The power of NO (elections 2014)

None of the above option.  photo courtesy Indian Express
None of the above option. photo courtesy Indian Express

The refrain of the Sam Cooke anthem keeps playing in my head: “It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will”

In just three days, Bangaloreans will be choosing their MPs, hopefully for a full-term. Many voters are still undecided, and for most, the moment of reckoning will arrive when they are up close to the ballot boxes.

Below are the impressions I have formed after meeting a cross-section of people – shopkeepers, domestic workers, school teachers, tech workers, entrepreneurs and students. I modified my original plan of trailing candidates of all parties as I heard them all at the BPAC citizens meet. I have stuck to evaluating three political parties – BJP, Congress and AAP.

Yes, everybody is agreed that we need a strong government. But who will bring it? How can we help bring the change? These are the questions that frustrate many citizens.

Modi, the strong patriarch, seems to be gaining ground. So what if he left his child bride? Sacrifice and suffering are much revered in our country. Several people are inclined to give him a chance simply because against a weak and pusillanimous government, Vibrant Gujarat holds its own.

Some have a very real fear of religious polarization that makes BJP a not very welcome option. Even if they could be convinced that fears of communal divides are exaggerated, the track record of the BJP government in our state of Karnataka is abysmal, and the re-admittance of Yediyurappa and his backers is beyond the pale. Crony capitalism and corruption will not end under Modi sarkaar. Adani will join the ranks of Ambani, is all the change that’s going to happen, they say.

If the argument were for a strong Opposition to counterbalance the Modi sarkaar, the Congress would be the party to vote for. But yet again, the Nehru Gandhi dynasty looms large with Priyanka now being touted as the knight in shining armour who will ride out to rescue the party in distress.

The Congress seems unable to read the writing on the wall. People do not respect a party that is clinging to the pallu of a family. “How many reluctant Prime Ministers should we suffer? Its senior leaders are guilty of propagating a puppet regime. What of the able candidates in the fray for this elections – they would very well be sucked into the Congress internal quicksand and be ineffective.” – This is the gist of people’s complaints. The lesson for the Congress to ponder upon after the elections is to consider letting the Nehru-Gandhi scions retire from politics and leave the party to manage by itself. It will have to learn to survive without them.

While AAP stands for all the right things, Kejriwal is a loose cannon, and has unfortunately become the butt of jokes after Slapgate. Can AAP overcome the teething problems, or even a replace a leader if he becomes more of a liability?

Increasingly, NOTA is gaining ground. Rejecting the devil, the deep blue sea and an unpredictable new leader is a valid and empowering choice too. If people, who reject all the politicians before them, would still come out to exercise their vote and choose None of the Above, this will be a powerful action. If sufficient numbers do this, it will signal to the parties that the old ways won’t work.

May be then, a change will come.