Managing an Election: The Hindu Editorial

Managing an Election: The Hindu Editorial

In Karnataka, political one-upmanship has driven the concerns of the State to the backstage
While the major contenders on the political scene in Karnataka — the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) — are yet to release their manifestos, the full-blast campaign that they have unleashed has made it amply clear that their priority does not lie in mounting a programme and seeking their mandate, and eventually accountability on that ground, but merely in winning the elections.
Managing an Election The Hindu Editorial

Sound bite games

They have a set of tactics up their sleeves to win, and have chosen to reinforce traditional modes of politicking, by employing new techniques and imagery of communication. Elections, far from being an occasion to reformulate and reorder common interests, have become in their hands an endorsement to govern yet for another term. They are turned into sophistries of managing castes and communities, sound bites, image-projection and communication skills, and garnering resources for the same. There are no differences between political parties with regard to these indicators, although their capacity to deploy them and tap resources hugely varies.
Apart from projecting their respective parties and leadership as being immensely upright, efficient, fair, development-prone and non-partisan, political parties have attempted to reach out to the symbolic wealth of communities and castes, promised bounties to agitating farmers, held discussions with key constituencies such as business leaders and the youth, organised mammoth public rallies, and conducted padayatras and road shows. The Siddaramaiah regime has resorted to extensive, and probably expensive, use of print and electronic media to advertise its achievements, the BJP and the JD(S) being a poor second and third in this regard so far. While the BJP is known for its astute use of media and image-crafting, it seems to have been busy so far in a reconnaissance exercise to tone up its party in the State, and its performance in this regard hitherto cannot hold a mirror up to what it would do in the next few days prior to voting scheduled on May 12.
One saw BJP president Amit Shah prostrating before the 110-year-old revered Shri Shivakumara Swamiji of Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur. As for Congress president Rahul Gandhi, his body language expressed a degree of comfort while visiting the great Shankara Mutt at Sringeri, given the long association of the family with the advaita tradition of Shankaracharya, but he seemed ill at ease at several other shrines. While Swami Nirmalanandji of the Adichunchanagiri Mutt is known to be close to Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and Mr. Shah, who was one of the first to call on him as part of his electoral rounds, Mr. Gandhi was not too far behind. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also employed the long-term demand of the Veerashaiva Lingayats for a separate religious tag to win over a section by recommending this demand to the Centre through a Cabinet resolution. The BJP shouted hoarse, but everything seemed fair in the electoral war.

Tactical innovation

There was some tactical innovation too. Mr. Gandhi bonded with top State leaders of the Congress over pakodas and vadas at roadside tea stalls, and fish delicacies on the coast. There was widespread use of selfies including at Namma Metro. The BJP, attuned to sterner patriarchal ways, however, took the bait, by making its chief ministerial candidate live in slums for a day or two, travel short distances in an auto rickshaw and eat in Dalit households. H.D. Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) chief ministerial aspirant, responded to the plebian icing of his counterparts by projecting himself as ‘Kumaranna’, the protective big brother, and resorted to a highly personalised style of campaigning. Such rehearsed gestures are at variance with the everyday life of the top political leaders of this country. However, they have their value in connecting to people, but as independent variables have little to offer in reinforcing participation in the ongoing life of a democratic polity or enhancing the quality of the life of people.
The political rhetoric mounted by the Congress revolved around demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax, the Rafale deal, bank fraud, and the creeping authoritarianism of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, vis-à-vis the performance of the Siddaramaiah regime. It also accused the JD(S) of being the BJP’s B-team. The BJP charged Mr. Siddaramaiah’s government with corruption, minority partisanship, insensitivity to farming distress, divisiveapproach with regard to the Lingayat legacy and donning the false mask of religiosity. Mr. Kumaraswamy tended to focus on the great record of his family in politics, promising a shift of policy to agrarian concerns. This political rhetoric, however, has made little headway in grappling with the great challenges that confront the State.

