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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 25 New Delhi June 8, 2019

Can Indian Democracy Survive another Five Years of Modi Rule?

Sunday 9 June 2019

by Ram Puniyani

The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are out and the ruling BJP-led NDA has come back to power, with the BJP increasing its percentage of votes and the number of seats. This came as per the prediction of the BJP leaders, particularly Amit Shah who stated before the results that the BJP will cross the three hundred mark. While the BJP was overjoyed and its supporters hysterical with joy, many of those in Opposition and also those struggling for upholding of democratic values and human rights were shocked, to say the least. While some felt that it is the manipulation of EVM machines, there were others who drew our attention to the bleak future of the democratic and plural values.

The election campaign was dominated by the propaganda on the rival sides. The BJP, rather Modi, ignoring the pattern of the 2014 campaign and the promises made in that campaign, focused more on national security, nationalism and sectarianism. The Pulwama terror attack, which exposed a big failure of the government in preventing the attack in a highly militarised area, the lapse of the government in airlifting the CRPF convoy and letting them travel on road, was projected as the great success of the government on the security front. The language of revenge and hysteria created against the enemy country, Pakistan, worked wonders for the Modi-led BJP. The cry of anguish of unemployed youth, the worsening plight of farmers in agrarian sector was drowned in the din of ‘ghar mein ghus ke marenge’ (will beat enemies in their homes). Hitting below the belt Modi went on to paint Rajiv Gandhi, the martyr, as the ‘Corrupt number one’. Targeting minorities was subtly used to woo the majority. This was exemplified when Modi said that Rahul Gandhi has decided to contest from Waynad, as that is an area where minorities are in a majority. To win over the majority community, it put up terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur as the candidate from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.

The Congress on its part could not counter the nationalist hysteria created around Pulwama. To its credit it came out with one of the better election manifestoes, Ab Hoga Nyay (there will be justice now), in the Manifesto titled ‘We will deliver’. It did come up with the Nyay scheme offering Rs 6000 per month to the families on lower income bracket. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress President, talked of Love, a hint to counter the intensity of divisive politics created by the last five years of BJP rule. The schemes of job-creation, the measures to counter agrarian distress found pride of place in the booklet, stating the objectives of Congress party. On the minus side, the Congress failed to strike proper alliances at places. While it did well to stitch an alliance in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, it could not find a place in the Mahagathbandhan, which was forged by the BSP and SP in UP. It also could not put the alliance in place in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra. The consequences were disastrous.

The BJP’s control over large sections of media has been very obvious from last many years. Its money power has been one of its major strengths in the last 2014 elections also. With electoral bonds brought by BJP rule, large corporate funding fell in the kitty of the BJP. The Election Commission all through was partisan, letting go the violations of Modi-Shah, while issuing notices against Opposition leaders. One of the Election Commissioners showed his displeasure against the doings of the Commission. With all this manipulation of the democratic processes, Modi is back in the saddle of power. What awaits India’s future?

During the last five years the country has suffered severe violation of the values of the Indian Constitution. The fate of religious minorities has been relegated to second class citizenship, what with the lynching’s in the name of cow and attacks on Christians’ prayer meetings and Carol singings. Public institutions like the CBI have seen vertical split. The universities are being packed with Vice Chancellors and faculty whose sole qualification is ideological affiliation to Hindutva nationalism. The power has been centralised in the hands of one person. The doings of the government got well reflected during last five years with eminent persons returning their awards, the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, the floggings of Dalits in Una.

So what future and fate waits the Indian nation? The return of Modi with increased power may further intensify the processes unleashed during the last five years. The type of fright experienced by religious minorities is unprecedented. What is called as Hindutva agenda, Ram temple, abolition of Article 370 and promulgation of a Uniform Civil Code may be on the cards. The intensification of violence in the name of the cow is already a phenomenon assuming dangerous proportions. Unemployment rose terribly, the number of security personnel dying during the last five years has been very high despite the ‘ghar mein ghus ke marnenge’ posturing. Glorification of Godse is assuming horrid proportions indicating the rise of Hindutva nationalism in many portals of our society.

The prevalence of Hate in the society, Hate against religious minorities is damaging the very concept of fraternity in the country. So what should be done? While the ruling autocrat, Modi, will try to further damage the democratic institutions, the need for protecting the carefully nurtured institutions is urgently needed. Mass movements to demand the right to life, employment, housing, food need to be stepped up. The constitutional guarantee of affirmative action for minorities is already being trampled. We need to raise a united voice to preserve and promote the core values of India, its very idea. The dreams of the freedom fighters, those who strove to uphold the plural values while respecting diversity need to be upheld and nurtured. The dangers of Hate need to be underlined and social programmes to promote amity and oneness as the Indian nation are the need of the hour. All the political parties, who want to uphold the values of the Indian Constitution, the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity must come together and embolden the voices of social movements demanding promotion and preservation of human rights of all sections of society.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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