Campaign India 2014: Dream Merchants Recycle and Again Unleash Failed Dreams

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Philadelphia – Campaign season is in full swing in India. However, it looks like it is blooming on the wrong side of the garden of the campaign, quite away from the view of the public eye. If it remains consistently on the same track, citizens might have another round of disappointment, irrespective of which party wins the election, without a clear mandate on how to uplift the nation to the path of real prosperity.

It is so ironic to see that all participating political parties have not evolved with the changing trends in the electorate and its expectations. They faithfully believe in their marketing machines and that they have the skills and resources to market their own agenda and they create fear through a negative campaign and eventually convert the average Joe in the country to vote for them in a winning column. It is a great idea on paper, but it is a grievous error to assume anything less on their average Joe. The average voter in India is a pretty tough customer and an equally savvy character among all major democratic societies.

Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) – both major parties – have made few grave errors either in running the administration on state and central levels or ignoring the plight of average citizens in daily life. There is enough discussion on those issues in the media so there is no need to elaborate any further here. Then there is an important ingredient which needs attention which is called “humility and honesty in admittance” of any error – intentional or not.

Governor Chris Christie (New Jersey), on the election eve for his second term, was asked by the media about his view on how President Obama should handle the current health care crisis in the implementation of programs. He simply said that Obama should not reason on its failure like a lawyer. Voters don’t like so much preaching from the pulpit. Simply admit the error with an apology, correct the situation and move on. The message is true for any time, any election and any political outfit.

Campaigns falter sometimes, but making it progressively ugly usually is a work of art from many hands all around. So seeing Sardar Patel’s name being trounced in an ugly discussion is never seen kindly on any party by people of all colors and creeds. Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Subhash Chandra Bose and Co. are a national treasure. They did not just sacrifice their life for the nation, but they also saved the day for India when she needed it so badly. Any national hero should not be judged on the length of their contribution. Their premature demise is a loss to the nation, not a matter of passing hypothetical judgment to draw battle lines.

We all need a little revision in a few lines here on the history of politics in India’s past century. There was a patriotic fervor represented by men and women from all walks of life under one national flag and one party, called the “Congress Party.” The goal was common – freedom of India from British Rule. The party had no other agenda on the card then. So it was Mahatma Gandhi’s advice one time to disband the party after Independence, but it did not happen. So the Congress party in post-independent India is not the same makeup as the earlier version. In fact, the Congress of today represents just a skeleton of an original beautiful face, which had gone through hundreds of cosmetic surgeries over many decades. So, one should refrain from comparing leaders and parties from different eras. Leave the concept of patriotism to individual belief as it is fruitless for any conclusion.

Campaigns are never a matter of simplicity. India has evolved as a commendable democracy. However, she needs continuous improvements on a road to maturity. There are guidelines with cardinal rules which need to be observed by all political entities in the race for winning a national election.

Respecting the leader of the opposition and his or her party is an added value to the democratic process. Drive the point with civility, however sharp and different it looks in comparison. The electorate has the capacity to absorb any issue in its entirety. Any cacophony added to the participation hurts performance on any noble task. No party really needs to recruit party-poopers who help pooh-pooh directionless battles, either offensively or without injecting any new idea in the orientation of issues. It is the job of leadership to navigate a tight ship.

A serious issue is not just significant to citizens alone; it must be a focus of the overall campaign. Voters do not want just to know about them, they want to find how much knowledge the politicians have and how they would handle those issues for any resolution.

Let us not forget about the real issues of the day. Pale economic growth combined with staggering inflation and all national security concerns on all fronts should be the concerns with top priority for the current government and for the next term. There are a few elephants in the room – one is rampant corruption and the other is polarization of society. Inaction of any government or citizens contributes to corrosion of the national fabric only. Many hands in politics have done a great job there in creating a monster, so the blame is all around; but inaction on the healing process and any reconciliation would reverse any gain made by the country. It is not a pretty picture.

If any lesson on campaigning is learned here, it would be exercised by all politicians and media professionals collectively. There are plenty of hipsters (educated or not) in this sphere of influence who are willing to take aim at minor issues intensely, while completely missing or misfiring at serious issues affecting the daily life of citizens. Targeting the message without misfiring while leaving the messenger alone, may prove a first step in the process of the art of healing.

Kirit Desai
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Kirit Desai  had post graduate degrees from India & USA both - in multiple disciplines. After spending almost 30 years in R & D (as Research Scientist) and research management at a prestigeous Ivy League University, moved into Financial field for past decade & enjoys reading/writing in international business, politics, sports and science/technology. He lives in Delaware valley near Philadelphia.

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