Vanishing ideological glue and defections

Anil Anand
Elections are the bedrock of any bubbling democracy and more so in India where it has flourished for over seven decades. But elections do bring out some ugly facets of the process as well and the ugliest being the heightened frequency with which political leaders of all hues, stature and sizes hop from party to party in quest of mandate to contest elections. This scenario is worsening by every election.
Do people join political parties only for the sake of contesting and winning elections or for any commitment to the particular party he or she joins or have been associated for decades or the people at large?
This is a very important question which is begging for an answer and which is not very hard to come by. The answer is an emphatic yes. You are in the party or remain its loyalist till the time your electoral aspirations and other demands are met or else- headed towards another destination.
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are no different in this context. The concept of ‘aaya ram… gaya rams..” which once had a very limited context to Haryana, in the 1970s and 1980s, has unfortunately become a national phenomenon with all its negative connotations now on full view. You can chose a political party of your choice strike a deal and get the mandate even if the one with which you were associated for years or decades ignores your claim.
Well, some fancying the liberalisation in its entirety might gleefully describe it to be the “liberalisation of politics”. It is certainly not a comforting idea for clean, honest and people oriented democratic process as mere power-play and that too to achieve one’s personal political ambitions is an anti-thesis to the idea of democracy and serving the people. Well, there is a catch here as the same people would vote and make the particular candidate victorious no matter what political party he or she chooses for their next electoral outing.
Party hopping with impunity- this strange and unwelcome transformation is gradually gripping the political scene. Why is it gaining currency by the day?
In layperson’s terms the total lack of commitment both on the part of political parties and individual politicians/political leaders, is the root cause. And on a more technical note the ideological borders have almost vanished leaving the field open for power-play of all varieties. The ideological thoughts acted as a glue of commitment that guided and kept intact an individual’s relationship with a particular political party. But no more! This relationship has undergone a change for the worst and there are no visible signs of this malady getting cured. On the contrary it is on the rise and getting worst.
The two last vestiges of ideological commitment and fervour were Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties. The latter, though having considerably shrunk in base as well the thought, is still holding on to the value but the BJP’s cookie has already crumbled on this front. The process of BJP’s ideological erosion started sometime before the 2104 Lok Sabha elections when leaders from Congress were given full-scale entry into the saffron party, got elected to the Lower House and were made ministers in the Narendra Modi Government. The same model was replicated by the BJP at the state levels. And the process has continued more vigorously this time around as well.
Once upon a time Congress and BJP were each other’s arch ideological rivals but the lines have now blurred. What was once hard to think about Congress leader joining BJP or vice versa, has now become a routine. Same is true about other parties namely Samajwadi Party, BSP, JD (U), JD(S), NCP etc vis a vis the BJP.
Credit or discredit goes to BJP for opening the floodgates encouraging defections from other parties though Congress had a past history and has dearly paid for it. Not that the other political parties are sacred and are beyond any such doubt. This liberalised thought among the political parties has led to weakening of ideological moorings and the glue has lost its grip to keep the followers bound to the particular thought or the party.
The political parties are more to be blamed for this mess than the individual political leaders. The ease with which one can join another party and get the party mandate to contest elections is the root cause. It is no more a surprise that a Congressman joining BJP or a BJP member joining Samajwadi Party and getting immediate nod from the new outfit to contest election.
It is because of this liberalised atmosphere that the party hopping has been gaining speed as soon as the elections draw nearer. Some of the sitting BJP MPs on denial of party ticket immediately managed the same from Samajwadi Party, BSP or Congress particularly in UP. Similar anyone of some consequence in the Congress feeling that the party was either not offering ticket to him/her or that it stood no chance in their respective states, had a ready offer from BJP. It is another matter some despite promises held out to them fail to get the ticket.
The foremost example of lack of public probity or commitment and ideological harakari is cine-star turned politician Shatrughan Sinha. Not that he joined Congress after decades of association with BJP but also had no remorse in announcing that he would be campaigning for his wife Poonam Sinha who is a Samajwadi Party candidate from Lucknow. This is despite the fact that Congress has already announced its candidate for this prestigious seat.
This becomes a glaring example as the person involved is of utmost prominence and known for his self-pronouncement to probity in public life. And there are many other lesser mortals such Tom Vaddkan and Priyanka Chaturvedi who left Congress to join BJP and Shiv Sena respectively after their claims for tickets were rejected.
The border line is that politics has become a commercial venture and means to garner power and wealth. It is far removed from the earlier dictum that political power was meant to serve the people. People who are considered primary to a democratic set up which is described as “for the people, of the people and by the people”, have been relegated to the backdrop in the prevailing scenario of mindless power play and machinations to contest elections.