Three Narratives from the General Election 2019

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The way people have voted for the BJP in 2019 elections clearly indicates that the explosive mix of religion and nationalism has appealed to the masses. — Illustration courtesy: Business Today

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Caravan Daily

The results of the 2019 General Election have dissatisfied a large number of Indians. The message of 2019 mandate is loud and clear – the secular, democratic and socialist forces have been marginalized in the country. The mandate has a few clear-cut narratives that can be easily understood.

The way people have voted for the BJP in 2019 elections clearly indicates that the explosive mix of religion and nationalism has appealed to the masses. Except for this silent wave that is reflected in the mandate, no other issues were able to make an impact on the public view during the elections.

Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan

In their choice for leadership, no logic on good governance, performance index, economic growth rate etc was able to make sense to their collective wisdom. The assertive Hindu nationalist identity has been able to roll over all the issues in the 2019 general election.

The mandate clearly says that countrymen have ideologically rejected the idea of secularism as preached by the founding fathers of India. At present Nehruvian secularism no more appeals to the masses, just like communism is no more music to the ears.  The verdict that was out on May 23, 2019, went in favour of those who want to redefine the contours of the political vision of India.

One can call it Hindu or with whatever name, the idea of Hindu religious nationalism is as old as the idea of Indian nationalism. Somehow the democratic forces of the country had put a lid on this genie for all these long years.

However, since the 1990s the genie has come out of the bottle and hijacked the centre stage of Indian politics. It wrested power in 1998-2004 and then in 2014 had a resounding victory. In 2019 it gave a much better performance by further consolidating its Hindu vote bank.

The 2019 election results suggest that it was a referendum between hope and despair. The hope of assertive Hindu nationalism was pitted against the despair of those who wanted India to remain an oasis of communal harmony. And the mandate suggests that those adhering to assertive Hindu nationalism are in majority and those who want to turn the political pendulum to the centre are a minority.

What essentially, the Indian electorate had to choose was between the idea of composite nationalism and new political ideology of “Jai Sriram” and ‘Hindi Hindu and Hindustan’. In other words – either subscribe to the ideas of the father of the nation that Ishwar and Allah are the common names of the Almighty or to the one who killed the Mahatma in the name of Hindu nationalism. Unfortunately, in 2019, Indian masses chose the latter. The victory of Pragya Thakur is a testimony to this fact.

This new political vision is in line with the broad parameters of the ideology of the Islamic state of Pakistan. Indians have taken seventy years to make it loud and clear that there exist two nations in the country. The secular mask that was cloaked during the freedom movement to hoodwink the British and gain independence, is now gone. The nation was in a state of denial for all these long years but now when it has become self-reliant and strong and mighty, the churning of the political vision is evident in the mandate of 2019. The shedding away of the secular cloak and donning the Hindu identity is the first narrative gleaned from the election 2019.

Money and Manpower to Manage Electoral Rolls 

The second narrative is that this Lok Sabha election was all about managing electoral rolls by offering them material gains in terms of cash, drugs, and alcohol. The material distribution helped them manage the voters and booth management was done in an implacable style.

The elections 2019 witnessed massive use of money and manpower that reached frightening levels bears ill for the democracy. The party that traded well in monetary terms could influence the voters much better in the end. And that’s the summary of this elections. This includes media management overtly and covertly the social media campaign as well.

It was once said that Indian politics would become clean once illiteracy and poverty are overcome in the country. How wrong was such an assessment? Times have changed, education has spread, literacy has increased and political consciousness has grown, but has money power has never stopped playing a role in Indian politics?

The ritual of distributing cash, alcohol, and food still remains rampant across the country.  The reports from north to south suggest that money power to influence the voters was everywhere. Soon after the 17th Lok Sabha election was announced; an unprecedented amount of cash was seized during the various raids. In terms of the seizure of cash, alcohol and drugs, the 2019 election has broken all the previous records.

The question here is to find if there is any link between the amount of cash seized and in the rise of voting percentage? When we are talking about rising political awareness, we may also be talking about the practice of electoral farming gaining a stronger foothold at every election.

The reality is political parties have become traders in the electoral season and the voters tend to increase the price of their vote. No wonder the purchaser has spent a huge amount of money to buy the votes. It is natural that rent from the purchase of the votes would be recovered from the electorates with the motive of profit making.

An election is a big investments game and big money is required to win the elections. And that is the reason a large number of millionaires have jumped into the political fray. The figure says that in the outgoing Lok Sabha, 450 members out of 543 were millionaires or billionaires.

The stark reality is a large number of corporate houses and funding agencies both in India and abroad are making huge investments in this electoral farming that comes every five years. There is an incremental increase in the monetary investment at each election. And in 2019 election the monetary investments were huge to influence the voters.

Role of EVM and Election Commission  
 
The third narrative from the mandate 2019 is that there was something wrong somewhere due to a well-established design of misconduct to alter the results. And this is done after the polling and the actual counting of the votes.

The results do not satisfy the sentiments of a large number of people who did not vote for the BJP or its allies. The results show that there was no anger or hatred towards the ruling combine which was actually rampant on the ground during the electioneering. The mandate, except in some south Indian states, do not reflect the dislike for the ruling government.

This gives rise to the suspicion that tinkering with the voting machines was done to alter the results after the votes were polled. There are enough material evidence which suggests that in many cases voting machines were manipulated that altered the results.

Mamata Banerjee had hinted about this aspect even before the counting of the votes. Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, and Shatrughan Sinha too have come out openly with their apprehensions on these lines.

The fact remains that the opposition has no control over the voting machines once the votes were registered. The political parties have no clue what happened to the voting machines once the voting was completed.

It’s only the election commissions’ credibility as an impartial anchor to conduct the election that comes here into play. But then in a situation like this, where stakes are so high then can the election commission be trusted blindfolded. Here the prophetic words of Che Guevara come handy; ‘don’t trust even your own shadow.’

The talk on the street is that the Indian election of 2019 is the mother of all the electoral frauds in the entire world. The election commission is the dominant party in this democratic coup. The long drawn out seven-phased polling has given ample scope to them to rig the popular mandate. The resounding victory of the BJP raises huge concerns about the manipulation of the voting machines. Otherwise, it’s hard to explain the victory of Smriti Irani from Amethi and loss of Kanahiya Kumar from Begusarai.

The victory is always sweet and the loss is always bitter. The onus is on the defeated political parties to take stock of the situation and come out with the reasons for their loss and the victory of their rivals. The democratic game in India is unfolding its colours.

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(Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. Views expressed here are his personal and Caravan Daily does not necessarily subscribe to them

 

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