“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads

Elections in a democracy can rightly be called a festival of the masses. They determine the course of the country in times to come. That is generally the case, and so far 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, the reliability of EVM machines have marred the objectivity of the process.  

And a newer dimension, to this hindrance to the march towards a substantive democratic society, has been intensified in the last five years. It relates to the division of society along religious lines, undermining the democratic process by a blatant abuse of power to browbeat the religious minorities.  

The guardian of democracy, the Indian Constitution has violently been challenged and bluntly opposed, by the forces which resort to politics in the name of religion's identity, namely by using identity issues related to Hinduism, Islam. In the events of the last five years, the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party regime has alerted, frightened and shaken various sections of society for different reasons.  

The large section of the population which voted for Modi in the hope of good days or achhe din, 15 lakhs in everyone's bank accounts, the end of corruption, control over price rise, strengthening of the rupee against the dollar, the creation of employment, and a remunerative minimum support price for farmers - has been totally disillusioned and are suffering the pangs of joblessness and agrarian crisis.  

Rising prices have broken the back of the middle sections of society. The fragmented opposition has realised the folly of disunity, and serious though not entirely successful efforts are on to forge opposition unity. The opposition parties have realised that 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 them to forge a minimum programme, sharpening the focus on people's issues, whatever little has been achieved so far is likely to become stronger as the elections come knocking on our doors.  

Modi and Company have driven a serious wedge in the unity of the country. The issues 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 was the backbone of our freedom struggle and the underline and emphasis of our Constitution, has been attacked recklessly by the present government.  

While the BJP has driven its agenda hard, its allies, enjoying the perks of power have quietly acquiesced to the BJP-RSS agenda.  

Modi's rise to power began after the Godhra train burning was politicised, communalised, and was made the pretext for unleashing a carnage in the state. This polarisation gave bigger electoral support to the BJP in the elections that followed in Gujarat.  

After this, Modi switched his language and started talking of vikas (development). For him, vikas is synonymous with giving blank cheques and clean chits to his capitalist hangers-on. Capitalists reaped rich dividends and started asserting that Modi should be the next prime minister. The RSS, the BJP's parent organisation, played its cards deftly and put in lakhs of its swayamsevak/pracharak cadres to ensure that Modi would win.  

This was the first time that the BJP crossed the Rubicon of simple majority, and along with pliant power hungry associates it unleashed the agenda of the RSS Combine, the agenda of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva. Kashmir became a real estate issue more than before. The so-called fringe elements, an essential part of the 'division of labour' within the RSS Combine, started ruling the streets and lynching became the dominant part of the politics of the Modi combine.  

The intimidation of religious minorities was accompanied by the attacks on caste minorities, on dalits, and the insecurity of women increased. Farmers, totally neglected by the corporate-oriented politics of the BJP protested 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 in electoral surveys started revealing the defeat of the BJP.  

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

As such today we face a choice between the 'idea of India' which emerged from the 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 the Hindu elite are the pivot of politics, where the problems of average people are dismissed to the margins, where dalits are subjected to Una type beatings or Rohith Vemula type institutional murders, where women and even girls face targeted assaults like in Kathua and Unnao, and religious minorities are relegated to second-class citizenship.  

Despite the mighty propaganda machine, what is clear now is that you can't fool all the people all the time. The Achhe Din din could delude the masses once. The hyper patriotism, muscular nationalism may put the masses in a trance for a while. But that can't last beyond a point. The pangs of problems will surely assert themselves this time around, and the moderate language of the opposition, the cry for addressing people's problems, pressing issues, will surely prevail - and those standing for the idea of India of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel will surely triumph this time around.  

The hope is, that the 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.    


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