By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Contradictions were powerfully evident in India’s election 2019. A landslide mandate has raised as many concerns. Religious fascism has kidnapped a secular state — with votes.
The excesses of the last term of the ruling party are being condoned by the current electoral success. Big victory margin has crushed small yet worthy causes. Majoritarianism has stifled pluralism.
The winner is menacingly divisive in character. The opposition has become extremely weak, media reports are full of biases, and people are helpless at the electoral verdict thrown up.
A lie does not become truth, wrong does not become right and evil does not become good, just because it’s accepted by a majority is the sum and summery of the mandate 2019.
Normally, after every election there is lot of optimism among the masses with high expectations from the incumbent government. However, it is for the first time that at the outcome of the election, pessimism has set at the outset and there is darkness at noon right after the election results.
There are three dangerous trends that have emerged after the 2019 election. It is for the first time electorates are feeling uneasy after the election. Media has lost its credible face after the election and it is for the first time, third estate is facing trust deficit in the country. The third dangerous trend is that the opposition is fearful after the election results.
It seems all opposition political parties have accepted the mandate 2019 as a fait accompali and have come to terms that people voted for Hidutva and none want to vocally accept that EVMs were rigged or Hindu minds were rigged in the general election 2019.
There are some other unique developments related to 2019 mandate that needs deeper introspection. Why the majority in the country rejected the Congress and regional political parties. Why they raised above their caste considerations that is ‘Mandal’ politics and voted for a party that is ‘manuwad’ in character that means bias against women and Dalits.
If we understand the history of Indian democracy, we can definitely say that the BJP and its earlier versions ‘Jansangah’ were never the first choice of the Indian people for a long time, even though they present in the political spectrum in the country. Actually it was the last choice for the electorate till 1984, when the BJP got just TWO seats in the general elections.
The democratic history of India has a pattern of its own and if we look at it closely, since independence, electorate preferred the Indian National Congress for their seminal contribution in the struggle for freedom.
After heralding independence, Congress gave the slogans like removing poverty from the country, building a new India, and adhering to the principles of unity in diversity.
Congress started losing its sheen since 1968 when at the provincial elections, regional and the left parties started dominating the electoral scene. The trend started from Tamil Nadu, where the DMK swept the polls and marginalized Congress in the political landscape of the state. Since then this trend became quite popular and electorate preferred regional parties over national party at the provincial election.
However, at the national level Congress continued to maintain its domination till 1998 with a brief interregnum in 1977, 1989 and 1996.
In 1977 general election the Janata Party challenged the Congress domination and came to power with Morarji Deasi as the PM of India but lost the confidence vote in 1979. Congress again came to power but lost confidence vote in wake of Bofors scandal in 1989. It during 1989 to 91 period socialists V.P Singh and Chandrashekar became the Prime Minster of India. The Congress again back to power in 1991 and ruled till 1996 when its leader PV Narshima Rao became the PM of India
The BJP after the setback in 1984 election started to reorganize the party on strident political campaign building a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The “Ram Janamboohmi,” campaign gave a huge electoral dividend to the BJP and this party came on the center stage of Indian politics since the late eights.
In order to stop the BJP juggernaut, the then Prime Minister V.P Singh in 1989 accepted Mandal Commission’s recommendations that gave 27 percent reservation to the backward communities in the government jobs. It was a very significant development in India politics, following which an electoral tussles begun in the country between the Hindutva forces and the backward caste categories.
This was popularly called ‘Mandal’ verses ‘Kamandal’ politics in the Hindi heart land which witnessed a great tussle between the Hindu nationalist ‘Manuwadi’ forces and backward caste categories that have remained neglected in social, political and economic spheres.
The tussle was most evident in the general election of 1996, when the BJP came to power but lost the trust vote in just 13 days and was replaced by the socialist parties whose protagonist were leaders like Dewa Gouda and I.K Gujral who became Prime Minister during the period of 1996 and 1998. The General election of 1998 threw a decisive mandate in favor of the BJP that remained in power under the leadership Atal Behari Vajpayee till 2004.
Thereafter Congress again came to power under the leader of Manmohan Singh with two terms in office starting from 2004 to 2014. The Congress government lost the election in 2014 due to charges of . corruption and sloppy governance and the BJP came to power under the leadership of Narandra Modi power who represented hopes and aspirations of millions in the country.
The Narandra Modi government came on Hindu nationalist plank with the promise to make India an economic power house. But the first five years of Modi rule was marked by divisive internal politics, rupturing the communal harmony of India. On economic front, it had no big achievement to showcase and on external front it was uncanny peace with the neighbors and a lot of noise at the global level about India’s engagement with the rest of the world.
On the whole Modi had nothing laudable achievement with which it go to the electorates. However, to cover his shortcoming he build a remarkable election campaign based on national security and Hindu nationalism in the general election 2019. It was an explosive mix of religious nationalism that created artificial majority and minority of electorates in India.
This was something unique, where for the first time in the history of Indian democracy, the left, secular, democratic forces were marginalized in the country. This new vote bank politics gave an unprecedented mandate to the BJP that eventually was able to bag 303 seats in the current Lok Sabha, a remarkable turnaround from 2 seats in 1984. This is a big development in the country where people rose above the caste barrier and voted for the ‘Manuwadi’ party the BJP.
This is not an aberration but a titanic shift in Indian politics. Perhaps since 1990s when the BJP shot into reckoning, in 2019, it consolidated is position with thumping majority in 2019. As per the verdict of 2019 election the Congress and the left and socialist parties has got totally marginalized in the Parliament. Why it happened, needs some introspection.
This was because the Congress and the regional and left parties instead of addressing aspirations of the people built their own fiefdom based on caste class and other such equation. The ‘Mandal’ leaders and those of Congress basked in the glory of their superlative ideas of politics that gave them political dividends in each such election. As a result they became complacent, thinking that their moral high ground of politics that is development of the weaker section and secularism and social unity would continue to appeal to the people and as such they are invincible.
However, this did not happen. It appears that people started getting fed up with the same old rhetoric of the Congress party and also of the ‘Mandal’ variety of socialist parties. As a result they were forced to embrace the BJP as a matter of default and not out of choice.
The BJP having devoted cadre and propaganda machinery instilled the hope in the people that it will take care of all their aspirations. The BJP kept on attacking the opposition counting their failures and build up religious and nationalistic cohesion.
The opposition parties on other hand failed to muster enough ammunition to puncture the BJP campaign. They were self contend that if they could stitch the opportunistic alliances they can win the election with their old rhetoric. And that proved to be their nemesis. Their hackneyed ideas no more appealed to the collective wisdom of the Indian electorate.
So to say that the mandate 2019 was a victory of majoritarianism would be a misnomer. Actually it was a conscious decision of the people to choose from the political options available to them. In this situation the party that pretended to be better dream sealers stole the show while others looked like have run out of steam.
Well this is the beauty of democracy as there is no permanent majority or minority in such system of governance. The political parties that are able sell dreams better than others are elected to power and those who cannot woo the voters with their dreams are left out. The party that holds the power can be thrown out of power if they lose their appeal among the masses. This phenomenon is part and parcel of every democracy.
So in sum the mandate 2019 is just a passing face of Indian democracy. The change will come when the people get upset with the BJP and they may prefer another political party to govern them.
The other inference that comes out of this discussion is that selling nationalism with Hindu religious flavor is the new thing that has appealed to the masses in the mandate 2019. This idea is nothing new but it was packaged in such a way that people could not resist giving them another chance. In such situation, the opposition has to redouble its efforts to repackage their ideas to catch the imagination of the people. They have another five years to do so…
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org