The weather was clement, harvesting the rabi is still a few weeks away, so standard alibis do not hold water. True that the outcomes of the by-polls to the Lok Sabha from UP would hardly impact the political equation in the premier legislature, but both the Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats had a degree of prestige ~ yet the voter turnout on Sunday was moderate.
That an average of 10 per cent fewer votes were cast when contrasted with 2014 raises a query: are people tiring of frequent jousts at the ballot box? Maybe the two contests in UP and one in Bihar were deemed low-key because the Prime Minister did not campaign there ~ and with the Congress happy to be among the also-rans in UP the absence of Rahul Gandhi was inconsequential.
Yet with elections to key state legislatures in the offing, and the big one due next year, the signs of voter-fatigue setting in cannot be ignored. No, the democratic system is not cracking up, the right to franchise remains as cherished as ever but there is cause to suspect that people are getting a trifle tired of conventional politicking, and the now customary cross-trading of charges, vicious damning of rivals, and even ~ as was alleged during the campaigning in Araria (Bihar) ~ that not ensuring the victory of a particular party would mean converting the constituency into an ISIS outpost.
As things stand the major parties stoop to any level to garner votes. Legal sanction has been accorded to polarisation, which translates into dividing the electorate on the basis of religion, caste, community and several of the other negatives that the framers of the Constitution had hoped their essay would eliminate from society (let it not be forgotten that one major political force tends to ridicule elements of that celebrated statute).
Pointing accusing fingers in any direction would serve no purpose ~ the political system must be collectively condemned. If polarisation were not bad enough, money and muscle power add supporting fire to the demolition of the democratic edifice ~ it is more than statues that are torn down. For a brief while the Election Commission has raised hopes of stemming the rot, but that tiger looks toothless now.
There is a talk in the air of simultaneous Parliamentary and Assembly polls: that might lower the political temperatures which now continually simmer, but whether such a huge exercise would be financially and administratively possible is an open question.
The danger is that since this country votes in waves a critical check-and-balance of a democracy will be eliminated. Maybe it will require divine intervention to re-jig political priorities, winning an election must be only the start of the democratic process. Alas, political myopia perceives it as the culmination … Nehru, Shastri and Vajpayee had more noble priorities.