Message of the general elections
by Amitabh Tripathi on 12 Apr 2009 2 Comments

India is gripped by election fever; in just another week the first phase of voting will take place. As the world’s largest democracy, India’s general elections always evince curiosity worldwide. The final result will be known on 16 May, but it is clear that the process of formation of the new government will last long.

India’s next parliament is going to receive a fractured mandate and no single political party or formation will likely muster the majority figure of 272. After the elections, any political party can join any camp irrespective of ideological leanings, but Congress and BJP will not join each other; nor are the Left parties like to join the BJP.

This article strives to decipher the message of this election. Two important and path-breaking phenomena in this election are that it is not being fought on ideology; every political party, whether Congress, BJP or even the Left, is flexible enough to accommodate any political group. Secondly, for the first time the two national parties, Congress and BJP, will not be able to cross the magic figure of 272 in a combined tally. This is being interpreted in various ways; some analysts are of the view that regional aspirations have eclipsed the national agenda.

1989 revisited

This general election reminds one of the verdict of 1989, when for the first time a coalition government was formed on an anti-Congress platform, with BJP and Left parties extending outside support. This was an incomplete verdict, and scrutiny shows that the people were already preparing themselves for the next general election.

In 1991, Congress party leader Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, and the resultant sympathy along with a postponed election permitted the Congress to garner the requisite support to cobble a government, even though it lacked a simple majority. The new Prime Minister, Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, decided to form a minority government without Left support.

This was the time when the BJP witnessed a surge in public support, which coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was not a coincidence, because people witnessed how a Congress Prime Minister was reversing Nehruvian economic and foreign policies in favour of economic liberalization, and opening diplomatic relations with Israel. Since then, almost all Central Governments took the same path and no one reversed these policies. This churning in Indian society since 1989 was influenced by and in turn influenced aspirations at the national and international level.

The message of this general election is going to be the same as in 1989 – a precursor to some change proportionate to the global situation. As this election is not going to be fought on ideology, it will prove illusory because everything will be decided only after the polls. The electorate is totally confused about party or candidates, and unable to distinguish parties in terms of conviction and commitment. Various survey from different media house suggest that terrorism is the main issue among the people, but they are not voting for any party on this issue because both the BJP and Congress are apologetic about Muslims, refusing to identify jihad as the enemy. If Congress hopes for Muslim votes, BJP too does not want to emphasise this issue because in the four assembly elections last November-December, the BJP tried to corner the Congress for failure to tame terrorism after 26\11, but could not benefit politically.

Ideological vacuum


BJP and Congress both have created an ideological vacuum in society, choosing a model of governance to broaden their respective bases. BJP has focused increasingly on governance, development, and achievements of its state governments, but has not come out with specific programmes on ideological issues which led the party to be identified as a Hindu nationalist party. BJP ceased the process of ideological education to society, and urged its cadres to become couriers or messengers of leadership, rather than ideology.

Once BJP proved itself a tool of governance and used ideology only for speeches without execution, the Congress got breathing space and revived itself. But Congress in turn did not emphasize ideological issues and its ideology was confined to criticizing the BJP. Knowing that Nehruvian socialism, foreign policy, or any other Nehruvian dogma has no contemporary relevance, Congress reserved it for custom and tradition, as witnessed during Sonia Gandhi’s recent speech that India was unaffected by recession because of the economic policies adopted by Nehru and Indira Gandhi. This clearly indicates Congress does not want to do any fresh thinking on its ideology according to current circumstances. 

Development and governance are big issues by themselves, and the welfare of society the paramount duty of government. But society cannot be driven by the agenda of development alone, as nations are also driven by cultural heritage and the burden of history. In the Indian context this has important implications.

Leftists and Political Islam

1991 was the decade when the BJP rose and the Soviet Union fell. The latter development exposed all Indian leftists who had infiltrated major academic institutions to a threat of survival; they shrewdly converted themselves into ‘secularists’ and ‘liberals’ and found a new ‘class enemy’ in form of Hindu nationalists.

In the process they collaborated with Islamists in India, an alliance which became vocal globally and locally after the destruction of the twin towers in United States in 2001. In India, they were briefly confined in academia and media, but after 2004 they were able to get enough numbers in Parliament to dictate terms for almost five years. Their political ambitions blossomed and in this general election they are openly collaborating with Islamists and Muslim organizations to push the agenda of Political Islam.

In the election of 2009, Muslim organizations have come out with their political ambitions and are issuing orders to fellow Muslims for tactical voting according to their strength in every parliamentary constituency. Few newspapers have published that major Muslim organizations are planning to appeal jointly to Muslims to support the Third Front, but not at the cost of their self-interest in favourable constituencies.

The Third Front has been formed as an alternate platform to test the waters and see if it is possible to galvanize political parties on anti-Congress and anti-BJP platform to push the agenda of Political Islam with Leftist collaboration, in the name of secularism. It is very evident that this time the Left parties are not going to be able to sustain their previous strength in Parliament, but their collaboration with Islamists for political gain will have certain implications.

As we are seeing in the Indian context, secularists hobnobbing with Islamists are putting so much pressure on any initiative to combat terrorism and asking for proportionality in dealing with terrorism as well as Islamic aspirations. In the near future, it could become tougher to deal with these issues as Muslim organizations have become active to educate Muslims with false theories of atrocities on Muslims (a la Batla House encounter).

Will Hindus resist Political Islam?

BJP has succumbed to the pressure of secularists and refrained from debate on the aspirations of Political Islam, its impact on India, and the role of Islamic motivation in terrorism. But Muslim organizations and Islamic institutions have engaged in massive propaganda. In the coming days, the secularists will come out openly in support of Muslim demands for more resources, etc., and any resistance from Hindu individuals or organizations will be branded as communal.

The unnoticed message of this general election is that Muslim assertion is visible with all its political ambitions; the strategy has been crafted very carefully with non-Muslim faces pushing the agenda in the name of secularism.

Secularism has done a lot of damage to this country and denial will prove very costly to all of us as we have neither identified the threat nor made any plan to fight it. In the 1980s, Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul presciently predicted to the West that Muslims were living in two circles as they wanted to exploit the idioms and dynamism of Western culture without shedding their Islamic aspirations and goals. This is now true in India as well. After this general election, India will witness Muslim assertion equipped with the global lament of atrocities on Muslims and Islam being targetted by its adversaries. Let us see if this Muslim assertion is proportionate to Hindu resistance. 

The writer is a professional translator and social activist

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