Saturday, May 17, 2014
Understanding the verdict 2014
There are huge lessons for every political party as well as people who aspire for a secular democratic space in this verdict 2014 which has brought glimmer in the face of a huge number of people who believed in a ‘dream’ sold to them but also apprehensions and fear among those who have fought against the process of communalization and corporatization. We cannot blame people if Narendra Modi led BJP has been able to get a thumping majority in Lok Sabha as in democracy you have to respect the verdict of the people. There are a lot of issues which need to be debated. Many talked about electoral reforms and switching over to Proportionate Electorate System (PES) as is in a majority of European countries which clearly give you equivalent number of seats according to your vote percentage and no vote goes waste in it. But why should we blame BJP for that as the Congress has always got benefitted with division of votes in the past which is now replaced by the BJP. So even when BJP got 33% of votes, it got nearly 55-60% seats in Loksabha while a party like BSP got nearly 4.5% of votes of the electorate and yet drew a blank. It is the problem of the electoral system but unfortunately even the BSP was not ready to listen to those who have been leading a campaign for electoral reform in India. Coincidently, it was BJP which was receptive to the campaign apart from the left parties who supported Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI) of which I had been an active member for several years. In fact, now time has come to discuss these issues seriously and form a consensus among political parties but those who gain from First Past the Post System (FPTP) module do not want to even give a moment to think over it.
Whatever be the excuses as well as our reservation with Narendra Modi, we cannot take away the shine from him at this hour of glory. He single handedly campaigned much more than any of his contemporaries did and travelled across the country from East to West and North to South and used all medium of communications with the people. BJP used all forms of methods of communication to reach the people right from social media like twitter, Facebook and Whatsapps to mass contact programmes and public meetings. The BJP was not depending on one vote catcher but their huge Sangh parivar cadre was diligently working to ensure that their candidates win. We know this election was fought with huge money that influence our media and shaped public opinion. But the fact is didn’t other parties use them and who stop a party like Congress to use media? After 40 years of ruling, it did not have enough ‘resources’ to match BJP? No, the congress’s media strategy was perfectly imperfect. It tried to show that it did not have the money but then where has the money gone? Its Facebook page was only providing us ‘glimpse of Gandhi Nehru dynasty’ and their ‘contribution’ to India. There is no doubt about the contribution but India today does not really want to live in the ‘contribution’ of one family or dynasty. Modi could sale the thought that Gandhi dynasty has destroyed India. He did not say that Gandhi Nehru dynasty did not do anything but directly suggested that it destroyed India and if they are poor it is because of them. And then he went on to suggest the Gujarat model which was accepted by most the people who are mostly migrant voters from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who have been depressed with the situation in these two states. We are witness to the absolutely abysmal social human development index in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which has been thoroughly neglected and ignored by the political leadership who felt that only ‘identity’ fetch the votes. This election has great lessons for them too to come out of their ivory towers and not treat people as their ‘praja’.
Elections are fought and won not on strategies alone but also on developing wider public perceptions. The perception of the common people had built up against congress party particularly after the UPA-2 government that it was the most corrupt government in the last 65 years and its minister highly arrogant, unaccountable and unapproachable. Modi sold the perception that this is the most inefficient leadership and he could communicate very well that this is the ‘maa-bete’ kee sarkaar’ without any responsibility and accountability. There is no doubt that UPA passed some of the most important legislations in the past 10 years and credit must go to Sonia Gandhi for bring these right based legislations but people also realized that none of these acts are functional truly with such kind of governance which has already made procedures to thwart them. Secondly, most of the people also realized that Congress or UPA is not making any of these laws out of love for people but out of compulsion, hence attempt to show that Congress is fighting against corruption looked like a joke. Nobody in his dream would accept the fact that Congress party and its government at centre particularly UPA-2 sincere in fighting against corruption.
