Why is Political Opposition in India so Fragmented

by Amit Bhushan on Saturday 28 April 2012, 6:29 PM | Category: Politics| View: 1511 views


Why is Political Opposition in India so Fragmented
By : Amit Bhushan; Date: 28th April 2012
Political Governance in India has been far from Perfect, as is the case for almost any Democracy in the World. This is because in a Democracy, the view of majority must prevail and thus a few are always left by the side. Also, it is difficult to convince a large majority of people to assess long term scenarios and forecasts unless adequately supported by professionally independent Thinkers/Philosophers. Hence democracies find it difficult to arrive at ‘wise decisions' for the well being of society. In spite of all sins, we in India have still been ruled by one party for most of the period post attainment of our freedom from the British. Why has India or our people allowed themselves to languish in such conditions without seeking change; or alternatively, what socio-cultural-economic conditions influenced people to accept the situation without making any sincere effort to bring about a change.
This is even as the political governance system allows Indian to seek and manage a change in Political governance through electoral politics. Some associated questions are: Are people in India ready for greater political experimentation and look for alternative. What are the Roadblocks for people to be able to freely exercise their electoral franchise in an effective and empowered manner (Irrespective whether or not, it results in a change).
Traditionally, Culture in India have always been where the subject has/or needs to prove loyalty towards the rulers or where a junior needs to prove loyalty towards a senior. This has been political practice since ages in India and has continued even in modern times. Concept of Loyalty is also present in West/Europe; however the difference is that in West, loyalty is more towards the Institution or Constitution or Belief or one's own job/oath, rather than towards a Person as in India or Asia. Good politicians in Asia have good realize the fact and use this to their advantage. A Politician who has grasp on power or is viewed close to power maintains many friends and acquaintances. Generally these friends and acquaintances are carefully cultivated from amongst the rank of senior bureaucrats, Media Personalities, Businessmen or Fellow Politicians.  The Politician would first nurture his image as a ‘would be/or present Ruler', either De jure or De facto. He is able to wield influence by calling upon these friends and acquaintances to prove loyalties at the opportune time. It is quite possible that these friends or acquaintances may have made a different decision in some other culture where such ‘Test of loyalty' towards individual in not required in order maintaining Relationships with people who could be important in one's life.   
Idol worship is India has been a deep rooted practice. The practice associated with Hindu Religion practices widely has percolated in other religions in the region where followers of these religions have developed deep rooted belief in ‘miracle men' and similar superstitions. It is possible to declare oneself a ‘miracle man' and gather a stream of loyal followers even in present day India. In politics, this percolates to a senior politician being branded as ‘God Like' who is attributed to all the Good Work achieved by the junior politicians. This politician becomes the Anchor to pull votes from gullible voters. While political workers are adept and appreciate this game, the voters are sucked by their gullibility in belief of God like characteristics of such a human being. Traditionally, we have not been trained to ‘measure' the level of success or level of credibility of persons deemed as ‘Senior' to us. We have been ‘cultured' to shower all credit for even minor achievements to our ‘senior' while retaining the discredit for failures. Also, practice is not to discuss human failings of our leadership in public/media (especially any failure on personal fronts) in India and thus maintain God like image of our senior Politicians. In west, any appropriate measurement of success and failure is discussed publicly including practical value of the person's approach to governance, plans and ideas. The merits and demerits of the plans and ideas of the person including his conduct and behavior are discussed rigorously. Frequently, his personal life including that of his family is brought into public limelight. Thus voting for electoral governance in the west tends to be relatively more merit oriented than in India.          
Most senior politicians also rely on populist pronouncements like “Free” or “Cheap (read below Cost Price)” distribution of Products/Services to gain Political mileage and nurture ‘their Idol worship' amongst the masses. Rather than helping people understand and appreciate that - Goal of Politics is to ensure Welfare of larger public within the meager resources as permitted by society, they try to create an ‘aura of benevolent and charitable person' out to ameliorate all pains of his subject through their ‘magic wand'. The society is yet to learn/evolve to punish politicians who try to trick voters in ‘honeytraps' of gimmicks such as Free or Cheap widgets and reward politicians who work on improving transparency in governance, policy making and service delivery.  
