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Editorial

Growing Democratic Deficit

India presents a unique scenario of elected autocracy. Authoritarians everywhere thrive on manufactured reality and Modi is no exception. In its ‘Democracy Report 2024’ Sweden’s V-Dem termed India ‘one of the worst autocratisers’. This time some 969 million citizens were eligible to cast their ballot, which is equal to the population of the US, Russia, Japan, Britain, Brazil, France and Belgium. Holding election in India is a Herculean task. Luckily not more than 60 percent voters exercise their rights. Then manipulation in various ways even by forcibly not allowing genuine voters to vote is part of the game called ‘free and fair’ poll. And yet this is the biggest showcase of democracy they boast of. But whatever remains of constitutional democracy in India is under threat. As Modi with his pre-poll partners returns to power with a slender majority in parliament for the third time it is now a matter of time that they will try to change the constitution to suit the right-wing agenda of Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] and its ideological controlling authority–Rashtriyaswayam Sevak Sangh [RSS].

For one thing exit-polls that predicted massive victory for Modi immediately boosted the share market initially and industrial barons lost no time to advance their wish list as RPG Group chairman Harsh Goenka listed 10 expectations from Modi. In truth Mr Goenka urged Modi to finish his unfinished agenda of agricultural reforms and labour reforms. But finally Modi’s arrogance of winning 400 seats was shattered and early cheers in share market vanished.

 The failure of the Opposition alliance to project an alternative agenda other than what Modi preached day in and day out gave the ruling BJP extra-mileage in electoral race. Modi was successful in diverting public attention from basic issues to secondary ones and the Opposition alliance danced to the tune set by the BJP. Congress and its allies are directionless when it is the question of confronting BJP’s economic reforms. Talking vaguely about Adani and Ambani makes little sense. Modi’s India is no economic miracle. The economy has actually grown more slowly in the decade under Modi than under his predecessor. The latest World Inequality Report finds India’s inequality to be worse than under British rule and India now figures below North Korea and Sudan in Global Hunger Index.

With not much to show for his economic resurgence, Modi doubled down on his Hindu nationalist brand but that didn’t pay desired dividends in vote market this time.

Regional parties that form the backbone of Congress-led opposition grouping have no national vision. Nor do they bother about national and international issues that affect the nation. Their only political interest is how to extract doles from the Centre.

People in the streets sporadically, rather spontaneously express their grievances against runaway inflation and massive unemployment and yet, the Opposition failed to articulate people’s anger into anti-establishment upsurge. Unemployed youths have stopped looking for a job and gone back to farm-work. The situation is so hopeless that even elite IIT graduates are jobless. When Modi talks about jobs and the economy he speaks in abstract terms about his government’s success in generating employment and throws around empty rhetoric about turning India into a ‘ developed nation’ by 2047. All this tall talk sounds ludicrous. What is left in Modi’s India is a hollow shell.

Modi’s control of the media, vast campaign funds and open demagoguery virtually left him free to ignore voters’ real concerns.

Past ten years of Modi’s rule have witnessed increased repression, more repressive laws, further erosion of the independence of independent Institutions, assaults on minorities and the induction of vigilante groups to terrorise the oppressed.

 Civil Liberty organisations are worried about Modi’s third term because of continuing shrinking of civic space. As opposition is in no position to challenge Modi’s bulldozers, civil liberties activists and various organisations representing different sections of society should come together to fight authoritarianism.

04-06-2024

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Frontier
Vol 56, No. 51, Jun 16 - 22, 2024