Sunday, November 04, 2007

Vote Bank of India

I happened to watch one of these toxic "reality TV" shows at my parents' house recently. This one was a national talent hunt. In the last couple of years, the hunt for raw-talent has suddenly turned into a "Survivor" type elimination battle! Now the best singer is someone who can use the right gimmicks and emotions to win SMS votes from the audience, not necessarily someone validated by the panel of judges on technical parameters of sur and taal.

I don't care what they do on the show, really. What amused me was that we keep criticising politicians for playing dirty vote bank politics all the time. They appeal to the caste, religion, region or even language of their constituency to win elections despite record of visiting the village only once in 5 years and having no development projects to their credit. We blame all of India's problems on their "greed" for votes and apathy towards the "big picture".

Armchair democrats found it easy to ask politicians to win votes based on "pure merit". We all claimed that had it been in our hands, we'd think about national interest and not self-promotion. Vote patterns in these shows tell a different story. This is not even subtle-- the contestants openly appeal to their region/caste to "bhaari sankhya mein support deejiye"!

Every week, Amritsar doesn't care if the singer is off-key, as long as he is a Sardar. Nasik doesn't care if the voice grates, as long as she comes from Maharashtra. People will organise collection drives in remote villages of Bengal, to bulk-sms votes for their "needy" singer. The Lingayats don't care if total development stops in Bangalore and governance becomes a joke--- as long the CM is not a Vokkaliga. Where's the difference?

The minute the common man of India has the opportunity to earn a vote, he goes all out to win them on the basis of caste, religion, region, language and even "meri maa bahut beemar hai, agar mujhe votes nahi mile toh woh mar jaayegi" type sympathy-waves! What is worse, it works and people do vote on these lines! Everyone happily calls this Patriotism.

The stakes are much lower on a TV show, but do we prove ourselves any better to "Lead India"?

Thanks to Alka Yagnik & Co., I am beginning to believe the adage I debated viciously earlier: People get the Government they Deserve...

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