Monday, April 13, 2009

Inside the mind of an Indian voter

If someone wants to publish or edit an existing publication about World's greatest mysteries - "The mind of an Indian voter" must surely be included. It is no less a wonder.

An Indian voter is either too stupid or too smart. For the past 62 years, India as a democracy is alive because of the fact that people have been voting. For the initial 30 years, the entire nation voted with a "nation" in mind and there were leaders who dominated the entire country. It was not until 1977 when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency and people realized the significance of democracy and they voted very smartly in removing Mrs. Gandhi out. The same Gandhi was back in 1980 when she championed the cause of Harijans. The very fact that she removed the basic freedom was out of people's memory. When she died, there was state sponsored anti-Sikh riots by Congress. Even Rajiv Gandhi told that was expected considering the impact of loss of a great leader. While the Sikhs were angry, an entire nation voted for Rajiv Gandhi. This was so mysterious in itself. Later, what struck the Indian mindset was not communal riots of 1984, but Bofors. Suddenly, corruption became an issue. His progress in information and technology, diplomacy, change in economic policies never even moved a common man and he was voted out of office.

They elected a man V.P. Singh who for the first time divided this country on religious lines openly through law by introducing reservations at every level thereby curbing the growing meritocracy. This brought down his government and Narasimha Rao headed a minority government and ran the country for 5 years. Perhaps, Narasimha rao was the best PM who took some real bold steps. Yet, he was the most corrupt PM. If it was not for him, Manmohan Singh could not have done anything. Yet, the people threw him out. What explains this? For a common man, corruption is important or corruption that lives along with great progress..?

Then came Vajpayee Govt. It was one of those governments which created history by taking some of the boldest diplomatic, economic and infrastructural steps ever since Independence. At the end of 2004, the govt was voted out because a new pattern of state politics dominating national politics emerged.

At times, it is too complicated to understand as to what goes inside an Indian voter when he/she votes? It is as vast as our country and as as varieted as its people. From North to South, east to west Indian mind changes. In northern states like Rajasthan, Haryana, UP local factors dominate even in Lok Sabha. In South, Kerala, TN, AP state politics matter. Karnataka votes differently . Why? God knows? People look at State Government progress and decide the Center? This has been the trend since 1989. It is very sad. No national issue, no national leader (last being Vajpayee) is acceptable to everyone. No national party has been able to satisfy the Indian voter mind. What do people want? Water, electrcity, roads, job or just caste based representation. Let's take state elections. In Rajasthan, meena community voted against BJP just because Gujjars got reservation. Is this the basis to vote? In Bihar, yadavs, muslims combination still prefer Laloo than Nitish. because they have loyalty to them. In Karnataka, farmers preferred corrupt deve gowda over S.M. Krishna. In Andhra pradesh too, Naidu was defeated because of rural vote. The same Jadish tytler ans sajjan kumar (accused in 1984 riots) handsomely won with huge margins successively from Delhi. The number of convictions in 1984 riots is ZERO, but in Godhra it is 25. yet, the media always talks of Godhra, but not of 1984 riots. Is it that what happened 25 years ago was less brutal than the one that happened 9 years ago? People both in Punjab and Gujarat have moved on because they care for bread and butter issues. This is the trend in most states as well. There is also filmstar fanaticism. People elected Govinda, Dharmendra, MGR, NTR and so on. Most film actors have failed. People had/have/will vote for such people as they fail to realize that it is not easy to act real life unlike reel life.

In Gujarat, post Godhra people voted handsomely for Modi without knowing much about him. It is still mysterious. In tamilNadu, esp, there is no choice- It's either Amma (AIADMK) or Appa (KArunanidhi). People dont care whether they ally with Congress or BJP. All they care is the state leadership. In Maharashtra, MNS is creating havoc while Congress is playing with farmers lives. In Haryana, Hooda of the congress is doing a good job, but the same people elected Chautala for 5 times who has always been corrupt.

It is very difficult o gauge a rural voter and even more shocking that urban voter percentage is low. If urbans are educated and aware, they dont perform the duty of voting simply because one feels what is the use? Escaping never helps.

In karantaka, lingayat, vokkaliga, gowda..In AP, Kapu, naidu, reddy community, in Bihar, dalits, OBC, Yadav etc and so on...Practically every state has 100's of castes and caste based leaders. For people, it doesnt matter what progress is done or not..all they care is caste based leaders. When will this mindset change? Of course, an Indian voter has also been smart. They elected some great leaders back into power because they were satisfied with their performance (Several examples can be quoted)

For the first time in 2004, a government campaigned for a better India, but state level politics destroyed the vision. It is 2009 and once again what is in the game is not political party, but Indian mind which is as unpredictable as stock market indices.

Even in this election, for some economy, for some national security, for some caste would matter. The fact that people think differently is not a problem, the fact that there is too much heterogenity in thinking is the problem. The scattered and unique thinking of each person creates far more confusion.

People across several states feel whichever party is ruling their state, vote for thae same so that they can rule the center and thereby their state will progress. For an Indian mind, memory is sharp, but short lived. An Indian mind forgets important good and sad events and vote what is more important at that instant. On the eve of national elections, last time, in 2004 Aaj Tak carried a report in which they asked a very well educated family - "What are you doing on the elction day? Did you vote?" and the frank answer the person gave was "Today is a holiday. I am enjoying with my family in Khandala". If educated people shy away like this, the rural vote will dominate. It is very easy to lure rural votes by giving them money or at times simply loan waivers. They dont care about industries, water, electrcity, roads, economy..nothing..

Media too has played a negative role. How many times have you seen media even telling citizens to rise and vote above caste lines? They keep discussing which leaders represent what castes and so on..which further poisons the mind of a voter and makes him/her feel very negative about the political scene.

This country's election has turned out to be an aggregration of states...It is not good at all.

Let's see a month from now as to how the voting will be done.

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