A+| A| A-

In Search of Responsible Politics


The recently concluded Bihar assembly elections have once again brought into focus the ever-widening gap between what could be described as real politics and ideal politics. The “real” dimension of politics can be defined in terms of parochial political interests that are immediately realised using means that may lack a normative force. Thus, deploying empty rhetorics of appeal without reference to people’s concerns, strategic planning assisted by cunning calculation of caste numbers that become necessary to avoid difficult issues, and intriguing moves to become powerful even by cutting down to size not only the opposition but its own electoral partners constitute the negative substance of real politics. This real content of politics becomes ideal by some parties who seem to be using such a form repeatedly, with complete disregard for the noble aspects of politics. The repetitive use of such politics tends to convert the actual, that is, communal and parochial, into the ideal. Politics operating in such a real mode, however, fails to have an ennobling impact on the voters. In such a model, capturing political power for realising sectional interests even by gaining hold of a simple majority becomes a primary concern of some political parties. For the so-called national parties, achieving at least a simple majority even without putting substantive content in the election becomes a political ideal worth cherishing.

On the other end of the spectrum, the normative core of ideal politics, therefore, is to create a democratic ethos among both the voters as well as the political leaders. Voting has to be made as one of the most responsible acts that has to be necessarily exercised in crafting the ethos of democracy. It is needless to emphasise that the future of democracy depends on the creation of such ethos; ethos that is defined in terms of the degree to which the internalisation of democratic values takes place among the citizens. Such ethos defends these values by taking a moral initiative without waiting for the lead from political leaders. Citizens as voters should campaign among themselves for the candidates who can genuinely promise to strengthen such an ethos.

Politics with an idealist orientation is necessarily built up around the distributive principle of justice and values of equality and dignity. Making political judgments and decisions commensurate with such ideals, thus, becomes a moral responsibility of both the voters and the political parties. In fact, parties do have higher levels of responsibility to convert these ideals not only into an agenda for election campaigns but also to involve voters into the collective project of creating a democratic ethos, not just periodically but almost on an everyday basis. Voters as citizens, however, have their own responsibility to impress upon the leaders to integrate this agenda into their politics of electoral mobilisation. Citizens have a fundamental responsibility to seize the deliberative opportunity to not only create and stay with the democratic ethos but also exert necessary moral pressure simultaneously on the political leaders to take equal responsibility to create and participate in the creation of democratic ethos. Did it not happen in the recently held presidential elections in the United States?

Deliberation is a two-way process between the citizens and the leaders and among the citizens themselves. It is this deliberation that has a bearing on the emergence of the truth of an electoral verdict. It is in this sense that the democratic deliberation over the electoral choices constitutes a long-cherished project for deepening democratic ethos.

In the recently held Bihar election campaign, the issue-based deliberation between the voters and the leaders from the opposition parties was evident. This was reflected in the huge turnout of voters in the election meetings that were addressed particularly by some of the leaders from the opposition parties. This deliberation, however, was mediated or processed through common intuition that motivated voters to directly perceive truth that they found in the promises of the leaders from the opposition.

Arguably, among the contenders in the election campaign, the opposition parties were vocal in giving vent to such a value-based agenda. For example, the agenda to provide jobs to the people at the local level was to make the outmigration unnecessary. Migration to other places brings some benefits but at the moral cost of facing the experience of humiliation at the host locations. Similarly, providing health and market facilities to the people and the farmer respectively is to establish the principle of social justice.

The election campaign that is held by some parties without even a rhetorical reference to difficult issues faced by the people of Bihar or the focus exclusively on caste and communalism cannot be expected to lead to the creation of democratic ethos. Sharing a larger cause with others would motivate one to participate in the campaign against those who have only diatribes and caste prejudice on their side. In the Bihar election, this reciprocal agenda did work out between the caste and party political interests, eventually producing a simple majority in favour of a particular party. This actually disrupts the democratic politics, a politics based on issues rather than emotions.


Updated On : 24th Nov, 2020


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top