It is not coincident that the biggest beneficiary of anti-Congressism was the Bharatiya Janta Party. It was a non-entity before 1975 and Jai Prakash Narain legitimized it in the Janata Party government. Subsequently, they separated and contested as Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. They never looked back since then. It is wrong to say that in 1984 they were defeated as Rajiv won with a thumping majority where opposition remained almost defunct. There is no ambiguity in saying that 1984 was a Hindutva mandate given to Rajiv Gandhi on anti-Sikh propaganda and India paid a price for defeating the entire opposition as the government ‘destroyed’ all the institutions. The next formation of the alliance of anti Congress forces under the leadership of Vishwnath Pratap Singh further helped the Hindutva forces in spreading their feet in the Hindi heartland. Their social base got extended with support to Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. It is a fact that the Sangh Parivar is the biggest social engineer than anyone else. The Marxists never believed in social engineering which they felt was ‘tokenism’ and the Congress only gave ‘token’ representation to puppeteers such as Meera Kumar and Sushil Kumar Shinde whose contribution to ‘Dalits’ and ‘Dalit cause’ is ‘well known’.
Congress government at the centre have always been prone to corruption charges as perhaps the party always felt that it was never an issue and at the end of the day people would vote on caste and religion line. Being the largest party of the country gave it a certain advantage over others as the vote division among the parties and low voting trends always helped the party. Congress always used these techniques to gain power and perhaps did not even realize that India has changed a lot. It created a huge class of sycophants whose only accountability was towards 10 Janpath but who got their positions in power due to their approximate to the Gandhi family and not due to any work done among masses. Gandhis were surrounded by such brahmanical elite which claimed to work for ‘liberal’ ‘secular’ India but in fact kept them away from people. On the other side, the government of the day was competing to hand over India’s natural resources to big companies. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh, Finance Minister P.Chidambaram and Planning Commission deputy chairman, Montek Singh Ahaluwalia were actually nothing but ‘agent’ of Washington lobby and it would be amusing if Modi can do anything different than them as far as economic policies are concern.
The Indian corporate were always satisfied with the troika in the Congress. It only started dissociating with Congress Party after the later got several bill passed particularly the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill and then government’s inability to protect coal block corrupt businessmen, it started fueling antigovernment sentiments. Till that time, Congress Party and government remain under the illusion that they did not have any ‘opposition’. The Sangh Parivar knew it well that if it has to take up an opportunity, it needs to discredit the whole system and make congress and its allies as synonymous to corruption. BJP and its allies were not in a position to do it hence the entire Parivar pushed its force behind ‘non-political forces’ actively supported by corporate media. A larger than life image of Anna Hazare was created and entire system was sought to be discredited by his team. Parliamentarians were abused openly and television channels broadcasted everything live. Congress party till that time did not heed to any public opinion and termed them mere foreign funded NGOs. They played politics with it and tried to deviate from the issue. Initially, Ramdev was also planted and later when the thing went wrong, he too became active campaigner against Congress Party in particular. Leaders like Salman Khurshid, Kapil Sibbol, Sushil Kumar Shinde showed little respect for the people. While Congress did not try to put its house in order but tried to use the contradiction in Anna Team. Sangh Parivar on the other side was observing carefully the team Anna and its furious attack on Congress Party. Anti-Corruption campaign became synonymous to anti congress-ism and BJP was waiting for the moment. Unfortunately after the enormous media coverage and bad mouthing, Kejriwal had no other option than formation of a party. They were young activists and suddenly became ‘messiah’ of the nation hence it is difficult for them to understand the basics of politics. They wanted to run political party according to their ‘civil society’ action. The fissures divided the movement as pro BJP lobby openly opposed the formation of a political party and there were people who did not want to fight election but wanted ‘positions’ in power.
