of freebies for the politician, without any real responsibility or accountability. This is why everybody today longs to enter politics, either by hook or crook.

There is no democracy and democratic functioning within the political parties, where only favoritism, nepotism, family and clan factors do matter. Many national parties are based upon family produced leaders or are a one-man show, which obviously kills the very spirit of democracy. In many cases, democracy has become an oligarchy here.

The AAP succeeded in consolidating its vote bank by harping on the local issues, to be distributed as freebies if voted to power, and also enjoyed maximum leverage due to the deficiencies and weaknesses of the nation-building process in the country. The BJP stressed the need for national consolidation vis-à-vis myriads of threats before the country, to overcome the long-held stigma of India being a soft power unable to protect its territory and people from Chinese intrusions and cross-border terrorism coming from Pakistan.

But the enlightened voters in Delhi were perhaps not comfortable with the promises and projections of the BJP’s nationalist agenda, which is criticized by the opposition as fascist "bhagwakaran" (saffronisation) and antithetical to the noble gospel of secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Evidently, voters in Delhi missed their chance to contribute towards strong nation-building  

Obviously, there is an immediate need for serious introspection among regional political parties and the Indian people, who must overcome petty power politics and, instead, work for national consolidation in the spirit of true nationalism or cultural nationalism. While political parties are not going to mend their ways regarding vote-bank politics, to grab power in any way possible, the onus obviously falls upon 'We the people of India' to come forward to fight corrupt practices of different political parties and power-hungry politicians by uniting and forging close and cordial relations among themselves.

(The writer is professor of political science at Rajarshi Tandon Open University, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh)

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