Socially, we are a diverse society segmented into various Religions, Castes, Geographic lounging, Languages, dialects, economic status, education levels, skill set etc. The goals and objectives of individual voters in such a diverse society tend to be very different and so is the means of achieving these goals. The politicians realize this fact and know for sure that accommodating interests of ‘All' in one manifesto is an impossible task. Therefore they rely as much on fragmenting voters of opposition as much as they rely in consolidating their voters. Politicians across all hues and colours know this and rely on the art either explicitly or implicitly as there seems to be no escape from this form of politics which has taken roots in our society. It is well known that most political candidates in an election are funded by ‘other candidates' rather than businesses or people of the constituency. This is because the politicians who fancy even a remote chance of winning know that it is possible only if the votes of prominent opponents are split. They also make use of ‘willing' friends amongst senior bureaucrats, media personalities and businessmen to their advantage to ‘spill the beans' on opponents and their near and dear ones to ‘expose nepotism and corruption as well as amoral behavior' of their opponents.
The voters in India have been proven to be gullible on multiple occasions often prone to voting across lines on factor external to governance such as Caste, Religion etc. Since pleasing all or a majority of voter with meager budgetary resources, which again are already committed to maintenance of a bloated bureaucratic work force, is deemed to be almost impossible task and therefore politicians often rely on trapping ‘opponents' in legal quagmire and binding them in a plethora of often spurious and vague charges. To keep their own constituents happy they dole out political largesse in distribution of resources in abrupt and in-transparent manner. They also ensure in a divisive politics which keep voters divided across multiple segments so that they can emerge victorious with their carefully engineered vote bank.
Due to the enlisted factors, the politicians in ‘opposition' always find it hard to forecast the outcome of ‘Next Elections' since it is always difficult to assess the level of fragmentation that can be achieved by the Ruling class. Since the politician basically rely on ‘Image' rather than activities, achievements, processes & procedures of governance and Rules & regulations forwinning of elections, therefore it is almost impossible to say with any conviction as to what shall be outcome of any election. It is increasingly becoming evident that political parties will require a more evolved set of political workers ‘on field' who can at least ensure a basic set of necessities are delivered to people. A strong opposition needs to highlight things like pilferage, mis-management and mal-administration in a systematic manner at local government, the state as well as national level at a weekly/monthly basis. The government needs to ensure that the benefits of governance are ‘being delivered' by its officials and that they are receiving reliable feedback from their workers ‘on ground'.  
Image management in the face of an ever growing and vocal private media with eyes on public viewership is becoming almost unmanageable. While the Politicians in power continue to bank role the media through public exchequer expenditure as well as influencing ‘businessmen' to dole out advertisements to their preferred media groups; in order to maintain their Image. However, mushrooming of such media has resulted in public debate on ‘exposes' that make the politicians uncomfortable. Some of these politicians are resorting to ‘living in the state of denial' and feign ignorance of the misdeeds, blaming opposition of concocting stories. However it is increasingly becoming plain that the political parties need to reinvent themselves in the ‘new age' where some of the old rules seem to be changing. The youth of the country is seemingly becoming more vocal about the situation and is not bound by ‘traditions' or wedded to the old school of thinking. This youth constitutes a large chunk of votes and has potential to shift the political discourse in the country.
The senior politicians have increasingly come to realize that change in governance can be one of the important source to lay claim on ‘power' however the route in fraught with risks. It entails a change in current governance practices and thus hits a bureaucratic wall apart from regulatory and legal challenges and those of competing business interest. The political opponents of such changes are always out to exploit every small error and reap extensive mileage for the same, besides legitimizing a roll-back of the policy. There are existing ‘interests' of their friends in bureaucracy, businessmen and media including of the junior politicians including their businessmen friends who have bank rolled the ‘senior politicians on his way to power also needs to be taken into account while engineering such a change. The people opposed to such changes whether in opposition or one time supporters of the senior politician try to block every effort to make any change often exploiting internal dissent in the political party and using media to colour public perception about moves and motives of the politicians. A highly divisive politics coupled with a lack of culture for experimentation in governance ensures a change in governance is almost impossible. However, the point to ponder is how to effect such a change….
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