In May 2014, the people’s choice was clear – a combination of anti-incumbency and what was dubbed “the Modi wave” had unseated the Congress and brought the BJP in with a majority of its own, 282 seats out of the NDA’s 336.
It was a landslide.
But one gets the impression it was the last time the people’s voice was heard.
Since its victory in 2014, the BJP has hurried Bill after Bill through the two houses, without much thought to the rights each violates – instances are the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015.
But the move that brought the nation literally to a standstill was demonetisation.
For weeks, even months, people struggled to pay each other.
People literally died from standing in queues.
Yet, despite all the chaos, there was no public protest – unlike the outrage in Venezuela, whose government attempted to follow India’s move. In that country, the people’s will saw the government withdraw the demonetisation move.
In India, though, months after the dramatic decision was announced, when the memories of standing in queues for hours only for the ATM to run out of money before one’s turn came and notes being rationed out on a war footing are still vivid, the BJP has made a clean sweep of two states.
What is even more shocking than that is that the BJP has ensured that it will form the government in two states where another party had garnered more votes than it had.
The narrative of the BJP has been that the minorities have been given too much leeway, and the trolls its leaders – including the Prime Minister – follow feel the minorities should acknowledge that they don’t deserve to be treated as more than second-class citizens. The minorities they attack include Muslims, Christians, and those unfortunates with intellect.
The one democratic procedure in which the minority has no right is what follows the outcome of an election.
In Goa and Manipur, the BJP was in a minority. It won 13 seats out of 40 in Goa, with the Congress winning 17. In Manipur, its performance was just as poor, winning 21 out of 60, to the Congress’ 28.
However, the party which rules at the centre has manipulated legal provisions to ensure that a state does not remain headless to claw its way to power against the will of the people. In Goa, it put together a coalition after negotiations with a party that had projected itself as secular – the greatest sin of the virulent anti-national, in the lexicon of most supporters of the BJP.
In a world that is becoming increasingly more bigoted and hostile to minorities, we must ask ourselves what the strategy is that makes leaders out of people who have, on the surface, no qualifications to run a country. The most powerful man in the world is a businessman with no political, diplomatic, or policy-making qualifications. The most powerful man in India is an orator who stays silent on the most burning issues of the day, recently deputing his Home Minister to handle the Kashmir crisis.
How does the BJP get away with running a democracy like a dictatorship? Among its most effective strategies has been to call anything that contradicts its diktats “anti-national” and hail as heroic sacrifice the inconveniences caused to the public by its own inefficiency.
Standing in long queues in extreme weather is seen in the context of soldiers dying in battle for their country.
How are the two comparable? A soldier dies in the uniform he volunteered to wear, for a country that he is defending of his volition against an enemy. When a pensioner has a heat stroke or a cardiac arrest while waiting through the day to exchange notes that he was saving for an emergency, where is his volition, whom is he defending, and who is the enemy?
The logic of these comparisons is rarely questioned.
When it is questioned, one must brace oneself for the vitriol of trolls, who eschew argument for threats, rationalism for personal insults.
Equating sycophancy with patriotism, and independence with anti-nationalism is only one of the alternate realities the BJP and its trolls have manufactured. So deeply are these alternate realities ingrained that the Indian Science Congress of 2015 turned into a joke, with vedic aeroplanes and time travel and what-have-you. The next year, the general secretary of the Indian Science Congress Association acknowledged that there had been some pressure from ministers.
When even facts are forced to accede to the will of the government, can the people matter?
The outcome of the elections is not universal popularity, but a churlish determination to claim power by force.
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