The Maharashtra Assembly elections concluded yesterday, and the counting of votes is set to take place this Thursday. The exit polls indicate another feather of victory in the cap of the incumbent saffron-alliance. However, here are four common sentiments I came across after the voting concluded, questioning the nature of politics from the viewpoint of common voters.
The recent monsoon season that western Maharashtra witnessed brought to the surface the fiasco of urban planning, flood management, and overall preparedness of the authorities. The challenge of drought and the farmer suicides have been chronic issues plaguing Maharashtra.
Even though the majority of the state’s population has been suffering due to poor planning and policy gaps, issues not really relevant to the state like the revocation of Article 370 and the nationalism ‘propaganda‘ around it were the highlights of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign trail throughout the election. The issue was discussed throughout the campaign like a victory achieved by the country as if it is a matter of pride for the country.
Similarly, debates and pitches continued on whether Hindutva ideologue Savarkar should be conferred the Bharat Ratna or not. The usual poll gimmicks of BJP continued in the footsteps of the Pulwama issue in Loksabha elections. The mainstream media was excited to cover how 370 flags were symbolically waved during a speech by Amit Shah. However, the common sentiment prevailed- who is talking about our real issues, ranging from open potholes on the roads to unemployment, to the PMC bank crisis, to the fake assurance of relaxation in the farmers’ debt?
Veteran leader from the Indian National Congress (INC) Mallikarjun Kharge, in an interview with Mint, talked about the propaganda tools of the BJP and how real development issues which mattered to people, were sidelined in poll campaigns. INC had an opportunity to highlight the real issues and reach across the last-mile to the voters and bring out their voices. However, this never reflected in the execution of their campaigns and their reach to the voters.
BJP was successful in maintaining itself at the centre of discussions, no matter how much those discussions were irrelevant to the state. INC also remained busy in making counter-attacks.
The vigorous speeches by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his speech even as it rained in Satara did create a buzz but even that had limited impact as compared to BJP’s strategies.
Any other party, including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), failed to cope up with the effective marketing style campaigns of BJP.
— ANI (@ANI) October 21, 2019
Social media turned into a battlefield the last few days, with a lot of debates and heated arguments and counter-arguments. However, that vigour didn’t reflect in actual voting trends, and apathy among voters continued, especially in urban areas. Voter turnout remained low. The switching of parties and loyalty by politicians, helplessness about unfulfilled commitments by all parties, were some prominent reasons for pessimism among voters in this election.
The older generations remember the culturally decent and respectable language that used to be used in politics. The tradition of renowned state politicians like Yashvantrao Chavan, SM Joshi, Acharya Atre seems to be over, and ‘dirty’ politics is seemingly dominating the political landscape.
The abusive language used by Harshavardhan Jadhav for Uddhav Thackeray or the reportedly obscene comments made by Dhananjay Munde against his cousin Panjaka Munde are some examples of how in this election, we witnessed the language of politics take a hit.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Fadanvis was accused of sharing a fake and morphed video of Rahul Gandhi on his official Facebook page, which then went viral. Examples like this showed how social media, easy reactions by everyone, and rampant trolling have added to disrespectful politics.
Whoever may win, the people’s problems and their struggles are going to continue. But this changing mirror of politics is a threat to our harmonious democracy. As always, short-term news may prevail, and when something new will come up, people will forget the specific instances and the track-record of these political entities.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.