Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Punjab's State Elections - Bankruptcy of Ideas?

The Faces Lack Any Ideas (Courtesy Punjab News Express)

It is a pity to see the level of discourse taking place in Punjab, a state still trying to emerge from the wreckage of militancy over three decades after 1984. While addressing the just concerns and the still pending problems of the Sikhs in Punjab while addressing reconciliation is a necessity, it is a pity that the agenda in Punjab of all parties either hinges around swapping corruption charges or boastful claims of dragging X and Y to jail by their ears. The drug addiction problem of Punjab is not a unique isolated phenomenon as is made out by certain sections of the press - one only look at the pubs of Delhi or the alleys of Shillong to realize the national epidemic it has become. However, all political parties are complicit in their behavior by commission and omission for letting this problem grow not just in the state but across the nation.

In the midst of all the hoopla surrounding 2017 state elections, there are strong undercurrents developing that need to be seen more closely to understand what the state is going through. Events over the past few weeks has begun to belie hopes of a meaningful change that Punjab and Punjabi voters have been yearning for. Parties want to stick to the tried and tested faces and combinations as they are bereft of ideas. It is either a Coffee with Captain or Arvind Kejriwal ke haseen sapne backed by a perpetually drunk Bhagwant Mann, coupled with absolutely nonplussed BJP and a combative but silly Akali Dal led by the unintentionally funny Sukhbir Badal, and all we have is the perfect recipe for a bland, issue-less election. In the midst of all this another political party full of well meaning but disgruntled political workers of multiple parties gangs together, making this election look like a free-for-all vis-a-vis the politicians at the expense of the hapless voters.

In a state where the youth exodus has become very large due to paucity of sufficient jobs for the well educated, or where the farming incomes have reduced due to land holdings and debt, we have CDs of adultery and stings going around by the dozen, and useless self proclaimed journalists and upset party members swearing ethics peddling them in the market. Despite being a power surplus state and having an excellent road network, there is little effort to push greater industrialization, and no one has any roadmap for the same. Additionally, the drug addiction problem has been reduced to a free for all, with guttersnipe behavior from outsider entrants in Punjab talking utter rubbish instead of telling ways in which this problem can be solved. Another crucial aspect is the water fights that happen each year. Instead of solving the challenges of falling water tables and improved irrigation methods, fighting over who gets what and closing canals sharing water with other states are the easy way out, whipping unnecessary passions across the board with ripples being felt across North India. A ripe candidate for the service sector industry like IT and ITes, nothing has come up in Punjab beyond the boundaries of the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Tourism beyond the gurudwara-temple circuit has never been promoted. Hardly anyone knows that Lodhis had built the city of Ludhiana, or that the cultural capital of East Punjab, Patiala, still houses magnificent remains of palaces. Such disillusionment can be sensed in the sarcasm that Punjabi humor is renowned for. A disillusioned people struggle for a change that clearly no one can deliver to them in this current crisis of confidence that they face today.

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