The anti-congress sentiments were further fuelled in December 16th 1912, Nirbhaya case. The problem with 10 Janpath was that it never reacted to people’s issues. It felt the best way to kill a movement is to make them tired through delaying tactics. Congress’s this politics of dividing the movements and forcing people for retreat actually boomeranged on them. The Nirbhaya incident created a situation when any government could have gone in a public coup. The unfortunate part is that Rahul Gandhi who always tried to distance him from the government’s acts actually did nothing to douse the flames of anger among the youths. There was no attempt by the senior leadership of the party to join the protest and share the agony of the people. It is not that it was the first time such incident had happened but the large scale resentment against it was actually convergence of many things. The congress was unable to see why small things were becoming bigger for it daily. It was trying to take comfort in forming committees and bringing a legislation rather than trying to fight against the perception that was being built assiduously against the party and the government that it is not just corrupt government but thoroughly criminal. By this time, the Facebook-twittarati also jumped in and became abusive and nasty against the party.
In the last session of 14th Lok Sabha, the government got the statehood to Telangana bill passed. The way it was done, made it clear that UPA-2 brought all the bills only under pressure and when things moved out of its hand. The congress leaders felt that they have undone the damage in Telananga but they were wronged. They were routed in both the places. Ofcourse, they have chances in Talangana in future but in Seema Andhra the things will be very difficult unless they decide to talk to their old members to merge their parties.
The biggest lesson was for the politicians that do not think voter is a fool. People know how you are getting your things done and that is why Congress could not satisfy any one as it wanted to ‘satisfy’ every one. The problem is it had no zeal in doing so and it was more playing ‘politics’ with the sentiments of the people. For years, since 1984, Congress has lost the support of upper castes who have switched to BJP. The Dalits in Uttar Pradesh too have deserted the party. After the demolition of Babari Mosque, Muslims too deserted the party. Nothing was done. The Manmohan Singh government remained one of the most inefficient and insensitive government whose solution to every problem was formation of a ‘committee’. People were frustrated with growing inflation and yet no effort by the government to control it. It had left the middle classes, which was slowly communalized to fetch itself. UPA party’s government was doing everything that Narsimharao did at the cost of Congress Party.
Today the media is deliberately blaming Rahul Gandhi for the debacle who was in a catch 22 situation of not to criticize the government for the sake of its stability and speak absolutely less due the danger of disturbing the existing relationship between the prime minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The fact is that Congress’s debacle are basically because of the economic policies of Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Montek Singh added with party’s failure to protect the interest of Dalits and minorities. Why should minorities vote to party which has done nothing for them in past 10 years. Rahul Gandhi’s problem was that he did not have the ideas about these policies. He rarely spoke on inflation, corruption and wanted to tell us what his party has ‘given’ to people. This language was more of an old feudal language where ‘raja’ gives to ‘praja’. Rahul must understand that India is a new India and it does not like such language particularly in the age of communication when your speeches will broadcasted and interpreted in different ways. Rahul’s ‘fight’ against ‘corruption’ and ‘dissociation’ with the ‘corrupt’ government looked absolutely artificial. So, during the election he was on an uphill mission. His party felt that they need a Gandhi name, which they do need but that alone is not sufficient. Elections today are to be managed. You need social media, you need media, you need cadres at the grassroots and above all, you also need leaders with integrity. Where do Congress have leaders with integrity? How many OBC leaders do Congress has who can be trusted to bring vote to Party? How many Dalit leaders the party has who can win it vote? Let us not talk of Uttar Pradesh but outside the state? How many Muslim leaders does it have? Yes, it promoted leaders like Salman Khurshid and Sushil Kumar Shinde who are good for nothing. They can’t win their own seats and Khurshid ended up at number five in his constituency of Farukhabad shows how much arrogant and inaccessible he was to the people. Your fight against corruption and criminalization look hollow when you field ShriPrakash Jaiswal, the coal block hero from Kanpur and Ajay Rai from Varanasi. Congress could have avoided fielding the candidate from Varanasi rather than fielding a criminal.
