Recently we have seen current Gujarat Chief minister raising some security issues in public speeches as a part of his campaign against the incumbent congress such as issues like border incursions by China and Pakistan then the subsequent killing and beheading of Indian soldiers. We are still not sure if it will be an election issue. Can any political leader be sure that by campaigning on issues of national security and terrorism he can change the voting behavior of people in a country like India? We must admit that India is a divided house on different fronts linguistically, politically, economically not to mention the caste word though there is some kind of loose knit of cultural unity but that alone is not a reason to celebrate.
Why border incursions by Pakistan and China in one part of the country are not taken seriously in the other parts of country or when Maoists kill people why people do not react at all in front of ballot? Why ruling government, political leaders are not held responsible for their inefficiency? Why people do not punish the rulers for their inaction when elections ensue? This is a complex question. The examining of this issue is not without a danger of being caught within the dichotomy of right wing and left wing.
Off late I have been reading Max Abrahms a terrorism researcher and professor. I recommend that you too should read him. Max asserts that in most cases in west a terrorist attack generally, polarizes voters towards right and those parties stand to benefit because it is generally assumed that right wing parties are strong in their views and policies on national security. It is especially the case in Israel.
In my opinion poverty and illiteracy are the two main reasons why people really do not worry about terrorist attacks. If people have taken Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 seriously, Congress party would not have made it to power again in 2009 for a full 5 year term. There was nothing tangible done in reaction to 2008 terrorist attacks apart from dousing victim’s feelings by hanging Ajmal Kasab through judicial trial by Indian government. It is alleged that hanging of Kasab too was timed in such a way that it will benefit ruling party. This is just to prove that government is tough on terrorism.
The real story is nearly 50% of children under 5 year age are undernourished. A significant section of Indian populace do not get food to eat three times a day. And that is why you can have governments which will remain inefficient on every front for 4 years and by fifth year they would release plethora of schemes targeting specific vote banks through freebies and concessions. People do not mind, they would simply vote for the incumbent.
Read Maslow’s theory
Maslow’s hierarchy theory comes in handy for a comparison between an Indian voter and a voter in west. Our typical Indian voter is struggling to meet his physical needs, when that elementary expectation is not met he will not think about the needs of safety and self esteem which is why when Tamil fishermen are killed by Sri Lankan navy in extreme south people are hardly bothered about it in Delhi. And if some Pakistani terrorists and army kill Indian soldiers people do not react in North east.
Indian voter is poor, illiterate, has a short term memory, he forgives grave mistakes easily. For people activism literacy is important. Extreme poverty obstructs men to become literate. So political parties keep them in constant poverty. If you are illiterate you cannot question the government. Voters forget all mistakes committed by politicians with one freebie gesture say free rice per month, quota reservation etc., it is not their fault because that is their immediate priority and they are still lurching in the layer of physical needs on Maslow’s table of hierarchy theory.
In west people are literate and are well aware of their rights hence politicians are compelled to go to people directly to present their case. In case of a terrorist attack, people unite and make their political rulers answer. For the citizens of west physical needs are no more a priority but for us it is.
This is not to discount the fact that we have united resolutely whenever there was a full scale aggression by enemy, but then too people never punished governments whose misdemeanor caused serious national security crises, 1962 Chinese aggression is a case in point. If people had taken it seriously congress would not have never made it to power. Let’s collectively conquer the physical needs of an ordinary Indian citizen so that his voting behavior is not affected by physical needs alone and he also analyzes facts before he decides to whom he should vote.