From the archives: The Sacred Ritual of Elections

Change is not something that arises out of random chance. If the underlying factors that motivate the electorate don’t change, the outcome will be the same. If party A promoted a certain set of policies as a result of a set of constraints, another party B will have to also adopt the same or a very similar set of policies as well. Why? Because the underlying reality is the same.

When the BJP came to power, they did exactly what the previous government had done. The details differ in some but inconsequential ways. Then when the BJP went out and the Congress came back, they did what the BJP had done.

The unfortunate fact is that India is trapped in what we should call a low-level equilibrium. India has the governance it has because that was what was handed down to India. Of the three freedoms — economic, personal, and political — that matter to people, some in India got some degree of political freedom with the departure of the British. It is not even very clear whether political freedom in the absence of personal and economic freedom has any meaning. If I cannot live my personal life without being dictated to by others, and if I am at the verge of chronic starvation, I don’t know what political freedom really means in this context, or what good it can do.

By keeping the people economically imprisoned, but allowing them the right to vote, there is an illusion of change.

[This was written just a little over 10 years ago, March 2009. Go read The Sacred Ritual of Elections.]

Author: Atanu Dey


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