The ‘new normal’ in politics

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It’s with a sense of bewilderment that many in Maharashtra see the ease and brazenness with which their political representatives switch allegiances. Voters who supported the BJP now watch in horror as the person pilloried in pre-election campaigns for his role in multiple agricultural scams, suddenly becomes kosher for the post of deputy Chief Minister, only to have him resign hours before a floor test. On the opposite side, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress have buried the hatchet and put away their divergent ideologies for another day.

But for Indian voters, this is not without precedent. From Bihar to Goa to Karnataka in the recent past, voters have seen switches, allegations of inducement and the now ugly “new normal” of carting elected political representatives off in a chartered bus or flight to a “secure” hotel. So no more juicy carrots can be dangled by anyone to lure representatives from one party to another.

Contrast this with a speech that gained much visibility recently, when the longest-serving Republican in the US’ Iowa Legislature announced that he was switching parties, earlier this year. “…my decision to switch political parties has been a very difficult decision for me and has only come after considerable reflection, much prayer, and many restless nights,”said Andy McKean, who described himself as a registered Republican for close to half a century and a Republican officeholder for 35 years.

He spoke of the coarsened political discourse that prevails, unprecedented polarisation and the creation of a breeding ground for hateful rhetoric and actions. And to those justifying this culture of “telling it like it is” as the “new normal”, he said: “If this is the new normal, I want no part of it. Unacceptable behavior should be called out for what it is …”

Many voters in India may well be echoing similar thoughts as they watch the political crisis unfold in Maharashtra. If inconsistent ideologies and bus-and-hotel politics is the “new normal”, time for the voter to say she wants no part of it.

The writer is Deputy Editor with BusinessLine

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