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  1. Could the promise of roads, parks and flyovers be the gifts-in-exchange-for-votes for the middle class akin to the television sets, saris and water pumps that serve as bait for the working class? Politics in our country remains thoroughly feudal with political office seen primarily in terms of its ability to amass wealth for the elected official and in exchange for which a few favours are promised and most often remain undelivered. The politician is grateful to the party for having given him or her a ticket. S/he owes the party, s/he symbolically owes the electorate but most of all s/he owes the various interests that have enabled him or her to run and stay in office.

    A more serious question is, however, raised by the local focus of candidates’ promises. Have our politics become so thoroughly centralised that policy is not a local or even regional matter but one determined by elites in political parties, government bureaucracies, think tanks, national and international businesses and foreign “aid” agencies? After all how often do we see politicians invited to the civic forums routinely held in Bangalore to discuss the various problems afflicting their constituents? Do we not all presume that the politician is playing a different game, not easily held accountable and, most pertinently, least effective as a means of remedying the situation? Is the politicians’ local focus at election time simply acknowledging the reality that policy initiatives (as opposed to specific schemes that bring policy to fruition) are undertaken at higher levels? In this context the promise of tarred roads may be interpreted as the politician’s wager that that he can bear down on the relevant government departments to ensure they do their work in a specific instance. If the centre of gravity of policy making has shifted away from politicians, what are the implications for the legislative process and for the democratic process more generally?
    Lata Mani

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