For Voters’ understanding: Inconvenient Truths about Party Candidates, Citizen Candidates & Independents
With election campaigning in full swing, political parties and candidates of various kinds are projecting themselves in an idealistic light and coming to our doorstep. But let us be clear, elections are not about idealism. People driven by ideology are in a minority when it comes to contesting elections. A majority are driven by ‘realpolitiks’.
So, amidst all the shouting and campaigning, let us and take a long hard look at the realities around us. Let us analyze the meaning of voting for:
1) independent candidate
2) ‘citizen candidate’ put up by a ‘citizens platform’ like Mumbai 227
3) candidates of a ‘citizens party’ like Loksatta
4) ruling party candidates
5) opposition party candidates
6) regional / sectional parties like Dalit parties, Shiv Sena, MNS etc.
7) fringe parties and leftist parties
Here are some inconvenient & unspoken truths:
- A PARTY CANDIDATE is subservient to his political masters who gave him the election ticket, and to the businessmen who are providing him black money, vehicles, premises and manpower for campaigning. A party candidate is not like any ordinary citizen. His thinking and speech are not truly free. If he is in Shiv Sena or MNS, he pits the interests of Marathi manoos against others like North Indians living in Maharashtra. If the same man moves to Congress, he talks in a secular or pseudo-secular way. If the same person goes to BJP, he starts sounding like a votary of Hindutva. And no matter what his party affiliation, he is the friend of anybody who gives him money, influence and power.
A party candidate is not a person who obeys his inner conscience. Inner party politics conditions him to be a party karyakarta or party-worker. In party politics, only the topmost people are netas. Netas are allowed to exercise their mind, subject to the pleasure of the topmost authority. Karyakartas are only allowed to exercise their loyalties, not their minds or their right to free speech. (Exercising your right to free speech can get you thrown out very quickly).
A party candidate is grateful and subservient to his political masters, but he will also be treacherous and cunning. The atmosphere within parties is like that of feudal Mughal or Rajput kingdoms; the only way to rise to the top is to kill (figuratively speaking) your own brothers, jail your father, betray your close friends and make secret deals with the enemy.
- The candidate of MAINSTREAM POLITICAL PARTIES (Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena & MNS) is a master of manipulation and string-pulling. If the candidate did not have expertise in climbing over the heads of other people, he wouldn’t have got the party ticket. He/she is an accomplished liar, far better than his competitors. If he promises you anything, rest assured, it means absolutely nothing. The only promises that he will possibly honour are promises to his political godfathers and also campaign-fund-providers -- cash-rich hoteliers, builders etc.
- The SHIV SENA & MNS candidate has a history of violent behavior and unlawful assemblies. Defending the rights and honour of the son-of-the-soil is an excuse for mobilizating mobs, usually from slums. SS and MNS have their place in the sun only because of their divisive agenda and unlawful behaviour. Fear is their chosen instrument. For decades, they have made local Maharashtrians feel like underdogs, and provoked unthinking masses into acts of mob violence for ‘defending their rights’. Fed with tales of Shivaji’s valour, your friendly neighbourhood Shiv Sainik candidate justifies violence and aggression. He is not a peaceful and democratic man who likes dialogue and discourse. He may have a deep-seated contempt for both the naïve Marathi monoos who takes his promises at face value, as well as ‘outsiders’ towards whom he is courteous because he wants their votes.
In the party office discussions, the party’s election strategists have analysed each segment of his constituency and each building, drawing distinctions between Marathi brahmins, lower casetes, UP-bhaiiya, Gujarati etc. These distinctions are deeply etched in the candidate’s mind. So, when he approaches you on his house-to-house rounds, please remember: in his eyes, you are not a citizen of India or of Maharashtra, but a Maharastrian or non-Maharashtrian, Brahmin or non-Brahmin, Hindu or non-Hindu. (This is also true of dalit parties such as SAMAJWADI PARTY and BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY. In varying degrees, this holds true for all parties, including Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.)
Please remember why your Sena candidate has got the ticket; it is not for being a good and peaceful citizen. Chances are, he has got his ticket as a reward for organizing acts of political terrorism such as blackening the face of a school principal, smashing up the office of a newspaper editor, burning buses and cars on the street, or beating up shopkeepers who defy bandh calls. Or he has got the ticket for being unquestioningly loyal to the Thackeray family. There can be no third reason.
