The much awaited declaration of the election schedule for the 17th Lok Sabha took place on 10th March. The main opposition party Congress has accused the Election Commission of delaying the declaration in order “to enable the BJP government to rush through the launch of welfare schemes and projects”. The coming Lok Sabha election is going to be very crucial for the people of India.
People of India had a lot of expectation when the BJP under the leadership Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in three decades. Narendra Modi had made many tall promises like ending corruption, ensuring good governance, creating two crore jobs in a year and development of all ( sabka saath sabka vikas). At the end of the five years’ rule by the Modi government most of the promises remain unfulfilled. Large sections of the people of India are disappointed with the performance of the Modi government.
Flawed economic decisions like demonetization and unplanned implementation of GST took away millions of jobs from the unorganized sector, besides slowing down the economic growth. A leaked version of a report ‘Annual Survey on Employment and Unemployment for the year 2017-18’ from the (NSC) showed unemployment rate in India at a 45-year high during 2017-2018. The latest report of OXFAM has highlighted the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The richest 1% of Indian population holds 74.8% of the wealth in India according to the report.
Secular democratic framework of the country has been damaged by tinkering with the independent or autonomous bodies like judiciary, the Reserve Bank of India, Election Commission and Central Bureau of Investigation etc. The Sangh Parivar activists were given the freedom to indulge in hate speech and violence against the minorities under the guise of cow protection, love jihad, nationalism etc. When atrocities were committed on the innocent people by the extremist groups, often the police remained silent spectators. All those who had expressed any dissenting views or criticized the government or the Sangh Parivar were branded as anti-nationals. Those social activists who opposed the pro-corporate economic policies of the government were labelled as urban naxalites and were put behind the bars. The Sangh Parivar members, including the ministers started talking of changing the secular constitution of India.
Hard core RSS members were appointed as governors of the states and heads of cultural and educational institutions, including universities. The project of saffronizing education got great momentum during the Modi regime. School textbooks with Hindutva ideology were introduced by the BJP state governments. Many policies and actions of the BJP government were in the direction of implementing the Hindutva ideology as envisaged by V D Savarkar in his book, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu and M S Golwalkar in his book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”.
Some concerned citizens have begun to doubt whether there will be any election in 2024, if BJP comes to power again in 2019.
The BJP shamelessly tried to exploit the tragic death of 44 jawans of CRPF in the horrific terrorist attack at Pulwama. "The sacrifices of our jawans will not go in vain since it is not a Congress government at the centre but that of the BJP," said BJP President Amit Shah at a meeting, in order to make political capital out of the tragic incident. At the same time, the BJP and the Modi government remained silent in the wake of the acts of violence being orchestrated by constituents of the Sangh Parivar in different states against people from Kashmir. Only when there was widespread condemnation of the attacks on the Kashmiris, the Prime Minister spoke against the violence unleashed on the Kashmiris. As Ram Puniyani wrote in one his articles, “a deliberate attempt was made by Hindutva groups like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party supporters to whip up nationalistic passions with chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, waving of the tricolour, giving slogans against Pakistan, and associating Pakistan with Muslims”.
Surgical strike 2 on the terrorist training camp at Balakot in Pakistan by the Indian Air Force was converted into election propaganda, highlighting it as an achievement of P M Narendra Modi and of the BJP. The Sangh Parivar with the support of its social media warriors created war hysteria in the country. The release of the air force pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman, by the Pakistan government put an end to the dangerous game created by the vested interests. Admiral L Ramdas, a former Chief of the Naval Staff, wrote a letter to the President of India on 6th March, requesting him not to allow any political party “to misuse the recent events to send triumphalist or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate”.
Lakhs of Modi devotees and the activists of the Sangh Parivar with the support of enslaved media are glorifying the Modi regime in order to hoodwink the people in the coming election. For them Modi is infallible. Any criticism of P M Modi and his policies is a crime for them. The social media warriors of the Sangh Parivar have played a significant role in creating Modi devotees. History is a witness to the fact that all dictators had tried to create an image of infallibility about them among the people. The social media can create hysteria and make people blind. Even highly educated people can become victims of brainwashing by the social media, if they do not apply their critical mind.
Majority of the opposition parties are aware of the danger before the nation. But they are not ready for sacrificing their narrow political interest on the altar of the interest of the nation and of the people of India. That is why they could not form a broad alliance with an alternative agenda that can effectively address the challenges facing the nation.
The Congress, being the main opposition party at the national level and having its presence throughout the country, has a great responsibility to bring together all opposition parties that are committed to secular democracy. It has to be more accommodative and generous with the other opposition parties in seat sharing. The Congress in its Working Committee meeting on 12th March took a decision to fight and defeat the RSS ideology. But Congress will not be able to do it alone at this stage. It has take into confidence all political parties committed to secular democracy and inclusive development of India. Not building alliance with other like-minded opposition parties will be a self defeat for the Congress.
Against this confusing and worrying backdrop the citizens of India has a great responsibility. The civil society groups have to educate the people of India about the current situation. They have to present before the people of India an objective picture of five years’ rule by the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi and how it has divided the people of India in the name of religion and castes. They have to make the people of India understand that India will have a bright and secure future only if the country holds on to the vision and core values enshrined in the preamble of Indian constitution: secular democracy, justice, equality, liberty and fraternity.
There is also an urgent need for making people understand what true patriotism is. Patriotism does not consist in shouting slogans. Not only the soldiers are patriotic, but also all those who contribute to the development of India are patriotic: the farmers who produce grains, vegetables and milk to ensure the food security of the people of India; the workers who toil in the factories to increase the industrial production and lakhs of teachers who are involved in the education of the children and the youth.
Limiting nationalism to slogan shouting and symbolisms is extremely dangerous. Indian nationalism is to be redefined and understood in terms of the people of India. If the people of India remain poor, illiterate, unemployed, undernourished and discriminated what is the use of symbols? Contributing to the well being and development of the people of India is genuine nationalism and patriotism. All those who divide the people of India in the name of caste, religion, language, gender etc. are antinational. All those who create disharmony and disaffection among the different sections of the people of India are pseudo national. Such candidates in the forthcoming election are to be defeated.
The people are to be motivated to elect candidates and parties that are committed to safeguard the secular democratic constitution of India and to build an inclusive India where the human dignity and human rights of all citizens will be safe and secure.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 18th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 12)