The General elections are round the corner. In all likelihood, we will have the “carnival of democracy” in mid March or April.
This year it’s going to be a high-octane election! There are close to 65 odd political parties recognized by the EC; apart from close to 300+ political parties which represent various factions within the country. In recent past we have seen a tectonic shift in political alignment – with regional parties taking centre-stage on the national scene. To be honest, I grudgingly admire our collective faith in this rather chaotic, but nevertheless representative democratic machinery. Though quite a few of my acquaintances have professed their trust for a “dictatorial” regime to get a quick fix for the myriad challenges facing India, I strongly believe the democratic process is the right way for the collective good.
Hence, being an admirer and cheerleader for democratic electioneering, with immense alacrity, I leafed through the content of election manifesto of several national parties (Congress, BJP, Left front, etc).
Choosing between political parties on the basis of promises & issues is like choosing between the numerous Mutual Fund instruments in the Indian equity / bond market. Somehow, somewhere, all MFs end up with a very similar hue – meaning the same mix of Reliance, ICICI, HDFC, Infosys equity allocation! In this scenario the smart investor looks for MFs or equity which represents his / her affiliations. For example, based on the current economic downslide & my familiarity with the IT business, I would invest in equity of companies which provide services to toxic bonds or commercial banks.
The moot point I am trying to make is this: when I choose amongst several MFs, I look for combination which I understand and care for.
Coming back to the election manifestos, I was not overtly surprised to see the stress on the holy troika of “Roti, Kapda, Makaan”. These three “aam admi” issues don’t have that gilded glamor quotient (to be discussed in kitty parties or over corporate get together), but definitely matter to a vast section of our population. Hats off to democracy for taking these issues center-stage.
But, which issue is important to me? Obviously my vote would go for the party which addresses my concerns, right? The first thing that came to my mind was good infrastructure. I could note a subtle positive swing to the right in favour of a particular national party.
Another issue, I am highly passionate about, is Conservation – especially Tiger conservation. Hence, with a fine tooth comb, I scanned the election manifestos of one national party after another.
In my mind, “Wildlife & Tiger conservation” was the differential, voting factor.
In the end, I came out disappointed. The issue concerning me, i.e. conservation was not at all mentioned anywhere in manifesto of any of the national political parties.
Why is it so? Is it because:
A. Conservation & Saving the Tiger does not concern us or is not of “national importance”?
B. The conservation brigade is not a big enough vote bank to swing electoral results?
C. Wildlife conservation is not an emotive issue?
D. Saving the tiger is too elitist; and we all know the elites hardly vote, hence the political parties can give it a miss, thus concentrating on bigger vote banks?
E. In face of hunger and poverty, allocating fund / driving “Project Tiger” would be political hara-kiri?
I am confused. Suddenly my enthusiasm for the “colourful carnival of democracy” wanes. The signals surely do not bode well.
This forum has, I guess close to 130 odd members. There are many more such forums / pockets / silos of conservationists in India.
Are we large enough and loud enough to be heard above this democratic cacophony? Do we have a voice? Can we swing an election and in process swing the survival of the tiger? If we unite and show our collective strength, will election manifestos devote a line on conservation and act upon it? Would there be heated, electrifying debates on NDTV / CNN-IBN / Aaj Tak about how well BJP is going to tackle it in comparison to INC?
Collective voice; Majority; Vote swing. Hmmm... Looking at this forum as a microcosmic representation of the state of conservation in India, I somehow get the weird feeling that the conservationists are in “silent majority”. We are “concerned”; we are “aware”; we “appreciate”.
But we will not “ACT”. No offence to any of my fellow conservationists, but based on the conservation thread and contributions, I am forced to concur that there are only a handful of active conservationists.
This sound of silence is deafening.
The Royal Bengal Tiger, the national animal of India, I am sorry to say has the same fate as our national sports, hockey. Relegated to a corner. At least we have cricket in the arena of sports to fill void for hockey!
As I wrote the last line, a chill ran through my spine. I suddenly realized, we might not have another “animal” to fall back upon once the tiger is gone.
For whoever heard of an Indian jungle which thrived without a tiger?