Indian Elections 2019: Part 1- Potpourri
Let’s talk about the Federal elections in India to be held in seven phases in April and May 2019, which will elect a new government for the largest democracy of the world with a right to govern it for the next five years or, as per one of the prominent politicians of the ruling BJP, eternity, as he declares that there would not be a need to hold any more beyond 2024.
India, like many common-wealth countries, elects its Federal representatives or MPs or Members of Parliament through a simple majority in the specific riding and thereafter the Parliament elects its new leader who becomes the Prime Minister. This means that with a multi-party system that is common in India and with tens of candidates from big and small parties, independents and also ‘strategic’ independents planted by rivals to cut each other’s votes, a party can win an election with even less than 1/3rd support of the voting public just because they won the simple majority. This helps parties and groups with a committed ideology and a cadre-based network especially when they need to face an opposition whose agenda is diametrically opposite to theirs and yet is divided due to various reasons including and not limited to egos and personal ambitions.
For decades the Indian politics was dominated by Indian National Congress or Congress as it is popularly known which has pre-independence roots and whose leaders were instrumental in India gaining independence in 1947. It has evolved over decades with internal power struggles, break-ups and emergence of various sub-divisions further divides and even unification. Till date, it remains as a centrist party with a secular agenda representative of the values of its founders. Post-independence it has been dominated by Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and his family, his daughter, Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi and his family. The latter two were also Prime Minister of India and laid down their lives for the cause of their nation and met untimely deaths, like the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The Indian sub-continent has used violence as a means to fetch solutions to political problems for decades and alas the tradition seems to be continuing even in the modern world. With Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi taking over the reins of the Congress party and being a guardian of power than the Queen herself when Congress returned to power in 2004, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is firmly entrenched in the Congress culture. Congress in the last few decades was also identified with corruption, a way of life in the sub-continent. Yet, besides religious based agenda of its opponent, widespread corruption was also a cause of why it lost power a decade later in 2014. Today, Sonia’s son and the new president of the Congress party, the prince designate, Rahul Gandhi desires to take over the reins of the nation as its next Prime Minister, nay King in the true sense and has sounded his war cry in the great battle of May 2019. He is ably supported by his trusted commandant, his younger sister and a true Princess, Priyanka Gandhi who also helps the cause by being a true copy of her grandmother, an iron lady whom a generation still fondly remembers.
On the other side is the mighty BJP or Bhartiya Janta Party, the right-wing party that has dominated the psyche of the majority Hindu population by stroking the religious card at its free will. Religion is the greatest addiction to control people and the stalwarts at BJP or the cadre-based brain-organization that controls it, RSS or Rashtriya Swyam Sewak Sangha have used this principle well to rule over the blind devotees, popularly called ‘Bhakhts’. It started with Advani who ignited the fire by taking a rath yatra or a road voyage in 1990 in the name of Rama, the popular Indian deity and building his temple in place of a Masjid or mosque which was supposed to have been built over Rama’s place of birth, about five hundred years back. In the animal kingdom, hearsay matters than truth. Proofs can be distorted; created, destroyed at free will and what is important is who says it and how it is said than whether it could be a figment of imagination of any vested interest. Advani blew the political bugle and then the Hindu ‘rose’ as was widely desired by BJP, till a group led again by leaders of BJP and its supporting parties physically broke and destroyed the Babri Masjid to pieces and built the foundation of a nation craving for Hindu identity while discarding its secular roots. During the period, 1990- 2004, while RSS helped and dominated the agenda by which BJP consolidated its Hindu base, they also needed to gain the trust of common Indians who were still not completely intoxicated with Hindutava and hence used the services of a moderate like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who became its face and India’s Prime Minister whenever BJP gained power in this period. Yet the roots were firmly being planted, especially in developing the rigid fringe and when BJP lost power for a decade since 2004, the moderates were made to give way, the mask was lifted and the fringe firmly took over the reins of the party. Exit Vajpayee, Advani who too was moderate by the fringe standards, Murli Manohar Joshi and the likes. This was to be the world of Modis and Yogis who would write the story of a new Hindu nation.
Oh yes besides these two players, there are the third, fourth and fifth and…., well lots of other fronts and parties with regional influences. These parties are based on caste, region, religion, linguistic or simply dynastic agenda and rule over their respective domains. Since India is a unified and yet divided nation with different languages, cultures, ethnicities, religions, regional concerns, these parties hold strong control over their specific communities and the two Federal parties regularly align with many such parties to form coalitions which share power and the loot.
Finally, there are independents. These are candidates who could have specific messages or issues to raise or have egos to massage, or are grievers who have been denied the official nomination or ‘ticket’ by the major party or many a time are simply implants of various parties to eat into the vote bank of their opponents based on the utility of candidate i.e. his caste, religion or cultural equation.
Off course there are many other popular forces which act as actual parties in deciding how the elections are held and which way the wind flows. There is media, especially in today’ world when it openly leans towards the party in power, there is money power and easy flow of liquor to buy votes, there is bullet power, gang lords and intimidation used to win over votes, there is the election commission and its ‘faulty’ electronic voting machines which add their own spice and colour, there is booth capturing, missing voter list of hundreds of thousands of voters especially of specific communities and …… Well too much ‘planning, intelligence and scheming’ goes into managing an Indian election.
Are you ready for the ride? Let’s get started with focusing on elections 2019. In the next article we will focus on the star of 2014 and current election, the ‘Bhakhts’ favourite candidate, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the great leader.
Till then, here is your own thriller. Dream tonight about how you will become the next candidate of a political party, ‘manage’ religious, cultural, social, caste, linguistic and gender divides and become the next great leader of the masses till such time your heirs or disciples are ready to take your place in this great circle of democracy!
India. Always ‘proud’ to take two steps backwards while moving a step forward in the modern world!
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.