These are interesting times. These are abnormal times. The air around us is saturated with politics. It is unusual for a country to go into poll mode this early. The general elections are still a good seven months away but India is already in the thick of election games - in fact, these started almost a year ago.
Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the campaign spearheads of the BJP and the Congress respectively, have already started criss-crossing the country, kicking dormant party workers into action and wooing the prospective voter. If the upcoming assembly elections were the focus, they would not be wasting their energies in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere at this point.
There is a hint of desperation in both national parties and it shows. However, one cannot blame them much. Being political outfits they would do what they are supposed to do, strive for power through mass mobilisation.
What catches notice however, is the involvement of outsiders even at this early stage. Almost everybody is in poll mode. Television anchors and editors are making otheir party preferences open through mischievously angled debates and panel discussions. Ethically suspect pre-poll surveys with a thinly veiled design to influence voters are out in full force - there’s no accusation here, it’s all part of the game.
The online media is already in a state of frenzy and the trolls are defining political expressiveness in newer ways every passing hour.
No political constituency in the urban space wants to be left out in the great political churn. Students and the young want to be heard, as do housewives, the elderly and the slum-dwellers. Clearly, something has changed at a fundamental level. The scale of public interest in politics is at a new high, and so is the sense of participation. The communication and information revolutions have certainly played a part.
But also give credit to activists Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal for infusing the spirit of defiance into the common man. Whatever the case, change is in the air. The noise around makes us aware
Ideally, it should be a welcome development. But is it?
There are signs that we are getting too obsessed with politics, the electoral aspect of it, not its qualitative aspect. How healthy is it for the democracy when the country is perpetually waiting for the next elections? In the era of coalitions, governments, walking on a wafer thin margin as they are, would be shaky.
When a coalition of external forces - the media, the civil society and parties outside the government - mount an unrelenting attack on them with a political agenda on mind, the scope for the latter to discharge responsibilities with any sense of freedom gets restricted. A cornered government would be risk-averse and defensive in its approach.
The problems the UPA government is confronted with could well happen to the next government too. There are already talks of the possibility of another general election in 2017. Can the country afford this climate of uncertainty? It is better that the elections and political games being played by all are left to election time - five months should be enough to make a political point and influence the public perception.
Political parties can prepare for elections all the time but the politicisation of the normal discourse by external agencies could wait.
Participation of more people in the political process is alright, but this does not automatically translate into improvement in the content of the political discourse. The discourse, one is afraid, remains frivolous to a large extent.
With the involvement of so many youngsters we should be noticing some free thinkers with independent views on issues already. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A big section of those active on social media, the favoured vehicle of thought for the new generation, give the impression that it is manipulatable. It identifies easily with extreme and escapist views. If you thought the interest in politics among the youth is a robust trend, a look at social media behaviour throws the dampener quickly.
Is India getting more aware politically? There is no clear answer yet. It is certainly getting more politicised. That is decidedly unhealthy for the democracy.
Like we said earlier, these are abnormal times. But then maybe the abnormal is the new normal now.
Updated Date: Oct 25, 2013 07:45 AM