By Prabhjot Singh*
Are elections a bargain that shun reality and offer green pastures to electors with doles, freebies and promises? Past experiences notwithstanding, a substantial number of voters continue to fall prey to the pre-poll announcements, including those made under oath. Unfortunately, post poll bitterness does not act as a deterrent for similar traps on every future battle of the ballot.
The coming election is no different as promises of doles, freebies and overall development have been flying high and the vulnerable are getting lured.
All political parties and their candidates have employed the best of the social media strategists to impress the voters with “what we are going to do for you? allurements”.
Punjab may not boast of a strong millennial force but it has for a change a fast emerging corps of rural and semi urban “awakened” youth that refuses to get captivated by what political parties and their nominees are reeling out.
It does not want interest free loans to study abroad or anywhere or “financial assistance” to women. Instead, it wants to support those parties or candidates who promise quality education at affordable price, proper health care within the reach of a common man, clean and potable drinking water and uninterrupted power supply at reasonable tariffs besides sustainable jobs, both in public and private sectors.
Intriguingly, no political party or candidate is anywhere near what this fast depleting “awakened youth force” wants. A substantial number of this vociferous group members have continuously been looking for green pastures overseas as they appear to be losing fast their faith in the present political system. Since the last elections to the State assembly in 2017, an estimated over 20 lakh voters of 18 to 25 age group, have immigrated to western world for a building a stable career. This loss of able-bodied manpower, both skilled and unskilled, is colossal. Still, it is not an issue for the political parties looking to grab power in this debt-ridden State.
Here is how I expressed the sentiments of this group when I wrote the following piece in The Tribune in July, 2019, before the general elections:
Dear Candidate, I have been watching you for the past several weeks making efforts to win me over with lucrative promises. My vote can make a difference, not for fulfilling the promises you are making, but what it can get you. It does not matter to me which party or ideology you subscribe to. I am looking for a deal that is mutually beneficial. I want to make it clear that I do not want to negotiate a monetary price for my right to exercise franchise, but in accordance with set norms of fair play, benefits of vote must be shared by both parties — voter and the candidate.
I assure you that my vote can get you a plum post with a hefty salary; pension; free travel by road, rail and air; free vehicle with driver, fuel and maintenance; security guards; front row seats at all government/state functions; free medical treatment (within and outside country); reservation for your wards in educational institutions, jobs; free mobile, landline, laptop and smartphone; interest-free or low interest rate loans. You will also be entitled to claim reimbursements for all your official travels within and outside the country.
You will also have the right to criticise anyone, hurl abuses or chappals, shout slogans, and stop proceedings of the legislature, stage walkouts and hog headlines in newspapers, besides remaining in focus of television cameras.
Though you have been promising me the sky before every election, without fulfilling any of your earlier promises, I am listing only some of the items of an assured package that I offer in return for my vote. I can say without any hesitation that I have been keeping my word by guaranteeing your growth, both politically and socio-economically, to my great personal detriment.
And once I cast my vote, your achhe din will start while my problems will begin to unfold. My wards get frustrated for want of jobs even after attaining high professional qualifications. When anyone in my family falls sick, the world turns turtle for me. There is either no doctor in the hospital or the stocks of medicine there have never been replenished.
Basic civic amenities are almost non-existent. I cannot even risk drinking water from a public hand-pump or a tap because it is highly contaminated. I want voters like me to grow like you.
I am open to negotiations that can be held in the public eye to make sure that benefits of democracy percolate down to the grassroots.
An awakened voter
* Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows. For more in-depth analysis please visit probingeye.com or follow him on Twitter.com/probingeye