The real issues

If we employ public reasoning as a lens, regional disparity clearly emerges as the most stark issue. A vast region of the State comprising Bidar, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Raichur, Koppal, Gadag and Ballari districts suffers from overdetermined deprivation. These districts were peripheral to colonial provinces or centres of princely states; are part of the rain-shadow belt; and register less than half of the average Human Development Index of Bengaluru and coastal Karnataka. With landless labourers forming an average 40% of rural households, many households have to opt for seasonal migration to neighbouring regions to survive. There is a higher concentration of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Muslims in this region. It is also caught in the vicious circle of patron-client relationships, under the tutelage of the ‘big’ man, the ‘dora’ or ‘sahukar’.
At the same time, this is also the cultural heartland of the State: great dynasties such as the Chalukyas, the Bahmanis, the Adil Shahis and the Vijayanagar empire flourished here; the Urdu language was nurtured and Sufism found a pervasive presence. It is in this region that the Kannada language and script came into their own; Basavanna’s Linga worship took root and Vachana literature flourished; and the great Dasa Sahitya and Carnatic music found an early home. The inclusion of much of this region under Article 371(J) has brought only a notional flow of resources to the region. It looks for a major initiative like what Sharad Pawar fashioned for Marathwada in the early 1990s.
A distinct cultural value of pluralism regulated the interaction of sects, cults, traditions and languages in the region forming Karnataka today. In fact, this pluralism was the encompassing bond when Islam and Christianity registered their presence in the region from diverse sites. This pluralism held on its own even when passions generated by Kannada linguistic identity threatened to displace it in the 1950s and 1960s. There is a widespread feeling today that this pluralism is under attack, through a vicious design of exclusion.

Rural-urban divide

The rural-urban disconnect is far wider here compared to any other State in southern India with immense resources and opportunities concentrated in Bengaluru. While it denies the poor, the migrant and the refugee a decent living space in the city, it sucks resources from the hinterland to it in umpteen ways. While the capital itself needs to find its breathing space, no serious development can be envisaged without developing nodal centres of development all across the State and particularly in northern Karnataka.
The record of employment generation in Karnataka, although impressive compared to many other States, is far off the promise made by the Congress in 2013. The State holds immense possibilities of generating alternative modes of employment. This requires a different approach than crunching numbers that the bureaucracy is familiar with.
It was the right time for Mr. Siddaramaiah and the Congress to propose a substantive agenda to reinforce democracy and equality in the State. But the Congress, desperate to win the election, has chosen to ignore tomorrow for today. The BJP is driven by a single point agenda of proving its invincibility than reinforcing democracy. The JD(S) clearly lives in the past, and has little to offer by way of laying the long-term foundations of democracy and development in the State.


