Indian elections : Mutants will be destroyed
The media and the blogosphere is awash with articles celebrating the upcoming great Indian democratic exercise. I had an argument yesterday with a gentleman who was gushing about the democratic process and how the transfer of power was without bloodshed. I asked him how it was then we had completely screwed up in the last 60 years. He had just shelled out a small fortune and undergone an ordeal for a kinder garden seat. He lives in a locality with no sewage system or piped water or roads or footpaths. To top it a garbage dump nearby burns 24×7 spewing toxic stinking fumes. We are talking about the upper middle class here. So you can imagine the rest. Celebrating the technicalities of the electoral process alone is naive and tiring after a while.
Chewing is only the first part of eating. The objective of eating is to nourish your body and not to chew. Anyway, he was sufficiently annoyed and pointed to our neighbours. “Hey, at least we are not like them” – he said. Yeah, do you feel proud everyday of not being a drunkard and wife beater ? We changed topic shortly afterward.
Here is a case study
In a major blow to the Bharatiya Janata Party -led National Democratic Alliance, on Saturday, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) snapped its 11-year-old alliance with the BJP in Orissa after both parties failed to reach a consensus over seat sharing for the forthcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
Source : DH
First the ground rules are not what the BJP seems to think. Not what the “middle class” seems to think. We are playing hockey not cricket. The BJP and Congress must not aspire to be anything more than providing escrow service to the various narrow interests. You can roughly think of BJP and Congress as being like Mastercard or Visa and the various narrower interests as the banks actually issuing credit cards. The third front might be a wannabe like Discover ! The Congress fully knows this and will reap the benefits at the polls. Just consider the complete independence granted to entire ministries and its demonstrated commitment to protecting the national secret. Readers of this blog will know that the narrower interests have congealed around the compromises made to equality. In this environment, the BJP continues to look like a straggler on the bus. The Congress has masterfully pulled the rug from under the BJPs feet. Imagine getting shot down for talking about larger interests (from price rise to national security). Unfortunately, the Congress’ will eventually get swallowed by its own creation.
The offstumped blog briefly hits the core of the issue before quickly getting diverted in the wrong direction.
The regional allies of the BJP who have far less in common with it on economic philosophy and have far more in common with the Congress on politics of entitlement, have found it easy to expand their social base to grow at the Congress’ expense. They are able to do so by being a more sensitive local substitute for the Congress that can pander to the entitlements of these social groups.
Source : Offstumped blog
I do not agree with the ‘economic philosophy’ part. For I think there is none. The big difference between the two groups is that BJPs inclination to support creation of non-rival economic goods, in contrast with the Congress’s tendency to create rival goods.
So why must a leader representing a narrow interest, which itself could be a temporary arrangement of even narrower interests, prefer the Congress over the BJP ?
One of the frequently cited costs of aligning with the BJP is that now you have to swim the media against the current. Why, because the media itself has interests to protect primarily due to historical links with the Congress. But even this can change in time if the BJP can look more and more like the Congress. So, I dont think the media is a problem. The bigger problem is the BJPs constant talk of working for larger national interest. Now, this really sends shivers down the spines of the leaders representing narrow interests. So, am I saying the JDU in Bihar secretly wants to switch places with Lalloo ? It is highly likely.
So the number one question is :
Is the Congress a SAFER federation of narrow interests ?
Lets sharpen that question ;
Do the leaders representing narrow interests consider the Congress to be a SAFER federation ?
I think they do. I also think they are correct.
In this election the larger coalition wins. There are very few seats where I think the free agents can make a difference. Unfortunately you cannot educate a voter out of human nature. I also think the left will support the Congress after the polls. So one wonders what the people in Kerala and WB are voting for ? The choice in front of these two states seems to be mango ice cream in a cup or mango ice cream in a cup !
Fortunately, the half life of this political setup is short.
Unfortunately, it wont be a pleasant ride for those not involved.
So, is the only hope for the BJP is to dump its campaign of large interest and instead act as a holding company of narrow interests ? Yes it appears to be the only way out for them. The situation is hopeless because once the narrow interests are in power – they will not expend energy for a larger interest. This is human nature, you do not need to be a Mancur Olsen fan or even an independent think tank to understand it. So what got us to this point ? Forget about the western world, cant we atleast provide a dignified living to our citizens comparable to Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, or Tanzania ? No one knows really.
This is what happens when you put the basic building block of modern political systems, the equal treatment of citizens up for trade. Of course, social justice is a valid reason to take a detour, but without data it is like a stock market. At election time brokers trade in ‘entitlement equities’.
Please bear with the cynical tone of this post. I have zero interest in the technicalities of the electoral process. There are millions of positive takes on the web anywhere you look. So it may just be me.