Our neighbour goes to polls today. It’s a three way fight with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) and Cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) being the main contenders and the slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) providing the third dimension. As is inferred from the press and media, there has been unprecedented rancour and mud slinging during the campaign and Army seems to be once again involved actively and favouring Imran this time. Nawaz and his daughter’s arrest in graft case has further spiced up the contest.
We take great deal of pride in being the World’s largest democracy. While for Pakistan the tryst with successful democracy is a new experience (this is the first time since independence that a democratically elected government has completed its full tenure) for India its business as usual. Since independence we have only had democratically elected governments. But in some sense, the signs of common lineage are very evident. The canvassing involves lots of rabble rousing, noise, wasteful expenditure, unhealthy practices (cash, other incentives), character assassination and exchange of wild allegations. There is no grace, rationality, constructive agenda, poise, tolerance or sensitivity. Isn’t it strange that BJP sees no good work done by successive Congress governments since independence and Congress sees no positives in BJP government? Even a totally apolitical campaign such as “Swachch Bharat” does not find favours with the opposition.
But the comparison is unfair beyond this point. India is a matured democracy. Notwithstanding the loser finding faults in electronic voting machines (EVMs), the election commission is a neutral body with substantial powers. We do see election related violence particularly in geographies like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but ours is definitely far more peace loving society when compared to Pakistan. And above all, Military here is focused on protecting the nation from enemies rather than being interested in politics.
But there is a drawback too! Most of the matured democracies , be it US or UK, see one to one or at best triangular contests. India for long time had Congress (centrist with slight tilt to left), BJP or its original clone Bhartiya Jana Sangha (rightist) and CPI/CPM (leftist). Regional parties did exist ( Akali, Shiv Sena, DMK) but it was largely triangular affair. Now on the face of it we have BJP led NDA and Congress led UPA- but as it seems the 2019 election is likely to show case muscle power of Samajwadi, BSP, Trinamool, TDP, DMK, AIDMK, BLD, Biju Janta Dal, Shiv Sena, RSP, Akali Dal, NCP, FB, JD(S), TRS, National Conference, AIMM…..the list is endless. Everyone will flex his muscle extracting his pound of flesh. Will Indian voter prove his/her maturity and rise above cast, creed, religion and factionalism to vote for the best candidate and save the country from chaos to be caused by in the likely scenario of hung mandate? After all, how long can the strange bedfellows sleep with the enemy?