The fault lines are getting wider and visible. It is no secret that caste and religion have been part of the campaign strategy of political parties to mobilize voters for long. An optimist would have vouched caste and religion would subside from the political arena every passing day, the pessimist would think otherwise. As it stands, the pessimist remains vindicated. If in doubt, have a look at the U.P. election campaign and the way various political parties have allocated their coveted positions within the party. Not one political party have taken a progressive view on this. This pattern of caste and religion arithmetic is more prominent in U.P. given its significance of the state by the number of Lok Sabha seats and assembly seats (read Rajya Sabha seats).
Democracy is by far the aptest process that ensures representation of all sections of the society into the policy-making realm. Elections alone do not make a Democracy, an independent judiciary, civil society, individual rights, human rights and a host of other institutions and rights contributes to the definition of Democracy. As part of the large wide definition of Democracy, it is also the way political parties appeal to voters, the norm is and should be all political parties should appeal to all sections of the people rather than every political party trying to take a slice of the cake (read section of voters). The former will make the competition between parties a healthy one, it will bring the important issues to the forefront rather than divisive and polarising issues. The latter will continue to reinforce stereotypes, keep the most important issues like environment conservation, climate change, infrastructure out of the public policy debates.
Unfortunately, there is no straight forward answer and it will be hard to codify behavioural politics. However, people and political parties can come together and sign a binding agreement, keeping nation’s interests above everything and agreeing on common minimum code of conduct for electoral behaviour which can be overseen by the Election Commission and for such a change to happen, the constitution should be amended that empowers the Election commission with such powers so that it could be enforced effectively.
We have too often seen political parties, their statements, actions and consequentially their governance reflecting their vote base, a base built on appeasement or prejudice against caste’s or religion. Good politics can work well for all, it is for the people to stand up, unite and raise their voice against the regressive and divisive politics practiced by various political parties across the political spectrum, else, the downward spiral which our Democracy is heading to could get to a point of irreversibility that will result in multiple fault lines in the society and thereby hampering social unity and economic progress.