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Hypocrisy, ignorance or ‘the intellect beyond comprehension’ June 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Awasthy, Richa, India , trackback

Richa Awasthy

An open letter to the dissectors of Verdict 2014:

On the 16 May 2014 India ushered in a new era with the BJP winning the historic mandate of a clear majority for a single non-Congress party. Narendra Modi (NaMo)-led NDA alliance scaled new heights with 336 seats, something not predicted by anyone apart from one exit poll by Chanakya.

Never in the history of elections in India have I seen the kind of post-mortem that is circulating these days. I have seen analysis of why a particular party won or lost, but this is the first time I have seen such an effort to prove that the winner has actually not got a mandate. The verdict seems too hard to swallow for some of the elite class of intellectuals and they are trying to bring in all sorts of intriguing parameters to prove that the mandate is not for the winning party/coalition. The flood of posts in this direction inspired me to write this blog.

What is a democracy? Is it a meticulously laid down system to provide people freedom of choice to elect their representative? Then, why so much dissection of the people’s mandate? It is sheer hypocrisy that the intellectuals who vouch for ‘freedom of expression’ do not have respect for the ‘freedom of choice’ of the Indian voters. Look at the kind of explanations they are using to try to prove that the winning party has actually not won.

The funniest argument starts with the point that a majority is not won by only 31% of votes. First of all, in a multi-party system this logic fails to hold. But let’s take this logic for a moment and analyse the results from this angle. BJP-led NDA got 39%, Congress 23.4% and others got 37.6% of vote-share. So the BJP-led NDA is the least opposed coalition. The least opposed is the most accepted.

A stronger argument is that the PR machinery worked very well. The PR machinery was used because BJP did want to win and did not leave any stone unturned to ensure the victory. To blame them for this is like complaining that Yuvraj hit 6 sixes in an over only because he wanted to win. Asking where the money came from is a valid question and we have a right to ask it. Keep a hawk-eye and see if we get the answer. But tell me which PR machinery had worked in 1977, when Indira Gandhi was defeated? It was a defeat of one of the strongest leaders India ever had. The Indian voter is prudent. The message is simple: when a government steps beyond a certain limit, the people of India resolve to ‘sabak sikhana’ (teach a lesson). Considering that the election was won with PR power is an insult to the prudence of the Indian voter, who votes based on the immediate circumstances. An apt example is Punjab where voting was against the incumbent Akali government rather than against Modi. Why did PR not work in Punjab? Orissa chose Biju Janata Dal (BJD) for a record 4th time because of the able leadership of Naveen Patnaik. Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu and Mamata in Bengal got their due share because of the work they did in their states.

Are we so blind that we do not see the insult being hurled at the poorest common man of the country in the last few years? They do not have food on their plates and each day newspapers report new and bigger scams unfolding. The incumbent government seemed to be living in complete oblivion of their plight. This is where NaMo connected well when he said that we have to fight poverty and poverty has no religion. When a man fallen in a well is shown a rope, he does not analyse or judge the strength of the rope. He just sees a hope that he will come out of the well with the help of this rope. Modi-ji succeeded in showing this rope to the poorest of the poor. NaMo struck the right chord.

The latest I read from the so-called liberals is that secularism took a back-seat in voters’ minds. This secularism is a bogey which has most tickets sold and had the most passengers at the time of the election. But it has degenerated into pseudo-secularism. Whether I want to go to a temple, a masjid on Friday, a Church on Sunday or a Gurudwara on any day is my personal choice and prerogative. Everyone should be treated as an Indian and there should be no discrimination in the name of religion. I want a right to fight if I do not get my due because I belong to a particular community rather than getting a dole for being in a minority. It would be better in the interest of the nation if we focus on the fight to separate religion from politics.

The commentators should have been objective about informing the voters. They did not put any effort into enlightening the voters about the criminal/corruption charges of the local candidates. Further, if you tell a child not to do something, he/she will do that again and again. The public behaved like that child. The more they were told not to vote for NaMo, it strengthened their resolve to give him a strong mandate. The commentators failed to realize that NaMo was the man of the moment who had raised hope in millions of hearts.

Some are worried about what will happen to ‘freedom of speech’ in the future. Surprisingly, very few came forward when this freedom was curbed by the incumbent central and state Congress governments who did not allow Salman Rushdie to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2012. No voice was raised when the voice of Taslima Nasreen was silenced in West Bengal. In fact, they did not think it appropriate to oppose the moves by the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) against North Indians in Mumbai. 2002 keeps echoing in the mind of elites and media but these intellectuals and watchmen of human rights go into hiding and fail to be equally vocal about recent events in Muzaffarnagar and Assam. Those who keep quiet on what is happening in front of them are worried about things that have not occurred. I would prefer to see a positive approach that focuses on upholding the rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

What the commentators did not appreciate is that the Indian voter rose above the politics of caste, creed or religion. This is demonstrated by results from Uttar Pradesh. Not only did the BJP win the highest number of MPs, but parties who thrived only in the name of caste/religion-based politics have been routed out. To highlight, BJP won in constituencies where a particular so-perceived anti-BJP community is in majority. This was a vote for real inclusiveness.

Freedom of speech does not mean writing what is approved by everyone, so how can ‘freedom of choice’ mean electing someone preferred by commentators? I would have expected a saner and more objective assessment of the win and also a roadmap of what should be the priorities of the next government.

Votes can be bought but not the sense of belonging that NaMo supporters have in this win and the way they feel one with this victory. The overwhelming joy and love showered on him is priceless. It would be better for all to rise above preconceptions of Modi-ji and to work together to take the nation forward with the slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikaas’ (Everyone together, everyone’s development).

Reference: http://www.ndtv.com/elections. Acknowledgment: Thanks to Mr. Yashwant Deshmukh (@cvoter on twitter) for his review comments.

Richa Awasthy is a research student at The Australian National University.

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