It’s Not Over Till Over
By Poonam I Kaushish
Phew! The last ballot has been sealed and in two days we shall know who will sit on India’s Raj gaddi in this hard-fought theeka-dhuandhar elections. Encapsulated brilliantly in an adage: Poll is a right whore. She often gives but also takes away all in one fell swoop. So will it be Modi’s BJP and cohorts or the ‘mahamilawati tukde-tukde’ gang comprising Congress, TMC, SP, BSP, TDP, TRS etc. Either which way in politics it’s not over till it’s over and jo jeeta wohi sikander!
In this arduous six weeks Election 2019 the first thing that stood out was the metamorphous of ‘vikas purush’ Modi who sold a dream of ‘achhe din’ in 2014 to the NaMo persona of a macho numero uno who has no challenger. Whether he comes up trumps and gets a second term is not the issue and neither is it a quibble over whether the BJP gets a majority with how many seats. He is the central figure for the BJP campaign with Congress and other Opposition Parties pulling out all stops to bring him down.
This is the first election where the aam aadmi is asking, “if not Modi, who? Call it the TINA (there is no alternative) factor as there is no real and credible challenge and choice to him. Alongside the Opposition tukde tukde satraps are influential only in their respective regions. Indeed a feather in BJP and NaMo’s cap as they have successfully been able to sensitize people about their narrative vs squabbling regional netas.
Two, it is for the first time that the BJP which prided itself on being a Party driven by a broad-based collective leadership wedded to the RSS’s ideology, is today Modi-centric, dictated totally by his personality cult. Ably assisted by counter ego Amit Shah nobody dare challenge him else he will be banished forever.
At another level, it has exposed the hypocrisy of the system. Love him, hate him or ignore him, the hard reality is that this in-your-face chai-wallah turned Prime Minister couldn’t care a damn. He believes in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Truly, living up to the synonym of rule by law, jiski laathi uski bhains. His reaction: catch me if you can.
Moreover, even as the entire BJP campaign has been built to show that Congress Rahul is not mature enough to lead the nation and the Prime Ministerial cap will not fit the likes of Mamata, Mayawati, Naidu, Rao etc UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is seeking to bind together a cohesive alternative. But this would depend on the Congress and regional satraps total tally.
It is to Rahul’s credit that he has matured as a leader who relishes the thrust and parry of real politik and is a stark contrast to Modi whose persona is all pervasive larger than life. True, he has not been able to manage alliances, was snubbed by Mayawati and Akhilesh and failed to ignite voters’ imagination as an alternate to NaMo yet made his Party into a potent force.
Surprisingly, the Congress, post its victory in the recent States Assembly polls and showing signs of revival plus desperate to stop Modi from returning to power continues to be confused about its support base and has fallen back to its tried and tested formula — abuse and corruption as poll plank as NYAY has hardly created an impact. Whether Rahul’s “love and hug” to counter rancid politics can increase the Party tally is a moot point.
On the face of it, the Congress has been unable to really challenge the BJP in States where it is in a direct one-to-one fight. Except Punjab, in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh the Hindutva Brigade is busy fighting a rear guard comeback after a humiliating drubbing in the Assembly elections while Gujarat is up in the air.
In fact it is the regional Parties with strong leaders, committed cadres and carefully crafted caste equations which are giving stiff resistance and putting up a much better fight against the BJP in UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Odisha. They are set to win large majorities here, effectively confining Modi’s pickings to States in which he is up against the Congress. The Grand Dame is only playing spoiler or Party popper specially in UP.
Also, more than likely allies it is easier to pinpoint those who will definitely not go with the BJP. Besides, the Congress, Left, Mamata’s Trinamool, RJD, DMK and perhaps Akhilesh’s Samajwadi could be the bulwark of UPA 3. While TRS Rao, YSR Congress’s Jagan and BJD’s Patnaik could go along-with Modi and BSP’s Mayawati, NCP’s Pawar, TDP’s Naidu and JD(S) Gowda could be ready to jump ship to the Saffron Sangh if the right offer is made.
Despite all the hype, another takeaway is the stark north-south divide vis-a-vis Modi vs rest. Clearly, the Southern regional satraps come up trumps as their electorate does not seem to have been taken in by the Modi personality as people in the North. Other than Karnataka, the BJP has not made much of an impact in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra and Telangana. So despite the hype, the BJP would be lucky to get a few seats in these States.
Further, it is the first election in years when the secular-communal words are non-existent. While the Hindutva Brigade has centered its poll theme on Jai Sri Ram, Congress leaders starting with bhai-bahen are falling over themselves to prove their Hindu roots. Rahul calls himself a devout jenue dhari while Priyanka performs pujas at various temples.
In a milieu of an over confident BJP, the only debatable point for the Saffron Sangh is how much ground Modi’s BJP will concede to NDA allies and others likely to join his bandwagon if the Party’s tally remains around 200-220.
Undeniably, 2019 election is easily the most polarising one in recent electoral history. Forget mutual antipathy and mistrust, it is an election which spews hatred built on those supporting Modi and his opponents with barely any meeting ground between the two. The political discourse has never been more neech, gross and pungent sans any debate on vital issues debilitating the nation. Be it unemployment, farmers distress and rising food inflation.
Leaving voters wondering whether our Parties need a complete makeover and a new set of rules which fight for policies and problems that bother their electorate. Additionally, is it right for a poor country to spend nearly Rs 50,000 crores on elections? Time we think of overhauling the election apparatus.
In sum, have we run out of good politicians? Who uphold the ideals of democracy? The dignity of the electoral process? And draw a lakshman rekha on vulgarity and vow not to cross it? Time our leaders understand that Prime Ministers will come and go but their words will stay. Which will influence young minds and teach them to show dignity and respect for others.
It will be a mistake to even think that this narrative will return to normal and business as usual once polls are over. Primarily as they could leave our polity and society divided and scarred. Whereby a lot of time, effort and statesmanship will be required to undo the damage. The lead will have to be taken by none other than the next Prime Minister. —— INFA