Rahul Gandhi’s media interaction was not that of a leader who wanted to go for an election. He did not have much to give. He wanted to go in election with the ‘achievements’ of Manmohan Singh who as I wrote earlier would be second ‘Narsimha Rao’ for Congress who were glorified at the cost of the party. Rao finished party and Manmohan though was not engaged anywhere in party circles too finished party through his lethargy, sluggishness, inaccessibility and inactivity apart from his inadequate economic model. No leader of any stature could have brought Congress back unless the party was bold enough to take action against its own erring government but it never did. The bold step could have been also like inability to run a coalition government but then Congress believed running government even if it is looking thoroughly paralysed was important to send the message to people that we only ‘know’ how to run a government. This has failed to attract and therefore the task before Rahul was gigantic in nature and he was not cut for the same.
These elections have not just exposed the hollowness of Congress party, its management and state of its organization but also deflated the hype build around ‘social justice’ groups in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Yes, the big jolt to Mulayam Singh, Mayawati and Lalu Yadav is warning for them to improve or you will be obliterated. The biggest lessons have to be taken by Mayawati who has been always proud of the Dalit vote. Amit Shah and other knew well that Maywati’s dalit loyalty was nothing but Chamar vote and hence they targeted other communities like Pasis, Khatiks, Dhobis, Chauhans, Mushahars, Rajbhars etc. The Hindutva party made right noises with OBCs where they attracted Kurmi votes through Apna Dal. Most of the non yadava OBCs shifted to BJP. Muslims were already looking for alternative and finished voting to different ‘contractors’ of ‘secularism’ such as BSP, Congress, SP and AAP. Mujaffarnagar riots and their mishandling created different convergence point for the Hindutva group. Dalits, OBCs, Jats became Hindus in the name of Muslim polarization. This technique helped them elsewhere too. That is the irony of being a Muslim in India and why they are unable to bring out any seats. It will continue unless Muslim seats too are reserved for them like Dalits and tribals.
Congress party will have to be rebuilt and it needs statesmanship, management and conviction. It mean that Congress will have to provide a huge platform to Dalits, OBCs, Muslims, Aadivasis and develop their leaders independently who could raise the issues. Congress will have to be developed a cadre based ideological party with strong secular leanings. Today, in this hour, Congress did not get support of these segments as they never believed in the party. The Dalit vote that Congess got was in deep compulsion and not due to any positivity. With growing rapes in Haryana and inefficiency of Hooda government how can it expect the vote of Dalits. Congress may not need them in Haryana but definitely it has to act in greater interest of democracy and justice and secondly the track record would have helped it elsewhere. Today, a majority of Congress leaders subscribe Hindutva ideology or soft Hindutva and hence cannot fight for the cause of secularism. When its top ministers were unabashedly pro corporations and had no intention to control inflation, how would anybody believe that it cared for the poor. Congress took the issue of land acquisition seriously only when Mamta Banerjee made it an issue in West Bengal and won the election after the Singur movement.
Mulayam, Lalu and Maywati focused too much on their calculations and arithmetic’s without really preparing for the elections. Even when Mayawati had announced the names of her candidates a year back, the fact is, we did not hear her saner voice on Mujaffarnagar violence. We never heard on violence against Dalits in Haryana and elsewhere. We never say her visiting Dalit villages and meeting the women working at the field who sweat day in and out. It was surprising that while she had criticized Rahul’s visit to Dalit bastes, she did not find time to visit those areas where she was needed and her presence would have been a soothing balm for people. Least said about Mulayam is better. The Uttar Pradesh government failed to instill confidence among Dalits, Muslims as well as common people and hence the anti-incumbency vote which should have gone to Mayawati actually went to BJP resulting heavy outpouring of support for them. BSP has drifted far away from its Bahujan mission and therefore the non Chamars communities were targeted by the Hindutva groups. The poll results have actually serious challenges for the Dalit Bahujan movement and their capacity to represent the communities as Hindutva forces have already incorporated a lot of them.
