Author : Akshat Kashyap
The Pre-Election mind Chaos:
In April-May this year, an estimated 900 million Indians will be heading to the polls to elect their next parliament. In the 70 odd years since India’s independence, this will likely be the first election that challenges the country’s inclusive political culture.
If the current government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the prime minister Narendra Modi secure another emphatic mandate, the country will move dangerously close to becoming a majoritarian state.
A victory would give BJP control over all the state institutions and a huge influence over media, CBI and the other institutions which by definition are supposed to be ‘independent’. Moreover, a BJP victory will also put the freedom and security of approximately 175 million Indian Muslims in jeopardy.
Amid declining public support for the government caused by economic failures, the far right party is trying to secure an electoral victory not by convincing Indians that it will implement a strong social, economic and political agenda, but by pitting the Hindus against the Muslims, and convincing them to vote along religious lines. The remarks of top BJP and RSS leaders reinforce this communal agenda. Subramanian Swamy, a prominent BJP leader, said, “Economically, we’ve failed, but Narendra Modi will win 2019 on Hindutva”. When the top leaders so brazenly declare their extremist ideas and give it more importance than the welfare of common public, the nation can’t afford to give them the position of power. Recently, a family in Gurgaon were attacked in their home by a group of men-who belonged to a fringe Hindu extremist group- for being muslims. They were asked to go to Pakistan. The memory of Dadri lynching is still fresh in our memory- Akhlaq was killed because he had beef in his home, which turned out to be false information after a forensic examination was done. These actions have never been condemned by the ruling party, thus, giving such fringe groups their tacit approval to carry on their illicit moral policing, fear mongering and violence.
The preamble of constitution of India defines India as a secular state among many other things. It is clearly evident from the actions and words of the ruling leaders that the foundation upon which our nation is built is in danger.
Another method devised by the ruling party to garner support is by silencing the dissenting voices and branding them as anti-national. This directly violates another line written in our constitution’s preamble, “Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship” which gives the citizens the right to voice their views without any threats whatsoever. Their tactics to silence people has resulted in a wave of high profile academicians, artists, intellectuals criticizing the government, returning their awards in a show of protest, and going as far as resigning from their posts of power. If we look at the world history, we can see that these are the first steps taken by a country on its way to becoming a fascist nation.
If spreading communalism, fascism, hate, fear and violence wasn’t enough, the current ruling party has undermined the country’s autonomous institutions like the CBI, media, as well as creating obstacles in various educational institutes which are considered by them as breeding ground of “Anti-National” activities.
An experienced journalist, Punya Prasoon Bajpai was forced to resign from a reputed media house because his show didn’t highlight the prime minister in a positive light. Gauri Lankesh, a fierce critic of right wing extremism and Hindutva, was shot outside her home by people who pledged their allegiance to the saffron party. The prime minister never condemned this horrendous act. India has never seen such an unprecedented crackdown on its free press, and it just goes on to show how power hungry and intolerant the current government can be.
Not only media, even the CBI has seen the interference in its working as the top two heads clashed against each other in a corruption case. One of the heads, who had an investigation pending against him, was pushed through and it has been reported that he is close to the duo of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Such incidents lead to weakening of our democracy as the media, CBI and other independent institutions have a major role in keeping a check on the government and its power.
BJP was voted to power in 2014 for two reasons. First, anti-incumbent sentiment against the Congress was rampant due to various corruption accusations. Second, Modi managed to raise Indians’ hopes about their country’s economy by making several ambitious promises. However, none of his two main economic decisions worked out: the demonetisation of high-value currency notes in November 2016 and the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax in July 2017. These desicions hurt small and medium sized businesses and held the Indian economy back. Both the decisions were criticised harshly by prominent economists and were not popular among ordinary citizens. Besides these two desicions, unemployment has been on the rise and farmers’ distress isn’t being answered. Economically, India hasn’t made the king of progress which Modi promised in 2014.
All these factors have made the 2019 elections the most crucial in India’s history . If the people vote back Modi, who has no credits to show for his 5 years in power, who has been riding on Hindu nationalism fervour, it will drastically alter India’s identity from a secular nation to a majoritarian state, thus putting the foundations on which our nation’s identity is built in grave danger .