Why politicians scurry around at election time, trying to snag votes they have done nothing to earn.
It’s election season again. Which means it’s time for politicians to drag themselves to their respective constituencies and with folded hands make the rather presumptuous demand, “vote for me,” in the general direction of a half-fawning, half-sniggering crowd (made to gather there by the candidate’s political party no doubt).
As an ordinary citizen, my immediate, if inadvertent, reaction to people asking for my vote is usually something like “Why should I, dude? Are you kidding me? Have you even seen the street I live on during the rains?” He probably hasn’t. Because, first of all, it is no longer a “street” in the strictest sense of the word. It has turned into a river, for God’s sake. Of course, the chief reason the candidate has not seen the seasonal waterway flowing past my house is that he doesn’t care enough to visit the area or to find out how the floods play havoc in my neighborhood, with unfailing reliability every monsoon.
Perhaps it is unfair to say that NO politician is ever doing any work. Some seek elected office sincerely intending to. But this breed seems to be too few in number and far between. We have almost come to expect the utter lack of accountability as the standard.
For example, each Member of Parliament receives several crores of rupees to serve the needs of the people they are supposed to represent. They don’t even have to be visionaries trying to bring about particularly dramatic changes in the lives of people, in terms of education, employment, urban renewal, environmental recovery, or whatever. But, given the funds at their disposal, is it too much to ask that they fix dilapidated roads and bridges or install basic drinking water connections in homes?
One wonders, what happens to all that money? Much of it, reportedly, remains unspent and is sent back to the source. Some of it, allegedly, gets pocketed by corrupt operators who put up sham schemes in an attempt to show expenditure.
My incredulity probably seems naïve to those inured to the idea that today’s politicians don’t even PRETEND that their motivation for entering politics is anything other than acquiring money and power.
We call them “netas” or “leaders” – and sometimes, if we are truly idealistic, we call them “public servants” – but in reality, they are just careerists trying to land a lucrative job. That’s it. That’s what drives them (with exceptions, of course). It’s not ideals, not civic duty, not even a sort of geeky interest in implementing their belief in a particular social or economic system, but just plain personal ambition and greed.
That’s why they get out on the campaign trail or on television and instead of focusing on issues that need attention, call each other names, point out each other’s faults and praise to high heaven their own supposed virtues. That’s why election time is reduced to a frantic chase for numbers. Somehow just get the votes. Beg, borrow, steal or even – as election history has sometimes shown – kill to get the votes.
It has never occurred to them that there actually is a much simpler way to get elected or re-elected. And that is: to do the work.
Much like the student who studies and learns in class throughout the academic term doesn’t need to cram for exams, a political party that has delivered good governance doesn’t need any big election-season shenanigans in order to get votes.