Marketing to the electorate in India
… and how you can make it tough for the politicians
By expanding your horizon, by refusing to be constrained by too few labels, you become a better person. Debatable? Maybe, to you. But, there is no doubt that politicians like you when you sport a tag they can identify.
Let me explain.
We are all individuals, shaped by our attitudes to different issues: how we respond to triggers, indeed what triggers and how we demonstrate our belonging to groups or identities.
At the core of your being are your needs. The need to be fed, clothed and sheltered are the basic ones. The need for holding someone’s hands and being comforted and the need to belong. Identity or votebank politics is all about persuading you that you should ignore your basic needs (or forgive the neta for his inability to solve your problems) for some higher order needs of a collective identity.
If this sounds too heavy, think. Who are the social groupings that are the most economically backward in our country? The Muslims, the SC/ST and the OBCs. They also represent votebanks that are subject to a lot of wooing come election time. But, what is the “marketing message” to these groups? The Muslims are told their “unique culture and identity and way of life” will be preserved. And, notice what Mayawati promises to the OBCs? It is “Swabhimaan” or self-respect. God knows providing food, sanitation, education and healthcare is a lot more difficult than providing so called self-respect. Generations of Muslims since independence have been duped by politicians into accepting a ghetto-ized existence in the name of preserving their unique way of life. The alternative: providing a decent standard of living is too expensive.
Those among Muslims, OBCs and SC/ STs that have escaped their narrow typecasting by dint of merit, education and prosperity are not so easy to tag or label simply as belonging to a caste or a religion. So, politicians have a vested interest in keeping large sections of the population backward. So, a fragmented electorate is good for the politicians who can direct focussed, if oversimplified and certainly duplicitious messages at you.
So, if you know what is good for you, learn to sport a label that benefits you in more basic terms. And, do not think you are being selfish. When you ask for quality education, healthcare, sanitation and a future for your children, you are joined by all Indians; a billion plus of them.