Creating positive perception is a critical skill that a politician should have. They work to create perceptions and in the process often rewrite the history. Politics is not just about development, nation building and governance alone but also much to do with perception building. To be successful in politics, leaders and parties have to employ tools and be adept in the art of perception building. However, Kerala politicians thanks to their overindulgence in politics master this art easily.
Among the many features of Kerala, excessive use of protest tools such as hartals and bandhs are a key nature of the political culture of the State. Its vibrant political life is based on declaring a hartal for anything and everything. It affects normal life, social & economic activities and essential service delivery and emergencies.
And there is nothing in Kerala, which does not have a political connotation. Violence and killings are politically motivated; strikes and hartals are indeed carried out for various reasons mainly political. Building a perception is the central objective and that is to create an impression among its constituency that they have protested and for the people.
Communal and regional parties have to create an impression that they are not communal. They have to prove to the world that they are secular and that minority communism is not dangerous. Another perception that they have to create is that minority communal parties if align with a national party and joined their front, it would naturally strengthen the forces of secularism. And they have to reinforce from time and again that minority communalism and its symbols are fine under the banner of a larger national level political front, which is fighting majority communalism and that would make them too secular, despite their parochial focus.
Take the case of the United Democratic Front (UDF). It consists of Indian Union Muslim League and a number of Kerala Congress factions. If the name Muslim league inspires communalism, undoubtedly Kerala Congress invokes regionalism and Christian communalism in the minds of an average Keralite and an Indian.
And interestingly these two UDF allies are part of national level Untied Progressive Alliance (UPA). Interestingly UPA fights against the Hindutva politics.
How could Muslim League and Kerala Congress factions be part of a secular alliance? What dangers it could cause to secular movement in the emerging Indian political context? Why do minorities need to create political parties that go against their integration with the main stream? Is it a rational approach and strategy for a national party like Congress and a secular alliance like UPA to include and facilitate minority communal agenda under its banner? Can communalism fight communalism? Will it strengthen or weaken the moral authority of UPA in its fight against communal politics and regionalism?
Another case is related to Wayanad constituency, which is emerging due to the presence of Rahul Gandhi. Indian National Congress (INC-Indira) has decided to field its President Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad constituency of Kerala. What kind of perception it would create in the minds of people? Is it a sign that INC is fighting against one of its probable national ally? And Congress is not serious in unifying secular votes? Or is it that Rahul is conveying a message that his fight is against politics of violence of the Left parties?
However, jubilant congress workers feel that his arrival could lead to an era of violence free politics in Kerala. While common political workers die of violence and become martyrs, those who responsible get expelled from the party memberships. And with the expulsion after a murder, identity of a person as a particular party member is cleared and it would be difficult to fix the responsibility on any group for violence and killings. Never in the history, could direct role of a political party in political violence be established in Kerala. Here too, those political outfits, who are involved and about them people link with the violence and killings have to desperately create a perception that they are a peace loving group and never organize murders and political violence.
A murderer has to emerge as a leader and the victims of the crime to be pictured as criminals are all in the game of perception building. However, poor families and children suffer and killers get protection.
Interestingly no party manifesto talks about political violence and investigations into political murders. It’s a law and order issue. Political class is together as usual in protecting their interests. Violence and killings for political and ideological reasons reflect badly on Indian democracy. For politicians violence and killings of their opponents are fine since every time victims are ordinary workers. But common man and peace loving voters cannot afford to permit it anymore. It is unfortunate that violence and law & order are not a matter of priority for the political class.
Also, only a truly secular front can fight the larger communal challenge. Minority communalism is equally dangerous and certainly perpetuates and deepens communal divide and majority communalism in the country. Congress party aligning with regional and minority communal forces would cause to advance majority communalism.
In the absence of principled politics there emerges the need for perception building as that is seen in today’s political space. History has to be re-written, divisive politics and ideologies have to be projected as inclusive and violence to be showcased as action for peace and justice and minority communalism to be justified. And unfortunately that is the politics today!