Abhay Kumar for BeyondHeadlines
Hours before the beginning of the counting of the General Elections 2019, my article published in an Urdu daily. Here I argued that the prediction of the exit polls survey would not match the final result. But as things stand now, Narendra Modi-led BJP is likely to better its own big performance of 2014. My prediction was proven wrong.
In all of my previous writings, I have never said that the opposition would comprehensively defeat Modi. Nor have I ever written off Modi.
But I thought that the failure of Modi government to generate employment, address the agrarian crisis, spend money on social welfare would bring down the number of seats the BJP had in the last General Elections.
But the number of seats has increased rather than fallen.
Why has this happened? In my views, it has to do with the great ability of the BJP to communalise the electoral discourse.
In the just-concluded elections, the BJP was trying hard to mobilise voters on religious lines. Even worse was an invocation of the army and the martyred jawans. The threat from terrorism and Pakistan was raked up and the voters were repeatedly told that only Modi can save the nation.
In my interaction over two months, I found that the BJP was absolutely banging on target. It was able to inject its own discourse among a large section of voters. The voters were made to repeat the lines of the BJP.
On several occasions, I was told that “Modi is coming again”. Why was he coming again? What had he done for you or what would he do? To these questions, the reply was the same, ‘Modi to lana hai’ (Modi is to be brought again).
From the perspective of a secular and progressive India, these words were very scary. Now, these communal frenzy is to stay here for at least another five years in an intensified form.
But the worst part was the penetration of communal discourse among children. In several places, I found small children raising slogans in favour of Modi and against Muslims and Congress.
Given the success of the BJP to communalise the electoral discourse, I never wrote off Modi and BJP. My calculation was that that the opposition would not be able to throw out Modi completely but the performance of the BJP would be far below 2014.
In short, my anticipation was that it was going to be a hung parliament with the NDA reduced to 180-200 seats.
I had a solid reason to think so. I thought that the BJP was going to face a tough fight in states like U.P., Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan. But I have been proven wrong. For many, the most shocking is the big defeat of the RJD in Bihar. The party that has done so well in the by-elections in the state in the last few years under the leadership of Tejaswi Yadav.
Is the poor performance of the opposition result of the tempering of the electronic voting machine?
The opposition parties have selectively pointed fingers at the voting machine but when they have won elections, they have kept silent. The stand of the ruling party has also been inconsistent in this matter. Do not forget that the former BJP president L.K. Advani demanded holding election through ballot papers in 2009 but then the ruling party Congress did not pay heed to it. Now the Congress in the opposition has cast doubt over the EVM but the ruling BJP is unwilling to listen to the Congress, terming its position as showing the lack of faith in the Election Commission of India.
That is why I do not find either the ruling or the opposition parties being really interested in going back to the paper ballots.
Despite this, the most advanced countries hold their national elections through ballets papers, a better and reliable alternative than the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Even the president’s elections in the USA, the world’s most advanced country, is held through ballot papers۔
On several occasions, complaints have been made of malfunctioning of the voting machines۔ Let’s hope that the election commission should realise the gravity of the problem. It cannot afford to insist on continuing with the voting machine when so many people have cast doubt over it۔
But the opposition cannot run away by just blaming the voting machine۔ In fact, it is also to blame for its downfall.
The opposition camp should have done much more work than it did. Lack of understanding among allies, priority over personal interests, corruption in the ticket distribution, scarcity of resources, and hostile approach of the media towards them have all contributed to their humiliating performance۔
If the downfall is due to the lack of hard word, the revival is also linked to learning to do hard work with faith in progressive values۔ It must remember that it can’t defeat hard Hindutva by resorting to soft Hindutva۔ Needless to say, the fight for social justice٫ secularism and equality has to be the guiding values.
We all know the coming five years would be a real hard time for the common people. This time Modi is likely to accelerate the process of privatisation and push forward Hindutva agenda with lightening speed. Given this, several challenges lay ahead of us. Are we ready for this?
(Abhay Kumar has recently submitted his PhD at Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. A regular contributor to newspapers and web portals, Kumar has been working on the broad theme of the Indian Muslims and Social Justice. His other writings are available at abhaykumar.org. You may write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org)