The Economic Times
Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

MUMBAI: The farm crisis in Vidarbha and Marathwada, Mumbai's infrastructure woes, drought, and power shortage are just some of the issues that the election-bound Maharashtra should have been talking about. But the real issues seem to have withered away into oblivion as no party is seen talking about it anymore. The state is, instead, riddled with rebellions, dynasty duels, and identity politics.

Election strategists of all major parties and political observers agree the real agenda has been pushed to the periphery by an unprecedented spurt in rebellion, aspirational politics, and identity clashes. A top leader of the BJP, who did not wish to be named, admitted to the "virtual absence of issues" in the electoral campaign even when the state had a plethora of them calling for attention.

Interestingly, the BJP had announced at the start of its campaign that it would focus only on bijli, sadak, paani issues. "Yes, we did announce that and we were quite serious about it. But during the course of forming an alliance and selecting candidates, this agenda somehow went off our radar," the BJP leader said.

Ajit Ranade, economist and one of the founder-members of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), blames the political parties for what he calls "mockery of democracy". ADR was the NGO which in 1999 filed a PIL that led to the provision making it mandatory on all candidates to declare their assets on affidavit.

"In the current political atmosphere there is no place whatsoever for issues, leave aside a good debate on them. Our politics is not transparent enough to force parties and their candidates to think about the issues that matter," says Mr Ranade who is also a member of Maharashtra Watch.

Jay Prakash Narayan of Loksatta, the organisation which crusades for transparency and probity in politics and governance and which is contesting the polls as well, is even more candid in his attack on what he calls the "established political procedures." According to him, politics has become pure business for a majority of politicians and candidates. "There are a few honourable exceptions but they don't seem to be making any difference," Mr Narayan says.

He identifies three types of glue that held political parties together--ideology, respect for leadership, and promise of power. "Now, the only glue left is the promise of power. And power at any cost," he says.

Mr Ranade says the virtual absence of real issues in the campaign portends disaster for the people.

"Since the real issues are not being debated in the campaign, the voters are at a disadvantage. There are no real choices on the menu before them and whosoever gets elected will get there by default. What kind of governance will a government formed out of this process offer," he asks.

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