Comment Pieces

Elections 2014: Is the anti-corruption plank fading away?

Posted on February 28, 2014

As elections are round the corner, the momentum that was built on the anti-corruption plank seems to be fading away. Parties are now keen to make strange bedfellows and corruption charges that once were the mainstay of the political discourse is now taking a back seat as one gets ready for the final race.

While the initial momentum of the anti-Congress political mobilisation was on corruption charges and the scams, political parties are now moving slowly onto the next stage wherein they are looking to consolidate their votes and vote-banks on more emotional themes with the attendant danger of watering down the anti-corruption plank.

As parties move to connect with voters with Chai Pe Charcha programmes and 'political primaries', the discourse has moved on. The BJP has slowly but surely moving towards the 'strong man' theme with Modi likened as a Sardar Patel in the making, and the Congress is back to projecting its inclusive theme and agenda, projecting Rahul as the only hope for its vote bank and hoping to refurbish its pro-poor image. 

There is also the phenomenon of elections as entertainment, and as the race heats up and one fears that things of substance and consequence will be neglected. Maybe it also has to do with the way the media covers the elections.  

There is a word to describe the way media goes on its 'horse race' election coverage and it is called 'Political Handicapping'. The terms refer to any news story or article whose main focus is describing how a particular candidate or candidates is faring during the election, with a focus on the outcome and not on what the candidate is saying or his stand on a particular theme or idea.

It is argued that such 'horse race coverage' distracts voters from real issues. As the date for the voting gets nearer, issues and themes take a backseat and the excitement of the race takes over.

On the issue of how corruption has been watered down, take for instance, Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is now hot property. A leader who is facing umpteen corruption charges is amongst those being sought after by various political parties. The Communist Party of India - Marxist, which claims to fight against tainted politics is so keen to join the Jagan bandwagon to win a couple of seats and send their men to parliament so that they can fight corruption at a 'theoretical' level.

Ram Vilas Paswan is with BJP and CPI is with Jayalalitha and DMK and Laloo Prasad are with the Congress. Not that anyone is innocent.

AAP is giving out different signals saying that communalism is a greater threat than corruption. Nothing wrong in fighting communalism, but in the Indian context and in the political discourse, 'fighting communalism' has a different connotation. It is a kind of code-word for saying that when the chips are down and in the final tally, you would rather sail with the Congress party. Perhaps this was not the intention, but political discourse has its own code words and it is tough to think outside these parameters. 

It is difficult to get the anti-corruption plank back as the agenda for the elections, and yet it is for the voters to remember why they were looking for a change in the first place.

Well, the horse race is about to begin. Let us keep ourselves on the saddle or else, we as citizens and voters would be carried away by the excitement of the race, forgetting the rationale for the race.

K Venkatesh