A Hobson’s choice

What’s happening in Nagaland! What will be polls plank of the prominent parties! Will the concept of anti-incumbency factor ever apply in the state! A reporter from a national daily wondered observing the election process in Nagaland.


As the date for election approaches, his queries are not misplaced. Curious co-incidence as well as calculative political re-alignment has drawn up a unique political spectacle and conundrum for the voters.


For instance, two prominent sides in the upcoming election will be Naga People’s Front (NPF) and the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.


The two sides have put up maximum candidature with symmetrical political heavyweights.


However, the most contenders are more or less part of the government that ruled state for the past two assembly terms.


Ipso facto, every time one entity attacks the others, it will be scoring only own goals, as they were same house under the previous avatar.


Ditto for other elected members of the 12th Nagaland Legislative Assembly, as they were all part of the so-called “opposition-less” government.


The anti-incumbency factors, in such a scenario, do not hold much water.


Relatively new entrants to the state politics like the National People’s Party, old-horse like Congress and to some extend Nationalist Congress Party and Janata Dal (United) lack the clouts and resources to challenge the ‘status-quo’.


Many independent and party rivals are those who did not get the tickets to contest from influential parties.


For conscientious voters in Nagaland, thus, it’s a Hobson’s choice – which refers to a choice of taking what is available or nothing at all.


Not that it’s going to make any difference, but question; ‘If the voters have to keep electing same party or person over and again?’


Such questions have puzzled many political scientists but there are a wide variety of ideological, cultural, social, historical, financial and other factors involved, because politics incorporates all of these aspects, writes Dean Burnett in ‘Democracy v Psychology: why people keep electing idiots’. He further cited some known psychological processes. It appears, confident people are more convincing as demonstrated in many studies and the Dunning-Kruger effect reveals that less-intelligent people are usually incredibly confident. More intelligent people, by contrast, aren’t at all with self-appraisal becoming a necessary evil for them during election.


In such a precarious condition of this nature in the state, the state of the state matter visibly makes the current state of affairs a lab specimen to experiment a creation that could be ‘dangerous’ or ‘worthwhile’.


But as Political scientist Larry Bartels argued, “So much of politics, not surprisingly, turns out to be about expressive behavior rather than instrumental behavior — in other words, people making decisions based on momentary feeling and not on some sound understanding of how those decisions will improve or hurt their life.” In Nagaland, such momentary feelings are spreading far and wide as election fevers grip the state.


Will the voters then consider underlining their role as a significant one in shaping the future of the state; will they follow the leaders or make the leaders follow them, for it is true no longer can the state live in mere rhetoric.