Monday, July 22, 2024
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Regional politics wave on ground zero

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Editor,
The high voter turnout in the Shillong seat for the Parliamentary elections (73.76 %) was the writing on the wall for what was to come. While it became clear on April 19 that the Voice of the People Party (VPP) was going to win a landslide victory, what was not clear was how big the landslide was going to be. What was also not clear was how much incursion was the new party going to make into the vote banks of NPP and Congress in Jaintia Hills. But the complete washout in all of Jaintia Hills, in almost all of Khasi Hills barring two Assembly Constituencies, and in almost all of Ri Bhoi barring two Assembly constituencies, means that the coming KHADC and JHADC elections are a foregone conclusion. It also means that VPP is now the kingmaker, in the literal sense as it will produce the next administrators over the Himas and Elakas.
In actuality, the huge victory of the Congress may also mean that the GHADC elections too are a foregone conclusion.
Coming to the national scene, while the NDA has been elected to a third term, it is clear that it is running on its last legs, but it is also clear that the Congress Party will not be able to reclaim its former prestige in national politics. The next five years may see an unprecedented wave of regional politics throughout the country, as the people get wary of BJP, and will not look to the Congress Party either.
Perhaps, the presence of VPP in the national politics with absolute backing of the people, along with other regional parties, may at some point trigger a bigger wave of regional politics as the only obvious solution to the current impasse of having to choose between the BJP and the Congress. Perhaps, both the BJP and the Congress will cease to be the “bus drivers” by 2029.
Yours etc.,
Kitdor H. Blah,
Shillong

Is populism good or bad?
Editor,
According to the news, “VPP rides on populist politics” (ST June 5, 2024), populism is a political movement that aims to appeal to the people by positioning its leaders as representatives of their concerns, which they believe are being ignored by an elite establishment. Populism emphasizes the struggle between the morally virtuous people and a corrupt, self-serving group of elites. Populists define the people based on socio-economic class, ethnicity or nationality, while viewing the elite as a broad establishment that prioritizes its own interests over those of the people. Populist movements often have charismatic figures who present themselves as, “the voice of the people.” For instance, former US President Donald Trump positioned himself as a populist leader, claiming that a small group in Washington DC had benefited from the government while the people suffered.
Populism can be found across the political spectrum, including both conservative and liberal variants. It transcends typical left-right divisions and is characterised by anti-establishment sentiment. While populism can empower marginalized groups, it is sometimes criticized for encouraging demagoguery or authoritarianism. Economists associate it with extensive public spending programs financed by foreign loans, which can lead to hyperinflation and subsequent belt-tightening measures. Populism represents a complex interplay between people and the elite, often fuelled by discontent with established political structures.
Here are a few examples of recent populist leaders in the world. Donald Trump, the former American President is considered a classic populist. His political style involves railing against various elites, such as media or courts, while positioning himself as standing up for ordinary people. Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, the now-deceased former President, was a populist leader who came from a poor background. He aimed to overturn the power of the wealthy elites in Caracas and give it to the poor. However, Venezuela’s subsequent autocratic dictatorship under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, highlights the potential dangers of populism. Another populist leader in recent times is Juan Perón of Argentina who focused on eliminating poverty from the country. His ideas continue to influence the Peronist movement, which blends nationalism with support for the working class.
Populism has a long history and continues to be relevant today. Originally, it was a progressive movement rooted in the economic and political realities of its time. However, its meaning and impact have evolved over the years. Populism often centres around issues of inequality, labour precarity, and power imbalances in capitalist societies. While it is sometimes associated with radical right-wing ideologies, it is essential to recognise that populism can manifest across political spectrum. Yes, populism persists and shapes contemporary politics. While populism can resonate with many people by addressing their concerns and promising change, it also has potential downsides. Populist leaders often oversimplify complex problems, offering straightforward solutions that may not fully address underlying issues. Populism tends to create an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, pitting the ‘common people’ against elites and minorities. This can lead to polarization and hinder constructive dialogue. Some populist leaders exhibit authoritarian tendencies, undermining democratic institutions and checks and balances. Populist policies such as protectionism or excessive welfare spending, can have unintended economic consequences, affecting stability and growth. Populism often prioritizes short-term gains over long-term sustainability, potentially neglecting crucial investments or reforms.
Some historical instances of populism
Populism has a rich history and some notable ones are that the United States Populist Movement was active during the late 1800s, championing the interests of ordinary citizens. The Populist Party, formed in 1892, advocated for progressive taxation and direct democracy through popular initiatives and referendums. In the mid-20th century, populism became associated with leaders like Juan Perón in Argentina, Getulio Vargas in Brazil and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. They combine charismatic appeal with policies aimed at empowering the common people. In the early 21st century, populist authoritarian regimes emerged in countries like Turkey, Poland and Hungary. These leaders often consolidate power by claiming to embody the will of the people. We have to note that not all forms of populism are the same, and their impact varies depending on context and leadership.
Yours etc;
VK Lyngdoh
Via email

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