Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Make Elections About More


Either the political parties are hesitant to set poll agendas or the media is failing in getting the parties in the fray to come on record with substantive issues which work beyond the immediacy of catchy headlines. How else can one explain press briefings by the two main parties for Elections 2014 in Sikkim which focus on what has been written about them in the papers or what is trending on social media? On Tuesday, the SDF press briefing was about what was reported in papers about what an SKM spokesperson said about what he believed the SDF president had said! And SKM, for the second day running, sought to explain why there is only one woman in the 33 tickets awarded by the party for the 12 April elections. Needless to add, both sessions provided hacks with some quotable quotes readymade for banner headlines. But did either exercise add anything to the public’s requirement of understanding where the two parties stand beyond their more than proven many times over hatred for each other? Let us get some things out of the way – with only two and half weeks left for the elections, there is no more need to command news-space with derisive putdowns of each other. As mentioned, everyone in Sikkim knows that there is no love lost between SDF and SKM and unless they are going to praise each other [which would definitely make news], they should lay off each other and focus on themselves and their proposals for Sikkim. Similarly, after they have decided and released their candidate list, they need not keep returning to defences of how fair and balanced their list is because by doing so, they keep the door open on a debate which they cannot argue very convincingly. Joinings and partings, unless of significant leaders, and hoisting and taking down of flags can also be skipped because apart from being unverified claims, even these do nothing to further the public need to understand where the parties stand on specific issues. Agreed, maybe if papers could comment on more significant aspects of the campaign, the parties will come forward with more meaningful briefings. It is time that people were informed clearly about, say, the policy for agriculture. SDF should explain where it intends to go next with the Organic Mission and SKM should come on record with where it stands on Organic farming. Clear stands on education, the industrial policy, urban planning, tourism, administrative reforms etc need to spelled out at the policy level, not investment or token commitments. Then people will be able to differentiate between the parties on ideological grounds and decide on similar lines. Given the way the politics is being played at present, people are expected to decide on the next government based on personal likes and dislikes. Elections have to be made to mean about more… 

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