Shaming politicians

Updated July 03, 2018

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IT is a troubling trend. A number of election candidates have been confronted by ostensibly unhappy voters, quite often to the applause of those who draw pleasure from the public humiliation of well-known figures.

While on the face of it, the people might have been protesting against the missing basic amenities, and highlighting their grievances through publicly accosting canvassing politicians, the problem is a deeper one.

Ideally, these basic jobs should be left to local government representatives; however, the bigwigs who sit in the assemblies are greatly to blame since they are guilty of concentrating authority in their own hands, leaving the lower tier powerless.

In a way then, these protests, notwithstanding allegations that they target specific parties and personalities to stop them from campaigning freely, have everything to do with the centralisation of power. Protests are part and parcel of the deal, but the manner in which they are registered does raise alarm.

While the method the protesters have adopted may be a sign of the latter’s frustration, it does not necessarily establish them as voters asserting their choice. With elections just three weeks away, a more profound and lasting snub would have been for them to vote out inept politicians.

Much emotion is going into this election. People have learnt the uses of a mobile phone complete with camera, internet and access to social media sites where they expose underperforming politicians.

The mainstream media is ready to provide them a platform since such news has a big market. The scenes showing a politician — a sardar, head of political party, a former minister, etc — are eagerly lapped up and seen as evidence of the public’s anger.

But this is precisely the point that needs to be made. The kind of passion that is on display — stoked by new and old actors who like their elections served with a lot of controversy — could give way to more violence in the coming days. That would be most unfortunate.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2018