Yesterday Once More

Compared with previous polls, the secular virus is much more active this summer, especially in North India where election means casteist and communal manipulations. The secularism-themed electoral fair seems to be a dull affair this time though their higher-than-average expectations have been pinned on this common bait called secularism. But secularism is not selling because voters are tired of hearing this vague and abstract notion of danger. Despite a massive propaganda blitz against Modi—the symbol of ‘Communal Fascist’ face in Indian polity—seems to have backfired in many states. But Congress has no option but to depend on secular phobia to stall the march of Modi’s election chariot. The situation has reached such a sordid pass that many think it is not Bharatiya Janata Party’s Narendra Modi, but Narendra Modi’s BJP which is contesting. While addressing an election rally at Mewat in Haryana on March 31, Congress president Sonia Gandhi took special pains to explain why election was not just about development and her party was actually fighting for safe-guarding the secular values enshrined in the constitution, albeit before the promulgation of Model Codes by the Election Commission, it was development, rather their achievement in developmental work that was being highlighted almost everyday through media. The hard fact is that the BJP this time is doubly encouraged to ignore the communal stigma they have acquired over the decades through their dubious politics because many intellectuals from the minority community with their reach to a large number of people are batting for the saffron brigade otherwise described as a monster in plural political atmosphere.

Senior Congress leader Rashid Alvi said the otherday ‘the idea of secular India is under threat’ for the first time, as if it was not a concern of the public in the yester years. In truth it is one way to tell the world that Congress is on the defensive and they have no answer to saffron aggression that cannot be dismissed as something insignificant.

It is on the plank of development that Modi is campaigning for Prime Ministership. But the very concept of development is under serious challenge. After all India is not China where decision makers at least try to focus on how to enhance national interests and protect people’s interests while integrating with the global economy. During the past year while currencies of third world economies, particularly that of India, depreciated against dollar, China’s Yuan showed strong momentum and the trend expected to continue in 2014.

There is every reason to believe that the lobbying by big corporations in the USA, Britain and Germany has some influence on their governments as the so-called international community does no longer see a devil in Modi. Instead they are busy to woo him by reversing their earlier stance on the secularism-communalism divide. What they mean is business—pure and simple. They think Modi can deliver, he can produce results. They don’t bother about who instigated communal riots and carnage in Gujarat and took advantage of the socially disadvantaged. They are more interested in ‘the positive implications of likely political change’.

Besides Congress all the registered and non-registered secularists are in trouble to hawk their patent brand of secularism because there are not many takers. Whether the 2014 General Elections will be most decisive as to the future of Indian secular democracy is not really the burning issue. What matters to the people in the street is consumer price inflation, rather food inflation that has been in double digits for long. Secular rhetoric cannot tame the market.

The Chief Minister of Bihar otherwise a staunch believer in secularism and ‘social justice’, even of their kind, who only recently was in good company of communal BJP, now faces mob fury everywhere. At several election rallies he was greeted with stones and shoes. What a tragic scenario for yet another prime ministerial aspirant! People don’t need the intricacy of market rating by the global agencies like Golden Sach, to judge what development—or lack of it—means in real life. They know it from their daily experience why labour migrates to specific regions, even for unskilled jobs. This uneven development widens the inequality in incomes and how internal labour migration from the east to the west and south, is continually destroying social fabric and ruining lives of thousands of marginalised families has, of late, become an area of academic interest for NGOs and social activists. For the migrants this debate on secularism doesn’t evoke much enthusiasm.

Variously described as the greatest road-show of parliamentary democracy 2014 Parliamentary Poll cannot be any different from what people witnessed during the last 15 parliaments. But the secularists think the outcome may be disastrous this time because post-election scramble for power may touch on deeply rooted conflicts and is likely to create more obstacles in the path of social harmony and economic stability.

Meanwhile, a sickening repitition of false promises. Secularism doesn’t count when it is the question of sharing seats. So a deluge of defections and almost a fashion parade of rebels! All parties are affected by it. Even the left alliance in Kerala suffers from it.

Not surprisingly, boycottists this time are lying low. But their appeal to boycott elections is just an appeal.
Even their sympathisers don’t count it seriously though it could have been an occasion to expose the true nature of parliamentary parties. Abstract formulation cannot work. It didn’t work when boycottists were powerful in the seventies. It won’t work in the future either unless they talk in terms of the language of the people.

Vol. 46, No. 40, Apr 13 - 19, 2014