There is a vast difference between political polarization and political persuasion. Polarization is when people cast their vote for the Congress or the BJP not because they are convinced of the Congress Party’s secular credentials or the BJP’s rightist objectives but because they are either afraid of the communal outlook of the BJP or Congress’s pseudo secularism. If the Congress attracts voters because of its condemnation of BJP’s communal politics or if the BJP manages to get votes by ridiculing Congress’s appeasement politics then both the parties successfully polarize votes.
Political persuasion takes place when a party is able to effectively convince a community of its agenda for that community’s or caste’s welfare. What needs to be realized over here is that the persuasion agenda should be bonafide and not malafide. It should not be a populist measure launched with the intention of drumming up political support and it shouldn’t even be outright appeasement of an entire community or caste at the expense of others. It must not be done with the intent of wooing the electorate but with the intent of working for them honestly. It should be well planned and must not crop up instantly at the time of the elections. In the election season we can’t stop excessive pious posturing but the posture in itself should not be a new thing. It should be a thing of the past and a relatively old ambition, they can obviously add more into that. We can provide leaders with that much leverage. Persuasion agenda can be legitimate only if it does not violate the model code of conduct, happens to be constitutionally compatible and permissible (if not, the party concerned should clearly specify its intention of amending the constitution), is legally possible and most importantly if it is pragmatically feasible or bonafide as mentioned earlier. For example if the SP manages to tap in the votes of all the Muslims by promising quotas to all of them then it is polarization and not persuasion because all Muslims are not in need of attaining quotas although some are. The very essence of this agenda is malafide and so it’s an attempt to polarize and not persuade. Sometimes such atrocious acts or out of the way remarks lead to an attempt by a competitor party to counter polarize things. For example the BJP in UP tried to portray itself as the saviour of OBC’s by saying that it will revoke the Congress’s minority quota which tends to eat up the pie of OBC reservations. The BJP’s rheoric sounded more anti-minority and less pro-obc. They were trying to collect the OBC votes solely on the basis of this issue and did not talk about other ways of empowering them or uplifting them from social and economic backwardness, hence it was termed as a polarization ploy.
Many times parties try to plan the progress of a community by plotting the downfall or decline of others. This is not the ideal way to go. If votes come for or against them then it is all because of polarization and counter polarization, respectively. Some parties woo communities by telling them that if they are voted to power then status quo shall maintain and the other party’s attempts of victimizing them won’t take place. This is again a polarization tactic. If a community casts its vote in favour of the Congress or the BJP because they are either supportive of the Congress’s inclusive politics and minority upliftment schemes or of the BJP’s exclusive politics of development for all and appeasement for none, then it happens to be an example of effective political persuasion. Another sort of polarization apart from the traditional caste and community polarization is issue-based polarization like corruption. Issue-based polarization is still acceptable unlike caste or community polarization based on pre-conceived perceptions of parties. Political polarization is far more a realistic thing than political persuasion. The important thing is to realize that polarization is negative whereas persuasion is positive. During polarization parties tend to talk more of other parties backdrops and less of their own strengths whereas when they tend to indulge in persuasion, they act in the opposite way.