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Three Cheers For Indian Democracy

By Ram Puniyani

24 May, 2004
Issues In Secular Politics

Defying all the carefully predicted psephological projections the BJP led NDA has faced a total rout at the hustings. As the electoral process began an
atmosphere was created through the biggest political ad campaign, India Shining. A rosy picture of all and sundry being happy and basking in the shine of prosperous India was backed up by the newly coined word of Feel Good. The BJP went on to assert that its performance during last six years, and also that the nation blessed by the leadership of Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose smiling face was flashed in the print and visual media ad-nauseum, was exemplary. The assertion of BJP was such that many people came to believe that BJP led coalition is romping home. The efforts of all the BJP leaders in association with the work of RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal to ensure the BJP win were too obvious. This might have been the most expensive election campaign seen by Indian yet. While BJP kept talking about Bijli, Sadak, Pani
(Electricity, Roads, water) and development issues, its affiliates, RSS, VHP etc, kept giving the message of Hindutva in no uncertain terms. This campaign also saw the wooing of Muslim and Christian minorities by various means, including even a Fatwa from Shahi Imam.

So what happened, why a low profile campaign of Congress and its allies yielded better results? If money spending and creation of hype could win democratic elections BJP would have come through comfortably. And that's where democracy comes in. That's where the downtrodden steps in at the time of elections to tell the tale of her woes. That's where the real issues of survival, civility and daily life come in. And this right of vote and giving one's opinion comes in not just for the elite and the urban middle class, but also the poor women and men who have to struggle hard to get water and bread. That's where the struggling peasant comes in who is on the verge of starvation despite slogging for all the days, that's where the unemployed youth comes in, made unemployed by the atrocious implementation of globalization and the other developmental policies of the Government, and that's where the minorities come in writhing in their pain and humiliation flung on them by the onslaught of communal politics.

BJP strategists went on the assumption that you can fool all the people all the time, and so forgot the ignominies they had heaped on the weaker sections of society. Could the Muslim minority and the average sane person have forgotten as to how, on the pretext of Godhra train burning, the violence was unleashed in which thousands perished, in which Kausar bano a pregnant women was tortured and her unborn baby done to death? Could people have forgotten that a freedom fighter called Ahsan Jaffery was hacked to pieces for
the crime of being a Muslim? Could the average Muslim have forgotten as to how two nations are being created under the terror unleashed by Narendra Modi, who has come to be addressed as Hindu Hridaya Samrat (Emperor
of Hindu Hearts)? Could people have forgotten as to how the blatant violation of Human rights is going on in Gujarat and other BJP ruled states, day in and day out? Could the people have forgotten as to how obstacles are being posed to the deliverance of
justice to the victims of Gujarat? Could people of
India as a whole forgotten that it is Mr. Vajpayee, whose face is beaming in Shining India campaign, who has kept mum and violated the propriety of Indian constitution and Indian ethos to protect his colleague, the RSS Swayamsevak, Modi, and to promote the Hidnutva brand of politics which is his core agenda.

Apart from the wounds of Gujarat the Nation is victim to regular Hate speech by the likes of Togadia, who have made it a regular business to spew poison against the Muslims, Christians, the human rights activists and all those who are not supporting the RSS agenda. While people cannot keep protesting day in and day out about the violation of India's being by the practitioners of Hindutva, in the heart of their heart most of the freedom and democracy loving Indians are disgusted with the doing of Sangh affiliates. The nation watched with horror, that instead of putting Togadias and Sighals behind the bars innocents are being harassed in the name of POTA. Interestingly in Gujarat where Modi has mastered the art of creating cleavages and divides between religious communities, of all the POTA detenues all, barring one are Muslims
and the one other is a Sikh? Can such blatant practice of communalism go unnoticed? It does show the helplessness of human rights groups that they cannot fight against it beyond a point. And that's where we thank the democratic elections. Communalism of BJP, overt and covert has been the major cause of people turning against it. BJP's promotion of its affiliates
by default and on purpose is also blatantly clear to the electorate.

And who is feeling good? The victims of Godhra train burning, who were used politically by BJP and than left in the lurch, unattended? Who is feeling good the victims of Kashminri terrorism, the Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims who have been either killed or had to leave the valley due to the prevalence of terror in the valley? Who is feeling good the relatives of Gujarat violence who have been turned into penury and now they are being ghettoized, courtesy the aggression of VHP etc.? Who is feeling good the Pastors and nuns who have been beaten and humiliated for their 'crime' of working in the remote villages?

While the data about rate of growth and other statistics is bandied about, the poor and unemployed must have felt deeply insulted by the India Shining campaign. While they cannot take care of their daily minimum needs India is being projected to be shining. Can there be a bigger insult to them. In major cities the closure of factories and massive loss of employment has changed the pattern of millions of lives. The so-called growth has been without any rise
in employment. Can people forget this when they enter the polling booth?

The country also witnessed that those who claimed to be patriots, honest and all that were caught with their pants down. A BJP president is filmed taking
bribe. How is this handled? The journalists who unearth this malaise are harassed and closure of their web site is ensured by various mechanisms. Millions are eaten up in the coffin scandal and Kargil tragedy sees the loss of many soldiers' lives. There is a total partisanship in the administration and honesty and norms are thrown to the winds and the guilty are protected to the hilt. Rot is setting in different aspects of India's polity and administrative
machinery. Social welfare schemes related to education and health are collapsing. The sufferers of all this are of course the poor and deprived. And they have voted against the policies, which are ruining their lives.

The new government has to see as to why it has been voted to power. The massive, rather the best ever victory of Left parties does indicate a lot. It is
these parties, which have stood steadfastly for secular values, against casteist politics and for the welfare of the poor. One hopes that the new coalition takes these into consideration while drafting the common minimum program. The strength of Indian democracy is there for all to see. One also has to remember that the biggest weakness of Indian democracy is that the right wing party, BJP is a mere political front of fascist RSS. RSS and its progeny like VHP Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram are extra electoral bodies, not answerable to electorate. And it is they for whose protection BJP is engaged in the political arena. And that's why there is a small sigh of relief that for some time at least these extra electoral bodies will not erode the roots of Indian democracy so rapidly. If the new coalition can ensure that Hate speech and propaganda is dealt with firmly this malaises of Indian democracy will be curbed and it will come out brighter and better.