Of The Voters
By Ganesh S.
27 April, 2004
2004 are going to be a defining moment for Indian democracy. This election
perhaps may decide whether this country remains secular or it turns
theocratic under the Hindutwa fundamentalists. The responsibility of
the voters is tremendous.
The period between
1999 & 2004 has witnessed many upheavals in all spheres of life-be
it political, cultural or social. If one looks at the nature of the
changes and the manner in which they have taken place, it definitely
gives cause for concern regarding the future of the Indian state and
the survival of the core, cherished values enshrined in our constitution.
I am referring to democracy, secularism and our commitment to an equitable
distribution of resources. Today, we find a marked erosion of all these
values. The Sangh Parivar and its political offspring, the BJP, have
played a prominent role in subjecting our institutions and values to
hammer blows, the like of which has never been experienced before. Hence
it would not be far fetched to state that this election presents the
discerning electorate with the choice of arresting this trend and voting
for a truly, secular formation or allow the downslide to continue. It
is in the interest of a healthy democracy that the electorate exercises
the right choice.
A striking feature
of this election campaign has been the absence of real issues (commitment
to secularism, generation of employment and equitable development).
The ruling dispensation, with great fanfare and with the connivance
of sections of the media, launched the so called "Shining India
"campaign, ostensibly to showcase its achievements of the last
five years. This has in effect turned out to be nothing more than a
massive publicity exercise for the dominant coalition partner, the BJP
and its strenuous efforts to project the Prime Minister as the nation's
saviour. With the passage of time, the gloss on this campaign wore thin
and the masterminds of the BJP's election campaign realized the futility
of overstressing an aspect of development, whose claims could not be
authenticated on the ground. Another strategy was therefore required
to take the electorate for a ride.
This is where the storm troopers of the Sangh Parivar made their entry.
We had the unedifying spectacle of Messers. Pramod Mahajan and Narendra
Modi raking up the foreign origins of the Congress President, Mrs. Sonia
Gandhi. She and her offspring were subjected to vilification and derogatory
remarks on their lineage. The masterminds of this strategy were forced
to beat a hasty retreat when the Deputy Prime Minister himself became
a victim of the issue so enthusiastically raised by his protégés.
It was divisive strategy at its worst.
The campaign managers
then hit upon the idea of wooing a community most affected by the politics
of hate- the Muslims. The Prime Minister's peace initiative with Pakistan
was touted as an example of the party's commitment to peace with its
neighbors and its concern for its own minorities. So we were treated
to the spectacle of the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi and other Muslim
leaders exhorting the faithful to cast their lot with the BJP.The track
record of the Sangh Parivar being what it is (remember the demolition
of the Babri Masjid and the government sponsored pogrom in Gujarat),
this new found concern for the wounded community finds few takers. It
was cynical, opportunistic politics at its worst.
I have detailed
the strategic convolutions of the BJP only to highlight the fact that
the party will always be guided by its core agenda of Hindutva and these
are short term measures to grab the levers of power.
The elections may
very well throw up a hung Parliament, going by the developments of the
past few weeks. The need of the hour is to put in place a workable alliance
which includes all secular formations. This is easier said than done,
given the deep divisions in the opposition camp. Nevertheless, an earnest
effort has to be made by all concerned.
Outside the political
arena, a glimmer of hope has been provided by the Supreme Court ordering
the retrial in the Best Bakery case and its instructions to have the
same transferred to Maharashtra. We still have a judiciary that is not
compromised by the politics of hate.