The Saffron ‘Miracle’?

Compared with previous general Elections, The hate virus is much more active this summer, especially in North India, with there being four categories of politicians competing for the sum—corrupt, criminal, communal and dynastic. With electoral campaign entering the final phase, at the time of writing, parties and their bosses frequently indulged in no-holds barred war of words only to demonstrate ugliness of their political culture. Every election, general election to be precise, is a big show-biz and even small-timers, otherwise politically and socially discarded in normal times for more than one reason, enjoy their moments as they get enough space and relevance in media. Mud-slinging apart, what all they are doing is turning non-issues into issues while major problems affecting the population across the country do hardly get currency in their political discourse. Voters are being asked not to think over their uncertain future because political parties of almost all hues have already mortgaged the nation’s future to their overseas masters and mentors. People are being asked to forget about burning crises: the unemployment crisis, the jobless growth, the suicide of farmers, the ecological devastation in the name of development, the recurrent custodial and ‘encounter’ deaths, the issue of political prisoners, the continuation of notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act in North East and Jammu and Kashmir and all that. Mass movements for a better world for the marginalised and deprived have been shelved into cold storage; the only movement they think of all the time is how to manipulate elections and pride themselves on the false glory of biggest functional democracy. Even the political left, not to speak of right and not-so right, doesn’t think in terms of anything other them vote. If election this time is getting too much personalised it is because first-time new voters make a substantial percentage of the total electorate and youth unemployment is too high.

Faced with the possibility of collapse of dynastic authority for the first time Congress leaders are talking in multiple voices, sometimes at cross-purposes. For them, as dozens of market surveys indicate, even the message of low-key optimism looks a luxury. They are now talking of supporting the so-called Third Front from outside, albeit the very idea of a third front comprising left parties and a motley crowd of regionalists and opportunists, including fundamentalists is still a non-starter. Some of the regional outfits that were reluctant votaries of the left-sponsored Third Front at one stage, have already made a deal with the saffron brigade. While both Jairam Raesh and Digvijay Singh, two senior leaders of Congress said in no uncertain terms that ‘extending outside support’ was impractical, the Union Minister Salman Khurshid, however, said they could consider taking the help of Third Front to form a coalition government at the Centre. In truth Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan actually first mooted the calculus of Congress-Third Front alliance as a check to the smooth sailing of the saffron chariot. In other words it is one way to tell the world that Congress has already accepted the defeat even before the verdict is out.

What is intriguing is how both sides from the day one polarised politics to such an extent that voters were not allowed to think anything beyond Modi as if the Modi government was a settled fact even before the commencement of the crucial 16th parliamentary poll process. Luckily for the Gandhis the Opposition didn’t stir the Bofors scandal this time, otherwise a regular staple in every election. Not did they vigorously pursue the coal-gate—the pet theme song of agitation by the Opposition before the announcement of elections.

So many scams and yet no party raised the issue seriously during electioneering. One of the core BJP leaders—Arun Jaitley derived comfort from the odds Congress, the Gandhi family to be precise, was facing, to cope with the Modi phenomenon—a creation of big-money public relations exercise. He even predicted Congress party’s future as a 2-digit party. 3-digit party or 2-digit party both Congress and BJP, are national parties without national presence. Compulsion of coalition governance being the permanent syndrome in Indian polity, illustrates among other things that they are no longer national in spirit and outlook.

For the last twelve years they have been grilling Modi for engineering the 2002 program without taking any administrative step though it was not impossible for the Congress-led UPA government at the centre to talk tough. Their sole purpose was to woo Muslim voters in North India. But the minority community was not convinced, they could not forget the past. The hard fact is that in a number of states particularly in Andhra and newly created Telengana, Congress genuinely fears minority backlash this time. Also, in a number of states Congress Party’s crocodile tears for the under-development of the minority community don’t cut much ice. The Gandhis are unlikely to get back what they have lost—secular trade mark—anytime soon, despite their virulent Modi-bashing.

By continually demonising Modi they have virtually resurrected Modi beyond his state-level stature and allowed Modi’s party—Bharatiya Janata Party—to project him as a moderate much in the frame of Atal Behari Vajpayee. But the Gujarat pogrom occurred when Vajpayee was Prime Minister. Media people are now working overtime to prove how Modi has became a changed man overnight because of the prevailing ground reality. They say what appears from his latest speeches is he has moderated. During the earlier dispensation of NDA led by BJP, all the controversial issues—Article 370, Ram Temple, Uniform Civil Code—remained buried. No matter how the Rashtriya Sayamsevak Sangh pulls the strings from behind the scene, it is not that easy to address these problems to the satisfaction of all concerned. There is a generation of people who have never had full-time work, jobs are precious and competition fierce. To them communal-secular niceties don’t matter much.

Vol. 46, No. 44, May 11 -17, 2014