- BJP CANDIDATE sees the electorate as saffron and non-saffron. In the war-room discussions before setting out for campaigning, the BJP cadres study and classify neighbourhoods and individuals in terms of their Hindutva-quotient. They qualify people as hardcore Hindu voters, soft (secular) Hindus, soft minorities e.g. Christians who may vote for BJP, and fringe (‘secular’) muslims, who may vote BJP.
- CITIZEN CANDIDATE is probably naïve and uninformed. He is like a non-swimmer thrown into the deep end of the pool. The citizens’ platforms that have encouraged him to jump into the fray may have equipped him with just enough information on how to get into the water; they may have not have had the time to actually tell him how to swim. On the positive side, however, he has good intentions and a conscience. He is not answerable to any political master, and he is not manipulative. So, if he gets elected, he may mature into a good politician with some encouragement and hand-holding. But has he previously even thought about the nation’s problems, or even his neighbourhood’s civic problems? The answer may greatly vary from one candidate to another. In many cases, the citizens’ candidate is basically motivated by money and power like everyone else.
- CITIZENS’ PARTY (e.g. Loksatta) candidates are not necessarily different from Citizen candidates. They too have been fishing in the same pool of citizen candidates, and have picked up some candidates very late. So, there isn’t too much difference. Does the candidate understand the nation’s problems? Maybe yes, if they have picked a genuine activist. However, if the candidate has emerged from the ranks, all the shortcomings of a Party candidate may apply to him i.e. he may be a loyal party animal, an accomplished liar and manipulator etc.
- INDEPENDENTS are not necessarily honest; many of them are SPOILERS. Their motives for standing for elections may be dishonest e.g. splitting the vote of a stronger candidate, or extorting money for withdrawing nomination. In some constituencies, there are scores of independent candidates, and most of them are not naïve and clueless aspirants. Minority candidates especially, with caste-specific or religion-specific names (like Sawant, Jadhav, Parmar, D’Souza and Syed) may be there to eat into the vote-banks of genuine candidates. Some such candidates withdraw after being paid off by the genuine candidate or his party. The transaction may be a few lakh rupees, or more.
- PARTY-SPONSORED SPOILERS are independent candidates propped up by political parties. For example, BJP-Sena may sponsor Khan to divert Congress votes. Congress may retaliate by sponsoring a Khanvilkar to steal their votes. Then they may enter into negotiations – you withdraw Khan and we will withdraw Khanvilkar.
- REBEL CANDIDATES are usually those who were not given the party ticket. They contest as independents only to break the votes of their rival candidate who got the ticket. Such candidates don’t fight to win, they fight to make their partymen lose, and to divert the energies of their party workers during the election campaigning.
- PROXY REBEL CANDIDATES are propped up by disgruntled partymen. Some independent candidates are secretly propped up by rebels, or by political parties themselves, to break the vote banks of rival political parties.
- BJP-SENA SEAT-SHARING FALLOUTS are proving costly to both BJP and Sena. In constituencies where, say, the Sena candidate has had to stand down in favour of the BJP candidate, he may be working to make the BJP guy lose. To make this happen, he secretly campaigns against the BJP candidate, by mobilizing his supporters in favour of one or more rival candidates (independents or otherwise).
- MAHARASHTRA NAVNIRMAN SENA candidate is there to make the Shiv Sena candidate lose by dividing Maharastrian votes. He is not there to himself win. This is an open secret, and the partymen are themselves saying this. In this sense, MNS is a spoiler party.
Elections are full of these undercurrents that voters are ignorant about. Theraja-praja mindset is nurtured in the political parties – the training ground for our future legislators and municipal corporators. In every political party, karyakartas exactly follow commands blindly - duty without authority. Netas can't stomach any other sort of equation. And sadly, the political class as a whole – whether neta or karyakarta – has scant respect for civil society, whom they perceive as naïve and uninformed. They do not consider We The People as rulers, and themselves as servant. They consider themselves as rulers; we are just there to be fooled and exploited by them.
During the campaigning, it may seem as though the campaigners and candidates who come to your doorstep with folded hands hold you in high esteem. That is an appearance; don’t be fooled.
We The People have no choice but to vote. But let us vote without being under illusions, with our eyes wide open.