Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tamil Nadu Elections

I have been living in Chennai for 15 months now and the election fever has been brewing up over the last 3 months or so. But I am amazed that in a highly polarised politcal framework in India, Tamil Nadu still has to choose between one amongst two alternatives. Maybe that is good in a way, as the voter has limited options, unlike elections elsewhere, which have some unknown parties making tall promises.

In its own way, the political climate of Tamil Nadu reminds me of the two party system in the West. People will vote only if you can deliver there (though that may not always work in Indian conditions!).But at least, the voter is sure about what he is getting by casting his vote in favour of one party over the other. We have therefore seen tremendous competition in this Tamil Nadu election, with both parties (DMK and AIADMK) trying to woo the voter with numerous freebies. I recall a question that one of the journalists covering these elections posed to a political leader i.e.” Have you worked out the economics of these freebies?". Fair question, I thought. But it was obvious from the politician's facade that he couldn't care less, except ensure that he completed his mandate of getting his quota of the votes. Freebies are a very temporary way of getting people to vote. Just like a blue-chip stock, the inherent value of a political party to deliver is what will help anyone in power sustain durable advantage and contribute to the development of the state. While that may be the view of the educated lot, I guess the same may not be true of everyone else. I may be wrong there, as a number of the rural folk these days, yet, the chances of wooing them with freebies are higher.

But I must say that these new IIT guys have caught my attention. They do not have the bandwidth and resource pool of the bigger political parties in the state, but they sure have created ripples of things to come. There have been many conversations in and around Chennai where people do not question the intent of this young brigade and do see them shaping up into something substantial in the coming years.

I just hope at the end of the day, the party that comes to power does something concrete and delivers. I wonder if corporatisation of political parties is a good idea. This might just bring in more accountability and transparency in their operations, both pre-election and post-election. This corporatisation issue might be of interest to the journalist fraternity, especially in these days of "panel of experts"!