Vote Revolution in India

The non-secular force has come back with more fury

by Anwar A Khan

Across the country - India, the BJP has scored a spectacular mandate for a second straight term in power. Earlier on April 11, country - the world’s largest democracy embarked on a six-week long vote for a new parliament. Voting results of nearly 900 million voters are announced. India faces high unemployment, sharpening sectarian and caste divisions, distress in its rural population, and a recent flare-up of tensions with Pakistan.

With a stronger Hindu identity, Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s largest party, has dominated the government since 2014. He is known as a stirring orator and savvy tactician in the name of religion.The Indian National Congress led India for most of the nation’s post-independence history. This secular, center-left party’s leader is Rahul Gandhi, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather were prime ministers.There are also five other national parties, 26 state parties and more than 2,000 smaller political parties registered in this year’s election.

Many Indians vote along caste or religious lines, but voters also tend to switch between the major parties from election to election. Turnout is high and Indian voters are famous for throwing out incumbents, but this has not bechanced this time. Electors are so cauterised that Hindutva, once again, under the stewardship of scalawag Modi is set to ascend the throne of Delhi.

Urban voters are upset about how hard it is to find a job. India’s economy is still growing quickly around 6.6 percent in 2017, but more and more Indians are out of work. Couple that with rising oil prices that push up inflation, and many urban Indians say they are worse off than they were five years ago.

Yet most Indians still live in rural areas. In 2014, more than 60 percent of the votes BJP received were from rural voters. Many believed that this year, intense economic stress caused by severe droughts and stagnant farm incomes has made the party less popular among the 260 million Indians in farm families. But that has leavened faulty. The voting results have bechanced just diametrically the opposite - the coalition of parties led by the BJP has kept its majority in Parliament, paving the way for Modi to secure another five-year term as prime minister. Shakespeare’s words are pertinent here “there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Centuries ago, Hindu scriptures laid out a strict social hierarchy based on occupation. In many places, especially rural areas, those strictures, known as the caste system, continue to influence daily life, including politics. Since independence in 1947, India has struggled to de-weaponise caste. The Constitution includes specific protections for Dalits, who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy and make up about 15 to 20 percent of the population. The Congress party has positioned itself as the champion for Dalits, but still then, it has lost in the election run-up.

Among upper castes, affirmative action programmes have generated deep resentment, which Modi’s party has promised to address. Indians in the lower castes are still alarmed at how often they are targeted by hate crimes that are seldom prosecuted.

In the concluded election, the BP has able to win some support from the lower castes, getting more than 25 percent of the Dalit vote — it is usually about half that. Modi’s appeal was based largely on support for a Hindu-centric worldview and his vows to run a clean, corruption-free government dedicated to economic growth which may be a far cry.

India’s Muslims numbering around 200 million, roughly 15 percent of the country’s population has remained influential. The BJP’s Hindu-centric politics have alienated many Muslims, and Congress is expected to win most of the Muslim vote. But Congress politicians are wary to side too publicly with Muslims, worried about being accused of abandoning Hindu beliefs.

Caste and religious divisions are factors in keeping India tied to one of the lowest rankings of social mobility in the world. Only about 8 percent of Indians whose parents were in the bottom half in educational attainment rose to the top quarter, while the figures in most other countries exceed 12 percent.

Most Indians are employed in informal sectors, such as farmhands, domestic workers, rickshaw drivers and recyclers. Across the economy, Indians and particularly the highly educated are struggling to find jobs. Surveys consistently rate this as the No. 1 voter concern, particularly among the young. This year Mr. Modi was accused of suppressing an official report showing that unemployment had reached a 45-year high. And India’s portion of the working-age population that is either employed or actively seeking work has consistently declined.

In recent decades, India has made enormous progress lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, improving literacy and life span, and turning its economy into a global powerhouse. But much of its economic might is based purely on the size of its population — 1.3 billion. The average Indian makes around US$5 a day, on par with developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

India’s population remains young (with more than half younger than 25) and is growing quickly The United Nations estimates that India will overtake China’s population by 2024. That makes the need for job creation even more critical. In the next 30 years, more than 200 million Indians will enter the work force, increasing pressure on an economy that is already facing record unemployment.

Women are a huge piece of India’s election puzzle, with a record number of female voters and candidates have cast their votes. But they are still often overlooked by the establishment: Women now hold only 11 percent of seats in the lower house, though they make up around 48 percent of registered voters. Forced marriage, forced labour and gang rape are distressingly common problems that Indian women still face.

The Congress has been practically reduced to four states. The much-celebrated Mahagathbandhan has been reduced to smithereens. The BJP has reached a larger vote-share and numbers due to all the non-traditional areas like the South, East and Northeast and has emerged as the party of power like the Congress of the 60s.Many stalwarts of the Congress like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh, Ashok Chavan, Milind Deora, Sushilkumar Shinde have fallen by the wayside. The TDP, SP, BSP and even the TMC, the most critical of Modi, have suffered big setbacks, while parties considered closer to Modi like the BJD, TRS and YSRCP in Andhra have reaped rich rewards. This is a historic, but not a defining moment for Indian polity. The voter has given a massive thumb up to Modi and his policies. This has diminished the Congress party and the other opposition parties to mere marginal players.

By winning so convincingly and retaining the previous 100% strike rate in Rajasthan, Gujarat and other Hindi states, Modi has proved beyond doubt that his role as a creative disruptor of Indian politics has the massive mandate of the people of the country. Modi has won more seats, vote share and geographical canvas than in 2014.

Everywhere, the voter asked one question: "Who else but Modi?" The people were not convinced by the Opposition claim that they will first block Modi and then choose a leader after the poll. To stop Modi, could they ensure that there was only one Opposition candidate against the NDA in every constituency? But the Opposition strategy was flawed from the beginning. They had no common agenda, no action plan and the Congress manifesto was a charter for giving a free run to the “Break India brigade".

The Congress campaign strategy looked confused and disoriented. The Congress party led combine could not field an all-India based popular people’s candidate for premiership. In contrast, the BJP looked confident and well-prepared. The party's campaign material committee headed by senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had produced a variety of literature and propaganda materials including very attractive audio-visual songs highlighting the achievements of the Modi government. The material included literature like "think before you vote", "55 years of Congress versus five years of Modi", "impossible made possible because of Modi", and "achievements of the government to make life better for every segment of the society like poor, working class, youth, women, farmer, army men, divvying, elders" and achievements in the field of industry, infrastructure, finance, SMEs, economy, etc. These were prepared in all languages and distributed up to the booth level.

The Prime Minister gave a number of interviews where he listed the achievements and answered all critical queries about his policies and politics. Thus he was able to dominate the poll debates. The Opposition by entirely focusing on Modi made the campaign Modi-centric and presidential.

BJP is the first political party in thirty-five years to win an outright majority in a general election in India. And Modi has won an epic mandate for a second term in power, with his BJP winning more seats than in 2014 to rule the country with more ferocity based on Hindutva. So, it is not a new morning for India. Indian people must stand their ground. Their resolve to fight for secular India must continue, a more tough journey ahead has just begun.

-The End –

The writer is a senior citizen of Bangladesh, writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.


Post a Comment