Like certain flowers that blossom only in the spring, Indian politics comes alive in its true colours only during election time. The strategies adopted by the political parties tell you what matters to people – or, answers the elusive question – how exactly do Indians vote? Certain moves announced by political parties for the upcoming UP election, whether absurd, controversial or unethical, give you immense insight into what works for the average voter. Even the most rational, modern-thinking politicians adopt primitive and regressive measures to pander to the electorate. They do this for one and only one purpose – to win. In fact, victory becomes so important that they forget or ignore the long-term repercussions of their actions on our society and nation as a whole. Take two examples, one each from the major parties, to see how peculiar Indian politics truly is. The first is the BJP’s attempted induction of corruption tainted Kushwaha. The move backfired immediately. In fact, it made people wonder why the BJP, of the anti-corruption-rath-yatra fame, took on board someone publicly fired for corruption. While the media bashing forced the BJP to withdraw, the reason why the BJP did it wasn’t pure stupidity. The Kushwaha community, classified in the OBC category, is nearly 10% of UP’s population. It is understood the community votes en bloc and can cause a major swing. The controversy regarding his induction made Kushwaha a star overnight. Such a tantalizing slice of UP’s vote bank pizza was too much to resist. The resulting indigestion aside, one can see what made the BJP do it. The second, equally if not more, disturbing act is the Congress proclamation of a Muslim quota within the OBC quota. Congress leaders are roaming around UP as you read this, touting their plan to slice an already sliced OBC quota for the Muslims. Both the actions above have devastating impact on Indian society and scars Indian values. The first act pardons sins like corruption if you have the right caste. It says that we as Indian people don’t value honesty above community. The impact of the second act, the Muslim reservation, is even more sinister. It divides Hindus and Muslims further. It sanctions privilege and advantage on the basis of religion. Religious reservations are bizarre. Consider this, one cannot convert his or her caste, but can convert their religion. So, could we see a scenario in the future in which a Hindu boy cannot get a job or college admission, but if he converts to Islam, he can get it under the quota? Are we incentivizing conversion? How can we allow such a policy to be even announced or be put in a manifesto, let alone take effect? The sad part is, such reservation does little for Muslims who need good education, entrepreneurship and empowerment to rise in society. Many Muslims are national icons in this country, and they have done it with their own talent, grit and determination. Muslims need an environment that nurtures their talent, rather than meaningless poll-time freebies. If a father gives his children toffees instead of buying books for school, it may get the child excited. But will you call him a good father? However, for a change, i am not blaming any of the politicians for the above two actions. Perhaps if we were in the same situation, we would be left with no choice but adopt similar measures. The problem is not with the politicians, who simply mirror and adapt to the environment. The issue is with the Indian electorate, or us. The great Indian mind is filled with prejudice. Centuries of persecution, discrimination even in the present day, and a belief that one’s own kind is superior has led to these prejudices. These in turn have led to a haphazard democracy that is more cacophony than consensus. The ruckus we often see in Parliament is nothing but a visualization of the average Indian mind, of chaos and confusion about who we really are. Even the most educated of us are prejudiced. One simple test of prejudice is this – will you allow your siblings or children to marry outside your community or religion? If your answer is no, then no matter how much you cheer for the Indian team, stand in attention for the national anthem or cheer the Indian flag – you are prejudiced. And until such time that most of us stay prejudiced, we will have the confused and mediocre leadership that we have right now. No matter how many hunger fasts activists do, or good policies economists suggest, if in our minds we don’t get the concept of being Indian, and treat that above anything else, we will remain a messed up country. Yes, dalits were treated badly in the past and some still suffer. Muslims were and some of them still are discriminated against. However, things have improved, and if you shed your prejudices, they will improve even faster. If there were no prejudice, there would be no need for the BJP to take a tainted Kushwaha, and no need for the Congress to announce quotas within quotas. If we don’t change however, we aregoing to move towards disaster. There will be lack of decision-making, inefficiency and a stalling of progress and growth. The young generation will find it even more difficult to get a good education and jobs. After all, if we choose our leader based on the toffees he gives us, then we somewhat deserve our fate. However, the elections are coming, and provide a chance – to express your prejudice, or shed it. What are you going to do?