This round of elections in five states is finally over today and India will get a break from being in election mode for a year. It’s been too long an election process that, everything else took a back seat including our war on Covid. The counting is still on as I write this but the broad trends are clear. Since there are pundits galore in theorising on the results, I will skip that for the moment. Instead, in this post, I would like to list a few take aways on the whole elections, not just the results of this round of elections.
Here we go:
- Anti-Incumbency as the pièce de résistance among theories for explaining a result is passé: In the past, analysts would always just dismiss any defeat of an incumbent government by ascribing to “Anti-Incumbency” as if it was extremely legitimate and acceptable. A few decades ago, it is true that incumbent governments were thrown out 7 out of 10 times. But, that’s no more the case. As we have seen in this round, 3 out of 5 governments have been re-elected. In Bengal, TMC has won a third consecutive term. It all boils down to quality of governance and what people feel about the next best option. Anti-Incumbency is no more an excuse. And Pro-Incumbency is a virtue.
- Hawa, Leher, Mahoul exist only in the minds of commentators: This is increasingly becoming the case in social media driven journalism. As we saw in UP in 2017, Karnataka in 2018 and now Bengal this time, mainstream media and social media can create their own “Waves” and “Hawa” that is far away from situation on the ground. So, making predictions and conclusions based on social media trends, Youtubers’ narratives and mainstream media commentary is fraught with a lot of risks.
- Opinion Polls and Exit Polls are for entertainment only: This we have seen time and again now and doesn’t need much explanation. For almost all agencies, getting the polls right has a huge amount of luck riding on it. If they get it right, it’s their day. That’s all. In a diversified country like ours, statistical samples however scientific they are, have proven to be inconclusive. So, opinion polls and exit polls are a lottery. Even in this round, no agency predicted the scale of Mamata win and almost all predicted a tough fight.
- Voters vote for Lok Sabha and State polls on their own merits: This is getting very conclusive by every election. In one of my earlier articles for Newslaundry (Read here), I had explained this with quite a few examples. In this round as well, we can see this aspect quite established in Bengal and Kerala.
- Time for building consensus around One Nation – One Poll: This is linked to my last point as well. Now that we can see clearly that voters are indeed intelligent and vote as per merit in Lok Sabha and state elections, many of the regional parties and even the Congress which have their apprehensions that it will be only “Advantage BJP” if India opts for simultaneous elections, should shed the same and have a re-think for the sake of larger national interest. It is obvious that elections every year or twice a year are a huge distraction for governance. Also it is a drag on the resources for any government. Both the government and the parties can save a lot of money and time if we have simultaneous elections. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds, but there should be a national debate on the same and a consensus built around this so that at least in the next 10 years we can move in this direction. My personal opinion is, if not simultaneous polls, at least we should move towards “One Nation, Two polls” by having Lok Sabha Polls once and all State polls together after 2.5 years.
- Limit the number of phases to 3 or 4 for any state: I don’t think there is any country in the world that conducts its elections over two months in eight long phases. The phase wise polling was conceived by T.N.Seshan when he was the Chief Election Commission mainly to counter violence and election related mal practices so that the EC can muster central forces and conduct free and fair polls. But those were the days of ballot papers where the chances of rigging were higher. Also in today’s times of EVMs and of course prevalence of Smart technology, ways and means need to be found for conducting free and fair elections in 3 or 4 phases in any state and eventually one phase.
- Limit for expenses in an election is a joke: It is high time, the limits are re-visited. Also new limits need be prescribed for self, party and total expenses. It wll be good to take a look at best practices in other democratic countries on this and come up with a model for future.
- Huge market opens up for political strategists and IPAC type organisations: This is not a new take away based on today’s results. But today’s results cement this proposition beyond doubt. It is no longer enough for parties to depend on their loyal karyakartas to carry our ground work. Parties need strategists and organisations to hold a mirror to them and carry out smart work in the field using data, analytics, technology and tools. It is not that an external strategist or marketing can save a bad product. But even a good product in today’s competitive times need adequate marketing cover. And therefore, the market for political strategists and political consulting companies in India has expanded. So it is as a career for youngsters in election management and related marketing. And Marketing works.
- Last but not the least, EVMs are not instruments in the hands of those in power: I hope the debate around EVMs is put to rest conclusively now that opposition has also won spectacularly.
As you can see half of the points are related to the way elections are being conducted in India. After a round of reforms which Seshan initiated during his tenure, we have not seen much of electoral reforms. It is now time for the country to build consensus around electoral reforms and introduce them to keep our status as a vibrant democracy.
Image Courtesy: Firstpost.
It appears that we are quite well entrenched in the Season of the Silly! What else will you say if what you see and hear all around is manifestation of the trivial when actually there are other pressing issues? So here we are when the ship called Indian economy is at its wobbly best and sailing without a direction or rather in the wrong direction, we have its crew speculating and rumour mongering about who will be next occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan! Oh India, the race for the Raisina Hill has begun!
