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Is political ideology still relevant?

By Sonie Kharduit

A political ideology is very handy to have. It’s a real time-saver, because it tells you what you think about things you know nothing about”- Hendrik Hertzberg. I couldn’t agree more with the said statement when we try to dissect and examine the functioning and the degree of commitment of our political parties.

It might be easy for the American citizens to choose the type of government they want. Dual polity setup makes the system simple with the Democrats versus Republican ideologies; people just need to align themselves among these two. Whereas the arrangement in our country is a complex mixture of multi-party system along with their multiple ideological interests which makes the whole country susceptible to frequent conflict and unstable government. In fact the country is seated on the mouth of an active volcano which can explode anytime if our political masters do wish so.

The need for political ideology

Political ideologies are a set of ideas, ethical ideals, principles or doctrines which serve as the guiding star for any political party. They give identity for its existence and how it differentiates itself from others. Basically it’s a necessary evil in the political ecosystem. It protects and gives voice to the unvoiced minority interest which is the hallmark requirement in democratic sphere, but likewise it also degenerates and dilutes the whole idea of national integrity due to its inherent divisive tendency.  But our country can’t avoid this necessary evil. The heterogenic character of our society provides no scope for a successful dual ideological arrangement like USA. This fact is clearly understood by our Constitution makers, hence the concept of multiple party system was adopted which brought the said evil into our polity.

Usually, the political ideas around the world are spaced between three prominent ideologies, grouped under the tag name of CENTRE, RIGHT and LEFT. Each class claims to be the torch bearer of certain ideals and thereby it has the potential to generate vote banks. In the Indian context for example, the BJP takes the RIGHT ideologies (the conservatives stand) to protect the original identity and culture of original India minus the hazards of western influence. The CENTRE role is played by the Congress which is a neutral stand with no right or left tilt and this is the reasons why minorities in any country prefer a centrist party to secure their presence among the majority. Finally the Communist party takes the role of the LEFT; its ideology is total opposite of the RIGHT, radical changes, socialist stand, and bourgeoisie supremacy. With globalisation and the interdependence of various economies, market principle is taking the centre stage and hence the role of capitalist class can’t be neglected if the country wants to progress. These realities pose a great challenge for the extreme form of communist ideology and it’s for this reason India was forced to adopt a MIXED economy set up.

Emergence of Regional parties:

Post the Independence era, the dominance of single party is losing steam with the emergence of strong regional parties due to the politicization of diversified socio-economic- political interest of India’s vibrant diversities. Generation and mobilization of vote banks is an easy task here. We just need one great personality with excellent oratory skills and one hot factious ISSUE which has the potential to build a strong visible wall within an invisible plot immediately amongst various parties. In the words of Saddam Hussein, “Politics is when you say you are going to do one thing while intending to do another. Then you do neither what you said nor what you intended.” The statement sounds righteous indeed from a cruel dictator in this political Game of Thrones.

Regional parties like the ones in South India are constructed mainly on linguistic lines especially in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Tamil and Telegu has been the identifier object to separate and distinguish themselves from other Indians. While coming to the north especially in UP, Dalit and caste issues took centre stage. The Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP)and the Samajwadi party(SP) prevail by riding hard on  these issues; the same yardstick can be extended to Bihar as well. We also witnessed in recent times the emergence of Hardik Patel capitalizing on reservation demands. He won the hearts and the support of many in the Patidar community which also can be factored as one of the reasons for BJP’s dwindling vote share in Gujarat in the recent elections.

Hence to conclude we have plenty of reasons to divide this country but little reasons to unite. Foreseeing this fact our Constitution makers has cleverly designed a federation with a strong centre to safeguard the unity and integrity of India.

While doing this comparative study I just stumbled on the fact that we are still fortunate enough that none of our aspirants in the upcoming game of thrones capitalised on the reservation issue yet. Our Garo community occupying the much generous 40% share alone, while the Khasis and Jaintias with a bigger population have to be contented with 40% which is the state’s reservation criteria although it is illogical and unfair considering the population share. This generous 40% space proved advantageous for the Garo tribes in state sponsored medical or engineering educations. They can get entry even with much lower percentages and this advantage can be extended to job reservation as well. 

Coming back to the issue, we are fortunate that none have politicized this issue till now in the manner that Hardik Patel did in Gujarat. I’m sure if anyone picks up this issue and converts it into a vote bank package, the state will turn into a battle ground and the Christian peace loving image will disappear  into the wilderness. We as citizens of this state should be cautious not to fall under into such trap of some selfish people who have no vision for the collective progress of all tribes in the state. A political problem should always be addressed through constructive political debates and through appropriate channels without resorting to violence and riots. This marks the maturity of true democracy.

Political ideology- eclipsed under populist measures

In the course of time populist measures have become prominent in our political discourse. The founding principles have taken a back seat when election dates arrive. Leaders capitalise on the needs and illegitimate desires of the public. The distribution of goodies like table fan, TVs, ACs, mobile phones, Tablets, bicycles, free water, highly subsidised electricity, corrode the whole idea of collective welfare- state ideals. These goodies are temporary in nature with no concrete positive externalities in the overall community betterment. Our valuables votes getting sold for a price, is the worst form of moral degradation of constitutional values.

Now a day’s political manifestos are framed by evaluating and exploiting the ongoing emotional arousal of the public, like the ongoing anti-BJP stance in our state, exploiting the fear sentiments of the Christians.  If we pull out any of them and legally pen down their promises to fulfil and safeguard the Christian interests, I really doubt any would dare to do come forward, because they lack the integrity and honest courage.  Whereas an honest candidate will not hesitate to commit himself even to such legally binding documents because his intentions is honest and clear with no self interested agenda.

Dynastic politics- the eye-sore of Indian politics

The Gandhi who delivered India from British rule and the other Gandhi who monopolised India’s political system after independence do not share any real connection at all. Unfortunately, by sharing identical last names the latter Gandhi did get to exploit people’s sentiments which allowed them to establish a dynastic political empire. Dynastic politics is an unhealthy practice in the process of political development. Centralization of power and decision- making, provide no scope for intra-party democracy, no accountability in financial management and no scope for merit. Defection becomes attractive. Our CM spends more time in Delhi conveying every new step taken as well as taking the PM slogan, “more governance, less government ,“ literally. This sounds attractive when dynastic politics is brought into the picture.  Dynastic politics was part of the Congress downfall in the 2014 general election and in the subsequent years when the throne is occupied by an inefficient, zero- personality figure with no charisma.

If any kind of political upheaval and reinstatement of true democratic values with an efficient government in place is to happen, then active participation of the citizens is needed at the local and national levels. Populist and dynastic politics should be eliminated, and more importantly dynamic and like-minded people should enter the political scene to cleanse the rotten system. As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” We need more of actors not commentators to bring the required changes. Money and muscle power are the current challenges but it is our vote  that puts the corrupt on the throne, Once we turn the game around things can definitely change.


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