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'The national election has become a local election'

April 27, 2009
Arun Shourie, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, sits today in the Rajya Sabha. He is one of India's most distinguished journalists, the author of some 24 books. In his last work Are We Deceiving Ourselves Again?, he questions with his usual incisiveness Jawaharlal Nehru's China policy.

The first thing that you notice when you enter Shourie's home is his collection of books. He probably belongs to the endangered species of well-read politicians.

He discussed this vision of India with Claude Arpi. Though often pessimistic about the future of the Indian State, he proposes workable solutions to make Indian democracy more responsive to the common man.

In the Indian Constitution, it is said that 'India that is Bharat'. In the current election campaign, one does not see much of Bharat. Everywhere one sees regionalism, casteism, religion, etc. What are your views on this?

There is no doubt that the electorate has been completely splintered over the years with the result that what used to be a national election, has (progressively) become a provincial election or even today a local election. The issues dominating people's minds and debated upon are only local issues, local candidates, local caste combination or local nexus of criminals.

These are the main determinants of the (present) elections, that is why we do not hear much of Bharat, or India as a whole. But we hear about local issues only.

Is it not worrying for the future? Tomorrow the government which will emerge from these elections may not be able to think of 'Bharat'?

There is no doubt about it.

I already feel that the core constituent of the last two coalition governments were the BJP and the Congress. The only objective of the other parties has been to weaken these two parties, so that whenever a coalition is formed, they can have a greater say.

Unfortunately, their perspective is very limited, their horizon is geographically narrow. They just want license, particularly the license to loot. This has happened with the present government. Ministers look upon their chief minister or the party chief as their boss, not at the prime minister.

These weak governments are under compulsion to splinter into smaller and smaller groups, regional groups, caste groups, interest groups, etc. There is almost no thinking for the country as a whole.

I am very apprehensive of the type of government which will come out of such an electoral process.

Image: Arun Shourie.

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