The Idea Of India

Elections 2019—Choices

Ram Puniyani

Elections in a democracy can rightly be called as festival of the masses. They determine the course of the country in times to come. That is generally the case and Indian democracy has been steering this path, deepening the democratic process so far. It is not that there are no problems. Many issues related to money power, muscle power, EVM machines reliability have marred to objectivity of the process. A newer dimension to the hindrance in the march towards a substantive democratic society has been intensified during last close to five years. That factor relates to the division of society along religious lines, undermining the democratic process by blatant abuse of power to browbeat the religious minorities. The guardian of democracy, Indian Constitution has been challenged and opposed bluntly by the forces, which resort to the politics in the name of religion's identity, namely by using identity issues related to Hinduism. During the last five years, the Modi regime has alerted, frightened and shaken various sections of society for different reasons.

The large section of population which voted for him in the hope of Acche Din (good days), Rs 15 lakhs in accounts of everyone, end of corruption, control over price rise, strengthening of rupee vis-a-vis dollar, creation of employment, and Minimum support price for farmers have been totally disillusioned and are suffering the pangs of joblessness and agrarian crisis. Rising prices have broken the back of average sections of society. The fragmented opposition has realised the folly of disunity and serious though not totally successful efforts are going on to forge the opposition unity. The major reason for Modi's victory apart from massive propaganda and corporate funding has been the fragmented opposition. While a lot more is expected from opposition to forge a minimum programme, sharpening the focus of people's issues, whatever little has been achieved so far, is likely to become stronger as the elections are round the corner.

Modi and company have driven a serious wedge in the unity of the country. The issue of Ram Temple, Ghar Wapasi, Love jihad and finally Cow-beef have seriously affected the fraternity of Indians, which is the foundation of the secular democracy. The pluralism which had been the backbone of Indian freedom struggle and the underlining point of the Indian Constitution has been attacked recklessly by the ruling Government. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has driven its agenda hard, it's allies, enjoying the perks of power have quietly acquiesced in the BJP agenda.

Modi's rise to power began after the Godhra train burning issue was politicised, communalised and was made the pretext of unleashing a carnage in the state of Gujarat. This polarisation gave bigger electoral support to BJP in the elections that followed. After this Modi switched the language and started talking of Vikas (development). For him Vikas is synonymous with giving blank chits to his capitalist friends. Capitalists reaped rich dividend and started asserting that Modi should be the next Prime minister. RSS, BJP's parent organisation, played its card with deftness and put in lakhs of its swayamsewvaks/prachraks to ensure the victory of Modi. This was the first time that BJP crossed the Rubicon of simple majority and along with pliant power hungry associates unleashed the agenda of RSS Combine, the agenda of Hindu nationalism. Kashmir became a real estate issue more than before. The so-called fringe elements, the essential part of 'division of labour' of RSS Combine, started ruling the streets and lynching became the dominant part of the politics of Modi combine. The intimidation of religious minorities did get accompanied by the attacks on dalits and insecurity of women increased. The farmers, totally neglected by corporate oriented politics of BJP started protesting time and over again, to no avail of course. Their dissatisfaction is simmering and adding on to the disquiet among other sections of society. All this put together the electoral surveys started revealing the defeat of BJP.

Here comes in the terrorist attack in Pulwama, which is being milked by the ruling regime to gain electoral advantage. BJP is projecting the actions of army as the achievement of Modi-BJP. BJP which came to power last time on the slogan of Achhe Din is now out to project that Modi is a majboot (strong) leader. This media blitz is dominating the scene. The opposition which asked questions about the claims of the ruling government is being defamed as if they doubt the claims of army! What a twist and convoluted way to criticise opposition parties! Will this work for Modi's electoral prospects?

As such today the countrymen are facing the choice between the 'idea of India' which emerged from freedom movement, the idea which saw people of all religions as being equal partners in the enterprise of nation building, equal before law and equal in all matters of citizenship. The competing narrative is that of Modi-BJP, where Hindu elite are the pivot of politics, where problems of average people are put on the margins, where dalits are subjected to Una type beatings or Rohith Vemula type institutional murders, where the women face the situation like Kathua and Unnav, and religious minorities are relegated to second class citizenship.

Despite the mighty propaganda machine of Modi, what is clear is that he can't fool the people all the time. The Achhe Din could delude the masses for once. The hyper patriotism, muscular nationalism may put the masses in trance for temporary time, but that can't last beyond a point. The pangs of problems, will surely assert themselves this time around and the moderate language of opposition, the cry for addressing problems of issues will surely prevail and those standing for the idea of India of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel will surely triumph. The hope is, wisdom of the masses will realise what is best for the country in times to come, and that's what will come to the rescue of Indian democracy, that's what will thwart the danger of sectarian nationalism.

Vol. 51, No. 40, Apr 7 - 13, 2019