So I thought I will add my 2 cents to this silly debate and throw my
Hat choice into the ring. And my choice to be the next President of India would be none other than the King Khan – Shah Rukh Khan and why not?
- After all, he has the most important credential required to be even considered for the post of President in India – i.e. belonging to the minority community. In India, of late it has become a minimum criterion that the incumbent must add to some kind of tokenism. So he/she has to be either a Muslim or the 1st woman president or 1st Dalit president, 1st Sikh president…,…
- India in the past has had teachers as presidents, lawyers as presidents, politicians as presidents, missile scientist as president but never a person from fine arts! So SRK can become the 1st Actor president and people would love it!
- There are some ‘pawar’ful voices in the political spectrum which say that the next president should be “apolitical”. I’m sure SRK fits this definition aptly.
- After A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the public at large wants to see a person who can be inspiring and can be a role model for the youth of today. For a country with an average age of 26 years and 65% below the age of 35, I’m certain its youth would like to see a person from among themselves to inspire. Who else than SRK who though in his mid-40’s is still actually playing roles of a 30 something quite regularly!
- He is also known to make inspiring speeches. Just the other day I happen to watch his inspiring speech as a coach to the wards in ‘Chak de” à la Al Pacino in “Any Given Sunday”! Not to mention of his recent speech in the Yale University!
- The kind of positive imagery Bollywood has created about India abroad no other campaign however “Incredible” though, has managed. So why not give Bollywood its due by pushing one of its stars to the top post?
- The President of India is the Supreme commander of the Armed forces. So why not have a person who will be liked by the men who defend the country simply because of the way he salutes the people he meets?
- He will also be adored by the jawans since they can be sure that SRK will not engage in any land grabbing of land meant for them post his retirement as President! He already owns a landmark in ‘Mannat’!
- Mumbaikars will be happy if SRK becomes the president. “Mannat” will be made a National monument and the now narrow approach towards Band stand and the sea face will get a face lift!
- Elders and people of the previous generation often lament that In Delhi only the Netas, Babus and their families attend the Republic day function and today’s youngsters don’t even watch the Republic parade on TV. If SRK becomes the president I’m sure Delhi Administration will find it difficult to manage the crowds and TRPs on Doordarshan on R-Day will hit the roof!
- Just the other day one of the most powerful youth icons of India – Sachin Tendulkar was honoured by the ruling party by nominating him to the Rajya Sabha. So why not now honour another youth icon SRK by nominating him as their candidate for Presidency?
- I can’t imagine how the women in the country will react to SRK becoming the President. President Shah Rukh, cho chweet yaar,…blah, blah,
- One thing is sure. If SRK’s name is put forward by the Congress they can be sure of support from
- Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi party – SRK is a Muslim and automatically they cannot oppose!
- Mamata Banerjee – SRK is the brand ambassador for West Bengal oops ‘Poschim Bonga’ and after all he also owns the Kolkatta team in the IPL. So SRK is very much a Bong than anything else!
- BJP –Though he is a Muslim, he is basically a Hindu “Rahul” in movies and propagates Hindu family values whether its KKHH, K3G or DDLJ! Also SRK acted in “Nationalistic” movies like Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Swades and Chak de!
- Sharad Pawar’s NCP – will support as long as SRK is apolitical which he is!
- DMK’s Karunanidhi – Being from filmy background has always held the view that film stars mirror the society. In India film stars have not crossed beyond the “Chief Minister” frontier. So he would like to see that broken in his lifetime and a film star becoming a Raja oops President!
- ADMK’s Jayalalitha – If Congress announces SRK as its candidate, “Amma” will quickly endorse the same –fearing otherwise Karunanidhi may push one of his family members for the post in exchange for continuing support to UPA!
- Communists – SRK had of late taken a lot of potshots at the Americans after being detained repeatedly by the US Immigration. This one reason is enough for the communists to pledge their support to SRK!
So with support to SRK’s candidature almost being assured by the majority, Congress can redeem its stature as the ruling party and avoid another embarrassment.
For SRK himself, accepting the nomination of the president and becoming one will be another feather in his overcrowded cap.
- Next time he visits the US, he will have a separate diplomatic channel and need not have to waste his precious time at the airport on arrival repeating “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist” to the US Immigration authorities!
- All his past movies will get another round of release All India after he becomes the President and I’m sure most states will extend Tax exemption for the tickets! So some of the movies which had tanked in the past can get a second run for the distributors!
- After being at the top for so many years, of late his career is facing end-life crisis with movies like Ra one ending as a wrong one. Becoming a president could be an honourable exit for his career.
So I urge the think tank of Congress to approbate Shah Rukh as their presidential candidate Dil Se and history will judge this as the single largest contribution of this party to the country! I hope Congress will take cognisance of this “Silly point”!
P.S: One person who will be upset if SRK becomes the President will be Farhan Akhtar. He cannot make Don-3 because Congress has caught the Don and made him the President!!