12 Feb 2023  |   07:08am IST

Politicians get oxygen to breathe because people forget their doings

Public anger at injustices to a land evokes no fear in a system where votes can be transacted in every which way
Politicians get oxygen to breathe because people forget their doings

When those who vote, sell their most precious democratic asset on the feet of currency, caste, and religion, it is a clean murder of all hold that we have on democracy as a platform for justice, where the voice of the common man is heard with the same intensity if not more, as the voice of the powerful who controls the system.

Across States and lands people are fighting against pollution, destruction of the environment, diversion of our rivers, and powerful business enterprises controlling policies.

Our people suffer from coal dust pollution. Our land is used as a corridor to carry coal and iron ore which is no benefit to the State, our rivers are diverted to other States to benefit massive canal construction under the garb of drinking water needs, and our land gets grabbed by our very own people and sold and resold even as we continue to live in the same homes not knowing one day we will be booted out and there won’t be anyone to save, our fields will be full of saline water due to breakage of bunds which we have to repair with our hard-earned savings with no hope of any compensation, our law and order and criminal investigation machinery is hostage to the needs of the powerful- the hidden hands that pull the levers of the system, our politicians are turncoats with the lines between the ruling and opposition blurring totally with most in the ruling and others waiting for the call to defect in the name of “development”.

There is a lot of hard work in opposing wrongs for the sake of Goa at every level. But the work of hardworking activists and many common people on the ground, who are honest fighters, are undermined when the system they fight against, only to demand equal justice and fair play, no longer depends on people’s sentiments but “market” sentiments. Elections become all about the “management” of panchayats and booths and slums.

The performance of the 4 years and 11 months is kept aside for the “budgeting” of the last month to pay dividends.

Therefore, is it any surprise why the actions or inactions of politicians through their ruling term don’t seem to matter? Their injustices and wrongdoings are forgotten. Their subjugation of the system, their leaning towards the powerful, their use of the system, and the institutional forces they command all seem to be overlooked in the weeks and months that lead up to the elections.

The transgressions of the first four years get wiped out due to the transactions of the last four months.

In the months and then especially the weeks and more so in the days leading up to voting day, manifestos, performances, and quality of governance are not even brought to the table even by mistake. The deal is around caste, religion, and currency with the last being the most powerful.

The common man’s pain doesn’t matter because the politician knows the mathematics of vote management

A Hanumant Parab in Sattari may be thrashed by a PI  in his office for leading a farmer’s agitation, a photojournalist’s son could be pulled out of a car and beaten for jumping a red light by an off-duty cop passing by, an actor may be trapped in her own house by who she calls “hired goons”  and criminally threatened and harassed but no FIR is lodged, citizens peacefully holding a candlelight march to protest against double tracking may be heaped with criminal cases and spend a considerable part of their lives in police stations and courts, for fighting for the people, railway officials may encroach into private properties on the pretext of building a retaining wall to support the double tracking project,  traditional fishermen may have no money to even repair their fishing boats and nets while rogue trawlers with LED lights come and suck their fish out.

In the olden days a ruling ecosystem used to worry because every five years when they had to pass the people’s exam. The vote was the strongest weapon the common man had, the biggest power in a democracy.

The vote is no longer a people’s weapon; it’s an item for manipulation.

The vote is not a singular decision-making asset. It is either a part of a block that is purchased, or a part of a community or caste group that a sarpanch or any other politicians has controlled, or the votes could be one drop in the chunk of votes from one slum area whose leader has owed allegiance to a politician. And those votes from a couple of booths are enough to offset any losses the leader has in the rest of the constituency which might vote against him for the wrongs inflicted on the common man.

Why is it so important to understand this? Because democracy is weakened not by politicians but by people

The power to say no lies with the people. Because every time a voter gives in to the manipulations of vote management of a politician,  a system can get away by diverting your rivers, destroying your forests,  controlling the police, delaying payments for land acquisition, etc.

And when that happens, the quiet hard work of dedicated people who file RTI applications, and move courts even in other cities by travelling overnight on buses after working on petitions for months gets undermined.

Every time a vote is bought and sold or influenced in any other manner, the work of these people loses strength, their dedication is insulted and their fight for justice hits a blank wall.

The selfish interests or the compulsion of the effective few crushes the combined people’s efforts of not just fighting for justice but meting out the best known democratic punishment for injustices- removal from power, be it any party in any State.

To free democracy from its chains, people must free their votes which are kept hostage

Politicians will always need power. But for the people, their votes need power to make the right choices so that the system becomes a true representative of the people’s will and not a force that has usurped power by keeping hostage the single biggest treasure of the common man- his and her vote.





Iddhar Udhar