Landscape During And After The Battle: Silent Hindu Consolidation Or A Rogue Wave In The EVMS?

With the fate of over 400 Lok Sabha candidates sealed in the EVMS, speculations are in the air!

I take no brief for either NDA or INDIA but let me point out that, as a rule and much to the despair of genuine democrats like me, Indians believe in a strong leader with no challenge from within his party or outside. Like it or not, NaMo is the one individual leader who stands tall and solid at the national level.

The Great Indian democratic circus (Lok Sabha Elections) is limping to its end as the Indian Premiere League (IPL) too has just one week’s life left with last four games in balance. There is another parallel between the two events: both are getting more dampened by the day. While in cricket the unseasonal local rains are the culprit, in the elections the vociferous, noisy stalwarts of both NDA and INDIA are losing steam and looking visibly exhausted- both physically and politically- as they are at a loss to find new abuse for one another (Phew!). On one side we have the tireless, abnormally energetic NaMo frothing at the mouth in sickening avowals of Modi Ki Guarantee. God is (probably?) in heaven; but you allow NaMo to be in charge for next five years and the heaven will descend on the earth: the poor will not starve, farmers will toil proudly, women will be safe, youth will beam, artisans will flourish, the Desh Todo strategies of Congress will fail, the minorities will hide under diffidence, economy will be at number three in the world, the nation will become so omnipotent that even PoK will be won back. Can heaven be any better? Keeping Congress away, mostly by the crook is the Modi Ki Guarantee in essence.

Turn the above upside down and you get the load of the INDIA rhetoric; as simple as that. They do not need an iota of home work. Just put question marks over Modi Ki Guarantee without fail. Dub him a dictator (dangerously forgetting that even the educated Indians yearn for a “benevolent dictator” like they did when Nehru and Indira were in top form: Indira was India.)

The second way to outdo NaMo is double all the promises to the deprived sections: 10 kg food grains per family per month, or loans to educated / skilled unemployed individuals. I wonder if they are repeating the Hamartia (tragic error) of Shakespearian heroes which they made ten years back when they focused the whole campaign on deriding NaMo and creating a Frankenstein who devoured them. This happened in 1979-80 (as a tragedy for Janata Party) when Indira bounced back stronger after the emergency and now it might recur as a farce and help NaMo  stay put; a bit wiser and wizened as his recent speeches are without the boastful ‘ab ki bar, 400 par’.

As I write this, five phases of Election 2024 are over. Votes have been cast for all but 114 seats which will be covered in the last two phases. So at least the polling has been 400 par with over 3/4th of the LS locked in sky reaching stacks of EVMs. Pollsters and political observers are busy in looking for a method in the interdependent madness of two Hamlets! I call both NDA and INDIA Hamlets because the Time is out of joint for both. And both are haunted by the shape of things to come. With all its faults parliamentary democracy continues to create suspense. What if this and that is the haunting question both contenders have to face.

Take NaMo as a case. He has presented two faces. (That he is double-faced is another matter!) There a general consensus among his followers and detractors that he changed gears and emphasis after April 5 when the manifesto of INDIA was released. Till then he was speaking of GYAN and India of the future. Afterwards his speeches-loud and militant though as a sevak of Bharat Mata-turned Congress centric and the main point became to paint Congress as anti-Hindu. He even called the Congress an incarnation of Muslim League before independence, notwithstanding the fact that the present-day Muslim voters are mostly citizens of free India! The Muslim property law (which is actually fair to abandoned women) was invoked; Hindu ladies were cautioned about their Mangalsutra and Hindus were alerted that their joint property (sic joint family) would be threatened. Such is the double face of NaMo that in spite of spewing all this communal venom he said in an interview that he never talks about minorities as a political entity only to suggest that he looks at them as (equal?) citizens. Economic issues and soaps to the deprived became less frequent in his appeals and the 400 par boast was manifest more by absence. So NaMo has deliberately communalized this Lok Sabha Election and doesn’t look like having any second thoughts. (I request readers to go through a detailed analysis of NaMo’s 111 campaign speeches in the first five phases presented by the Indian Express.)
111 PM speeches

So, there is some desperation among the NDA ranks (I refrain from calling it ‘panic’). Also confusing were his appeals to veterans like Sharad Pawar (Mr. Suspicious) to join the NDA and his criticism of the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha.

Pro-India observers focus on this shift and forecast a less than 300 NDA MPs and less than 270 BJP MPs in the next parliament. Some even dream of a drastic change at the top and INDIA getting the reins back. Their likely /unlikely hope has been put forward by a new theory - a possible Rogue Wave in the North. Rogue Wave, put simply, is an unforeseen upheaval triggered off by outwardly disconnected factors. The allusion is to the INDIA Alliance - put together in haste and with “antiBJPism” as the only adhesive. They argue that the apparently disconnected elements of INDIA will challenge the NDA juggernaut through myriad caste-community combinations in states and thus throw the BJP’s blanket appeal of national pride, patriotism, caring for the weak etc. out of the window. This does not look impossible as caste-community calculations in the less developed but highly politicized rural India are beyond the political pundits-they may be good at analysis but can rarely predict…

I take no brief for either NDA or INDIA but let me point out that, as a rule and much to the despair of genuine democrats like me, Indians believe in a strong leader with no challenge from within his party or outside. Like it or not, NaMo is the one individual leader who stands tall and solid at the national level. Further, Indians tend to hand over power in Delhi to such a leader and his party without hesitation and right now BJP is the only party at national level which can attract a large chunk of the Hindu vote without being open and vociferous about it. Moreover, Indian voters keep caste calculations behind - to sort out at the state assembly elections.

Ironically, my generation witnessed the very short-lived Janata Party experiment during the late 1970s. It was frustrating, to say the least. The further irony is that, at that time BJP (called Jan Sangha then) was the biggest constituent of the JP (another irony) Alliance and was instrumental in both its rise and downfall. Barring Congress, most member parties of INDIA were with BJP then. The argument that INDIA MPs shall elect their own PM after getting power is correct theoretically but in reality - with Rahul Gandhi as the reluctant bridegroom - seems impractical or only temporary. One shudders to think, that if at all such a possibility throws itself up, the government will resemble the beehive where Queen bees will be aplenty. The Rogue Wave, if it becomes a reality, shall have too many Rogues creating whirlpools around themselves.

Arvind Kejriwal, who must have had ample time for ‘chintan’ of late, has come up with an ingenuous prediction - NaMo will soon be 75 and will have to hand over charge to someone (Shah / Yogi? God forbid!) because the BJP constitution says no posts after 75. Is Kejriwal naïve or has he lost his bearings? Can’t the BJP change its own constitution when it’s talking day and night of changing the constitution of the country?

I will leave the matter here at the end of the 5th phase and take it up after the cat is out of the bag in June. But allow me to iterate a rather embarrassing reality. Despite the talk of the largest democracy mankind has seen and generally peaceful election process (though the timing and cruelly slow exercise need urgent attention), the overall voting percentage is rising at snail’s pace. Voting percentage still lingers blow 70 percent.  Are only the political parties and the Election Commission to be blamed for that? – It’s a question we need to ask ourselves. Significantly, vote percentage drops in the urban areas and metros. How do we ensure the end of the indifference of those who have no issues to contend with.

- Vinay Hardikar 
(The writer has been working in the public sphere of Maharashtra for the last five decades. His versatile personality has several dimensions, but the primary ones remain to be that of an established writer, journalist, editor, critic, activist, and teacher.)

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