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Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Wise Indian Voter

Disclaimer: I am sorry, this time round I shall not be able to tell you whether I am being serious or comical? I myself don’t know.

In 1907 Wilhelm Von Osten, a German  mathematics teacher   demonstrated the numerical skill of his horse Hans - Clever Hans  as it   later came to be known throughout Germany-  and caused a minor sensation. But diligent scientific investigations proved that the horse was keenly observing his trainer and responding  to the cues from his body language to nod at the correct answer.  The Clever Hans syndrome had its brief period of fame, but it did  provided an important methodology in conducting animal intelligence experiments.   Observer-expectancy effect is widely used in studies in animal cognition.
 Every   now and then   the Indian  voters vote one  way or the other  and The results naturally go in  favour of  one party/  group or the other. Predictably  the results  throw  the  commentators, analysts, strategists and believers in  democracy  into  raptures.   A lot of inspirational verbiage , heavy  jargon and statistical tools like bar graph, pies , chart and scatter diagram are all yoked by violence together to  establish, scientifically ,  the wisdom and the perspicacity of the voter. The act of  unseating the  ruling  charlatan   is taken  as an   evidence  of the maturing of democracy just as installing him five or ten or fifteen  or twenty years earlier  had  then  been  declared an  act of  great maturity. It seems that the primal state of immaturity is the default position of the Indian voter, the state of equilibrium , the state of  maximum entropy to which having shown its maturity on election eve,  he quietly retires.
   The fact of the matter is that the voters’ choices are no more intelligent than that of Clever Hans or the roadside fortune telling parrot. The high costs involved  and the  mammoth organising capability  required to make an all India presence , has already narrowed the choice of acceptable alternatives to the two major political alliances.   The paid media has ensured that you don’t know a thing  about them for sure  and you have to vote by blind instinct or prejudice.  Those who know both  could describe  them only in the memorable phrase of Stalin: “they are both worse .”
 The voters  respond to certain inducements, blandishments or subliminal appeals. Loan waiver, free electricity, free laptop, free liquor, freedom to smooch in the Echo Park or Sanjay Gandhi Udyan,( a great vote catcher among the young  in Bihar sometime back ) Mandir , Masjid, Mandal , Kamandal, caste , community,  are some sure fire formulas.  At the end of the day  long association with  power has  the  same effect   as living in the same underwear for long: they both stink and   need to be  changed, purely    in the interest of hygiene.  Nothing clever or exciting  about  that!.If you take elections for what they are – a farce, a masked ball , a  carnival, –  you can enjoy them as the most memorable show on earth .
 ‘Free elections’’, says the maverick thinker, commentator and polemicist Slavoj Zizek,” involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them.”  For  full  participation  the pretense  must be taken very seriously. You must prattle in your  dunce’s  cap pretending it be a crown. (I remember a line  of  a song  I heard as  a chid: Mat kaho ki sir pe topi hai, ye kaho ki sir pe taj hai.’ My generation was   indoctrinated  in this business of topi pahanna and pahnana  as children).  The would be tormentor/ oppressor/ excoriator  would  appear behind the mask  of   a servant,a  chowkidar , a  benefactor , a  reformer , a paupper  and  beg  for your vote.  The electorate   must    plays his role of prince  with all  the seriousness at his command  and  having granted the supplicant- pauper-  his vote be   prepared  to be heard no more. Those , like me who can see the tree  for the wood  enjoy   democracy   as  a farce, and  those  many who don’t , suffer it  as  tragedy.