1) Manifestos
Meaning: A public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.
Example:  “He may fudge key issues in the Labour manifesto”
Synonyms: Platform, Programme
2) Unleashed
Meaning: Cause (a strong or violent force) to be released or become unrestrained.
Example: “The failure of the talks could unleash more fighting”
3) Amply
Meaning: Enough or more than enough; plentifully.
Example: “The persistent reader is amply rewarded”
4) Mounting
Meaning: Organize and initiate (a campaign or other course of action).
Example: “The company had successfully mounted takeover bids”  
Synonyms: Organise, Stage
5) Tactics
Meaning: An action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.
Example: “The minority attempted to control the Council by a delaying tactic”
Synonyms: Strategy, Scheme
6) Reinforce
Meaning: Strengthen (an existing feeling, idea, or habit).
Example: “The next few months reinforced my opinion of Vince as a man of his word”
Synonyms: Strength, Fortify
7) Politicking (politic)
Meaning: Engage in political activity.
Example: “The cumbersome bureaucracy and politicking of the European Community”
8) Endorsement
Meaning: The action of endorsing someone or something.
Example: “The issue of full independence received overwhelming endorsement”
Synonyms: Support, Backing
Antonyms: Opposition
9) Sophistries
Meaning: The use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.
Example: “Trying to argue that I had benefited in any way from the disaster was pure sophistry”  
10) Garnering
Meaning: Gather or collect (something, especially information or approval).
Example: “The police struggled to garner sufficient evidence”  
Synonyms: Gather, Collect
11) Deploy
Meaning: Bring into effective action.
Example: “Small states can often deploy resources more freely”  
Synonyms: Use, Utilize
12) Agitating
Meaning: Campaign to arouse public concern about an issue in the hope of prompting action.
Example: “They agitated for a reversal of the decision”
Synonyms: Campaign, Strive
13) Mammoth
Meaning: Huge.
Example: “A mammoth corporation”
Synonyms: Huge, Enormous
Antonyms: Tiny
14) Rallies
Meaning: A mass meeting of people making a political protest or showing support for a cause.
Example: “A banned nationalist rally”
Synonyms: Meeting, Gathering
15) Astute
Meaning: Having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one’s advantage.
Example: “An astute businessman”  
Synonyms: Shrewd, Sharp
Antonyms: Stupid
16) Reconnaissance
Meaning: Military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features.
Example: “An excellent aircraft for low-level reconnaissance”  
Synonyms: Survey, Exploration
17) Hitherto
Meaning: Until now or until the point in time under discussion.
Example: “Hitherto part of French West Africa, Benin achieved independence in 1960”  
Synonyms: Previously, Formerly
18) Shrines
Meaning: A place regarded as holy because of its associations with a divinity or a sacred person or relic, marked by a building or other construction.
Example: “The medieval pilgrim route to the shrine of St James”
Synonyms: Holy place, Temple
19) Hoarse
Meaning: (Of a person’s voice) sounding rough and harsh, typically as the result of a sore throat or of shouting.
Example: “A hoarse whisper”
Synonyms: Rough, Harsh
Antonyms: Mellow, Soft
20) Delicacies
Meaning: A choice or expensive food.
Example: “Traditional Japanese delicacies”  
Synonyms: Dainty, Treat
21) Patriarchal
Meaning: Relating to or denoting a system of society or government controlled by men.
Example: “A patriarchal society”
22) Bait
Meaning: Food placed on a hook or in a net, trap, or fishing area to entice fish or other animals as prey.
Example: “Herrings make excellent bait for pike”  
Synonyms: Lure, Decoy
23) Rehearsed
Meaning: Supervise (a performer or group) during a rehearsal.
Example: “He listened to Charlie rehearsing the band”  
Synonyms: Train, Prepare
24) Rhetoric
Meaning: Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.
Example:  “All we have from the Opposition is empty rhetoric”
Synonyms: Bombast, Pomposity
25) Creeping
Meaning: Move slowly and carefully in order to avoid being heard or noticed.
Example: “He crept downstairs, hardly making any noise”
Synonyms: Crawl, Wriggle
26) Divisive
Meaning: Tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.
Example: “The highly divisive issue of abortion”
Synonyms: Isolating, Schismatic
Antonyms: Unifying
27) Promising
Meaning: Showing signs of future success.
Example: “A promising film actor”
Synonyms: Good, Hopeful
Antonyms: Unfavourable, Ominous
28) Agrarian
Meaning: Relating to cultivated land or the cultivation of land.
Example: “Brazil is rapidly diversifying its agrarian economy”
29) Grappling
Meaning: Struggle to deal with or overcome (a difficulty or challenge).
Example: “Other towns are still grappling with the problem”
Synonyms: Tackle, Confront
30) Stark
Meaning: Unpleasantly or sharply clear.
Example: “His position is in stark contrast to that of Curran”  
Synonyms: Blunt, Bald
Antonyms: Disguised
31) Deprivation
Meaning: The damaging lack of material benefits considered to be basic necessities in a society.
Example: “Low wages mean that 3.75 million people suffer serious deprivation”
Synonyms: Poverty, Penury
Antonyms: Wealth
32) Rain-shadow
Meaning: A region having little rainfall because it is sheltered from prevailing rain-bearing winds by a range of hills.
33) Heartland
Meaning: The central or most important part of a country, area, or field of activity.
Example: “Wildlife sites in the heartland of Russia”
34) Cults
Meaning: A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members.
Example: “A network of Satan-worshipping cults”
Synonyms: Sect, Denomination
35) Linguistic
Meaning: Relating to language or linguistics.
Example: “A child’s linguistic ability”  
Synonyms: Semantic, Lingual
36) Vicious
Meaning: Deliberately cruel or violent.
Example: “A vicious assault”
Synonyms: Brutal, Savage
Antonyms: Gentle, Kindly
37) Hinterland
Meaning: The remote areas of a country away from the coast or the banks of major rivers.
Example: “The hinterland of southern Italy”
Synonyms: The back of beyond, The middle of nowhere
Antonyms: Civilization
38) Umpteen
Meaning: Indefinitely many; a lot of.
Example: “You need umpteen pieces of identification to cash a cheque”
39) Envisaged
Meaning: Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.
Example: “The Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers”
Synonyms: Foresee, Predict
40) Bureaucracy
Meaning: A system of government in which most of the important decisions are taken by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
Synonyms: Civil service, Administration

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