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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 20 New Delhi May 4, 2019

Grim Reality of Ongoing Electoral Battle

Sunday 5 May 2019, by SC



The fourth phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is over. It took place yesterday. The maximum city of Mumbai, known for its electoral apathy, turned a new leaf by recording a 55.1 per cent turnout, the highest since 1989. The polling in West Bengal (77 per cent) was significant as the high percentage was recorded despite some clashes in the State.

Meanwhile PM Narendra Modi stirred a hornet’s nest: speaking at an election rally in Hooghly’s Serampore, West Bengal, he claimed that 40 of the Trinamul Congress’ 211 MLAs were in touch with him and will switch over following the poll results on May 23. Promptly the TMC leaders attacked him for engaging in horse-trading.

Last week an article appeared in this journal seeking to highlight the BJP supremo’s signs of desperation. One wonders whether this claim by Modi was also the outcome of desperation.

But such prouncements are not in the least uncharacteristic of politicians, especially those of Modi’s ilk. However, what is really alarming is the manner in which Modi and his colleagues are seeking to divide the people on the issue of nationalism. The PM and his accomplices, including his supporters in the media, do not bat an eyelid before dubbing his opponents, and the radical youth opposed to him in particular, as members of the anti-national “tukde-tukde gang” whereas the irony is that Modi and his cohorts are themselves trying to divide the country on the same lines.

More than a hundred years ago, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had on February 9, 1919 delivered a speech wherein he had pointed out:

“There will always be many, who, by tradition and temperament, find special solace in belonging to a particular sect; and there will be others who think that the finding of search solace can only be allowed as legitimate within the pale of their own. Between such, their needs must be quarrels. Making ample provision for such inevitable and interminable squabbles, can there be no wide meeting place, where all sects may meet together and forget their differences? Has India, in her religious ideals, no search space for the common light of day and open air for all humanity? The vigour with which the sectarian fanatic will shake his head, makes one doubt it; the bloodshed which so frequently occurs for such trivial causes, makes one doubt it; the cruel and insulting distinctions between man and man which are kept alive under the sanction of religion, makes one doubt it. Still, in spite of all these, when I turn to look back to India’s own pure culture—in those ages when it flourished in its truth—I am emboldened to assert that it is there.”

The relevance of these words remain as valid today as they were a hundred years ago.

Indeed the ‘sectarian fanatics’ whom Rabindranath had assailed a hundred years ago are today running the country and taking it towards its inevitable destruction. Unless they are dislodged from power in the ongoing electoral battle the country and the nation cannot survive.

That is the grim reality before us today.

April 30 S.C.

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