is more to an election than mere exit polls, opinion polls
and stars from tinsel world campaigning for parties. Elections
are about exercising choice - choice not merely about which
party should govern, but also about prioritizing the various
options that are available for the well-being of the society.
But often such prioritization takes a back seat as emotions
play a predominant role or the concerns/issues that matter
to the people do not come on to the center stage.
issues have come to the forefront during the current elections
- foreign origin, free power and secularism, to name a few.
An important issue that did not assume much importance was
the question of continued and growing inequality in India.
This inequality manifests itself in social and economic
realms. In the economic realm there is growing inequality
between regions and between different sections of population.
While the old license-permit-quota raj is being dismantled
for good, the emergent market economy is not particularly
helpful in reducing disparities. People who are equipped
to participate in the global market have benefited immensely
while the groups who have not acquired the requisite skills
or understanding of the market have been left behind. It
is precisely for this reason that today we have conflicting
slogans - "India Shining" and "Bharat Not
Shining". Both slogans capture parts of the same reality.
While some segments of populations of the urban India have
benefited from market economy and globalization, the vast
stretches of rural India, often referred to as Bharat, are
yet to experience the benefits of modernization. The growing
demand for smaller states and alleged discrimination of
certain regions in this country is a manifestation of these
inequalities. In the social realm, inequality is a consequence
of caste and gender discriminations. All the parties have
reiterated their commitment to greater representation of
women in legislatures. But there is no tangible action.
Further, the strategies to alter the socio-economic profile
of women were not debated. The necessity for structural
change or dismantling the central logic of caste system
or the strategies that are necessary to ensure equal opportunities
for all sections did not dominate election debates. Education,
health care and rule of law - the three essential ingredients
in a just society creating opportunities for vertical mobility
- have not been the main themes of any elections in India
so far. The continued inequalities will only result in discord
and strife, which is neither good for our democracy nor
for the growth of our economy.
a strong and vibrant state can address these challenges.
We need institutions which will breathe life into legislations
and scrupulously implement policies. However, the state
apparatus is plagued by unaccountability and inefficiency.
Tragically, all the parties have failed to clearly specify
steps that they would take to revitalize the bureaucratic
leviathan. Most promises therefore will be unkept. Anti-incumbency
is not merely a consequence of lack of will to deliver basic
services to the poor and needy. It is largely a consequence
of the inability to translate ideas into action due to institutional
degeneration. The need of the hour therefore is to revitalize
our State and its institutions.