The voter should see that he votes for a principle and not for a party, that he votes for a party and not for a personality, that he votes for a person and not for the purse. Let him consider the cause and not the caste; go with the worthy rather than with the winner. Choose the right man and see that the man you choose wins; that will be your victory. If you simply go as a camp follower of the man who has created an impression that he would win, you have already lost, whatever the result of the election be.
—Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, Your Vote-1, Who is a Suitable Candidate?, Organiser, December 4, 1961
As part of the Constitutional duty, the Election Commission of Bharat has announced the poling dates for the Assembly elections in five states, namely Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, starting from February 4 to March 8. The counting will take place on March 11. Immediately, political pundits came into action to make various assessments and diverse arguments about the significance of these Assembly elections. In a democracy, seeking political mandate at regular intervals is a routine affair. Then, why these elections are being considered to be so crucial and why do each election upbeat our emotions are some
One obvious consideration is, this is the first ever round of major elections after the daring and system-shattering decision like demonetisation. Many would like to play it as a mandate on the all pervasive pronouncement made on November 9 by the Prime Minister. Local Body elections in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Chandigarh have already shown thumbs up for the bold move towards cleansing the system. This factor will certainly play at the back of the mind of voters in these states. Is it going to disturb all the traditional equations and political affiliations, is a point to ponder.
Uttar Pradesh being the most populace and politically most powerful State of Bharat, itself is a good enough reason for invoking attention in these elections. The family feud within the ruling Samajwadi Party and attempts to cobble a new social engineering by Bahujan Samaj Party by wooing Muslims along with its core Constituency are signs of desperation among the dominant regional parties. The unprecedented massive rally by Prime Minister on January 2 was indicative enough. As electoral water is untested in Uttar Pradesh after the splendid performance by the Bharatiya Janata Party during the 2014 General elections, how much of that ground is still retained is a matter of curiosity for everyone.
Another important aspect that will be tested in these elections is the recent judgement delivered by the Supreme Court. The Apex Court has termed the elections as a ‘secular’ activity and therefore banned the use of caste, religion, language and creed for seeking votes. This judgement will certainly reset the older version of secular-communal debate where any reference to Hindu, which the Court had held as the way of life, was termed as communal while blatant minoritism or casteism was considered as secular. The judgement is expected to redraw the Lakshman Rekha for political parties and candidates who have been blatantly using divisive politics for electoral gains. Though the Election Commission has shown full commitment towards the implementation of SC’s order, how it will be implemented and in turn affect the electioneering and final outcome is still unclear. The upcoming elections may throw some light on the same.
Irrespective of institutional mechanisms and intellectual complexities, people of Bharat cherish the electioneering and celebrate it as a democratic festival. They have shown remarkable maturity and contributed immensely in evolving the governance processes. Since 2014, traditional parameters of electioneering are shaken from the core. Although conventional considerations of caste, religious and sub-regional identities still remained in the backdrop of candidate selection and casting votes, the pro-development approach with systemic transparency, inclusive growth and cultural integration has come to the forefront. Whether voters of these five states continue to give prominence to principles of governance and take us to the glorious path that was envisaged by Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1960s is the real issue, these elections will settle. @PrafullaKetkar