In the world of politics, nothing can be taken for-granted, neither public respect nor their support. Machiavelli, with whom the idea of self-interest seems to have gained its greatest notoriety, has besides so many things also articulated for us the kind of paradigms which make perfect sense when we look at the politics that is being played around us. Irrespective of who says what, at the end of the day it must be understood that politics is primarily driven by the self-interest.
Like political leaders, common people too have their own self-interests, which certainly are far from being static in changing time and available circumstance. Therefore, a leader may appeal to one self-interest at a time to get supporters, but then expecting these supporters to offer their unwavering support to the same issue for all times to come is simply asking for too much. Even in the midst of their ‘support’ for a particular issue, supporters’ self-interest as also that of the leaders cannot be expected to remain static – it keeps on changing with time and circumstance. For instance, a leader may bring his/her supporters to the battlefront to fight; but once they are there, their prime self-interest becomes to stay alive. And if they are victorious, their self-interest may, and usually does, dictate entirely different and unexpected goals rather than those they had before the war. This is how politics is and operates in the real world, where “morality” is just a wrapper to rationalize if not altogether conceal the drastic shifts of self-interest.
However, thanks to the alienation of the rulers (both government and the non-state forces who have been calling shots here) from the ruled (common masses) in Kashmir -- public interest is never accounted for and considered seriously in the formulation of ‘public policy’ or the calls of support for a particular diktat. Instead the public support and adherence to everything good and bad is taken as if it was a political given.
When some separatist leaders ask the people to boycott elections, it is taken as a given that people would support without bother. When people actually did support such calls of boycott in the past, what was the outcome? Nobody has ever bothered to articulate this for the common masses. And yet, each time there are elections, people are asked to boycott. There is nothing wrong in such calls provided that someone takes the responsibility of explaining the strategy through step-by-step tactics to make people understand what will happen next, and follow then, and so on and so forth.
Similarly, the other side (the mainstream politicians) who ask people to vote for them will also have to explain how the same is going to help the people’s causes. People have, in the past also defied boycott calls braving grave risks, but then they still continued to be the same wretched lot. Nothing much really changed for them. They remained as disempowered and disadvantaged as they always were. If anything really changed, it is only the political and material fortunes of the people who were elected to power.
The ever-increasing social and political distance between those calling shots and those supposed to obey is actually responsible for this undermining of public perceptions and understandings and their consent. Complicating the matters further is that those at the helm are in no mood to accept the realities on the ground as and how they exist for the commoners. And as for the ordinary, common people are concerned, they too will have to understand that unless and until they organize to make their interests known, nothing really is going to change for them. As long as they offer their support to either side on a proverbial platter, they will continue to be exploited by both through highly emotive slogans that only promise them political and economic and social freedoms without practically doing anything to bring them about.