IN A DEMOCRACY, there is always some gap between what is said and what is heard. Politicians and political parties make a lot of promises before elections. Not all of us take all of them seriously. It is a general assumption that people will over expect and politicians will over promise and under-deliver. People do not expect a politician to fulfill all his promises. Just a few of them can endear them to him.
Why are politicians so notorious for not fulfilling their promises? First, in the heat of election campaign, they want to leave no stone unturned. Highly competitive campaigns do lead politicians to over-promise, willingly or unwillingly. Second, people over expect from them. They cannot qualify their agenda with conditions when the competition is narrow. Third, politics involves a fair amount of deception. Fourth, when a politician wins he faces a different reality. He becomes aware that it is not easy to fulfill the promises he has made. Fifth, once in power he faces bigger issues or finds there are issues which are more urgent than the promises he has made.
“If people want their politicians to not falter, they will have to be relentless with questioning.”
People can attribute a politician’s failure to fulfill a promise to one or a combination of these reasons. But most people tend to believe that politicians are just dishonest. A bit of dishonesty, or let’s say misrepresentation, has become an essential part of politics. Indeed, the word ‘politics’ itself has come to have negative connotations.
Yet, people are never a harsh judge of politicians. A politician can be a darling of the masses despite not fulfilling all his promises if he has the right attitude. Humility and a willingness to admit mistakes go a long way with people.
So it seems in a democracy promises will be made and not fulfilled. It does not matter why. It is part of it all. Politics is a game of consensus where adjustments will have to be made.
These random thoughts may sound too cynical in hard times when people really expect their leaders to be honest, smart and efficient.
But the fault does not lie entirely with politicians. People too tend to forget what politicians had promised because they think their role in democracy is confined largely to vote politicians in and out after a certain number of years. If people want their politicians to perform, they will have to think beyond voting and elections.
They will have to keep nudging their politicians so that they know there is oversight.
Open governance is a mode where people can come to have a stake in the routine processes of governance, sometimes by merely remembering and pointing out. If people want their politicians to not falter, they will have to be relentless with questioning.