That apart, mainstream left too was decimated completely. The situation has arisen when left have to support parties like AAP at various places and were almost begging Jayalalitha for an alliance reflect their condition today. Prakash Kararth declared that Mulayam Singh Yadav would be the prime ministerial candidate without even consulting any other party. A lot has been written about Rahul Gandhi’s ability to lead who was definitely facing anti-incumbency but why Prakash Karath failed to deliver? Why he was unable to take a lead and develop alliances with different left parties and other secular democratic forces. The parties have no idea how to move ahead and now the situation has put them in serious crisis. There is no other alternative then making a new beginning among all these parties and making a rainbow coalition which could rightfully represent the Dalits, Aadivasis, minorities, Kisans, mazdoors and even middle classes as threat to them is real.
The biggest lessons these elections have given us is that if you do not address the perceptional issues fast then you are decimated. All the kshatraps who did take people for granted actually got finished. None would actually shed a tear for Salman Khurshid, A.Raja, Sushil Shinde, Kapil Sibol, Farukh Abdullah and various clans of Karunanidhi and Lalu Yadav. However, clan of Mulayam survived in Uttar Pradesh and all other got defeated. BSP could not get a single seat. Most of the leaders in parties including Congress who were sons and daughters got defeated except for a few. The voters are not going to vote just because you look more ‘secular’ as they need transparency and responsive government.
However, it is essential not to ignore the huge corporate money pumped into these elections. That media played an active role to propagate larger than life image of Narendra Modi. They became PR agencies of Narendra Modi. The media imposed self-censorship in hiding information about Gujarat and promoted issues that discredit other parties particularly Congress party. It shielded Modi and became its main propaganda machinery in its war against Congress. All other parties were completely neglected. AAP got more space than others which reflect that what media is looking forward is the parties and group that serve the new economic interests as well as interest of the caste Hindus. The downfall of media is the biggest results of this election.
I had long back visualized that this election was not being fought by political parties but purely corporate media which joined hand with Hindutva zealots to communalise the atmosphere wherever was necessary. Assam saw violence and threatening speeches were made in Uttar Pradesh and Bengal by BJP leaders targeting Muslims without much action from the election commission. Modi himself challenged the Commission on many occasion. In fact, Bengal, Tamilnadu, Kerala and Telangana are new state to be watched as the influence of Hindutva is growing there.
The elections used to be fought on ideologies and issues but this time they were fought on ‘perceptions’. The upper castes pro liberal middle classes were sold a dream and ofcourse everything that is pro social justice was to be despised and need to be rejected. A majority of young middle class voters actually got attracted to Modi as none others tried to reach them. Modi is a natural choice as all others look casteist, backward and communal to them due to ‘appeasement’ and pro reservation stand.
Whatever be the reason, it is time for all the political parties to sit and chalk out their strategy. They will have to come to join hand together as these elections have shown us mirror of our real strength. These have shown us what we lack and given us opportunity to join hand and fight against any attempt to deny people their right. If the government does better no issues and should be given credit but it cannot take away the rights of the people to fight for their right. Many people say that calamity is the biggest opportunity and I think this is one of the biggest calamities upon secular parties, social movements and left political groups. They need to use this to rebuild the organisations and develop further links with people as their time for action has now begun. The election results are a warning for all secular progressive democratic forces to come together and work diligently as in the absence of work for the people mere identities and secular talks will not get you people’s vote. It is time to work for people as merely ideologies are not going to get you people’s support, leaders will have to promote young team and talk of their aspirations too. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will only come back to forces of social justice as those who claim the legacy of Ambedkar and Lohia need to look beyond their caste, community and family interest and will have to become more democratized and large hearted. More important, they will have to show that they know to govern and deliver. They need to sale their dream better but not through cycles and laptops but through new infrastructure, land reforms, jobs and opportunities to young voters who are desperate for the same. It is time for them to leave aside their egos and forge an alliance at national level. This must start from today so that whenever elections are due at any place such alliances can work better. In the meanwhile all parties must evaluate the work of their existing government doing and delivering. How is that BJP led state governments did not face any incumbency but all the Congress led governments and other governments faced it except for Mamta and Jayalalitha? It is time to seriously introspect and act on that.