ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2017.
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Thank God, it will be over", the words are reverberating across our election fatigued nation. Everyone is exhausted, the election officials, the multi-sectoral observers, the media, certainly the political parties, and most of all the people of this country who perforce must hear day after day, election debates descending to their crudest, abusive levels, with mostly mediocre, ill managed if not openly biased commentaries and analyses in the media. The Election Code of Conduct came into force on 5 March, which means that governments across the country at all levels have been on a virtual standstill since then. The Code has ensured its own gradual evolution into a gargantuan governmental barricade, prohibiting everything except routine activity, which in any case is also at a standstill as most government officials of all ranks are on some kind of election duty or other.
Why this election was stretched for six weeks commencing 7 April to 12 May, with counting of votes scheduled for 16 May, is a question being asked across the country and internationally. The general explanation provided is that this length of time was necessary for providing security and managing the logistics for deployment of Central security forces, the underlying premise being that faith in the state governments is low, and in the local police, not at all. The election of 2009, which was conducted in more or less similar circumstances, lasted less than a month. Agreed, the voter population would have increased by a hundred million new entrants, but this phenomenon will continue to happen for at least the next ten general elections. Are we to understand that the length of elections will keep increasing in direct proportion with the increase of the electorate? This sounds a bit ludicrous and I think it is high time the Election Commission started thinking out of the box, and came up with new ideas and more innovative solutions. This is something the next government must seriously examine.
This extra stretched election has also become the subject of interesting speculation: that this was deliberately done so as to tire out the clearly visible and credible Narendra Modi wave, which was so terrifying for all political parties opposed to Modi; that greater length of the election would require greater financial staying power, and the political party with maximum comparative advantage in this respect was clearly the Congress, and hence this never ending election.
It may be relevant to refer to a report of 31 March that appeared in India Today. It believes that a large amount of black money abroad has returned during the last one or two years, primarily for election activities, and to prevent Modi laying his hands on it when he comes to power. This perhaps also explains the sudden spurt in the value of the dollar vis-a-vis the rupee since the last two years. Well done, Mr Finance Minister, another feather in your cap of black and white.
Whatever it might be, it did not take more than a couple of weeks for the essential, hard core part of the election campaign, based on national issues and specific agendas, such as governance, development, corruption, security, to be exhausted. After that, the electoral debate and competition that had to accompany the stretched election, lost all semblance of dignity, and sank to lower and lower depths of acrimony, lies and vulgarity, using even terms relating to canines, quadrupeds and criminals, for effect.
It is indeed an undeniable fact that this election acquired all the characteristics of a presidential election. It was Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, versus the rest. And as the Congress Party, its regional allies, and potential third front parties realised that as more and more of their turf was being conquered effortlessly by the Modi wave, they could only resort to trumpeting their old, blind and meaningless strategy — that "secular" forces had to unite to keep the "communal" forces out. They tried every nasty trick nationally and internationally to promote this slogan, through hired intellectuals and mercenaries, but it just didn't work. The people of India could no longer be fooled by this fraud to wash away the UPA's sins of corruption, divisiveness and communalism.
The three most used words that his detractors have kept accusing Modi of, dutifully amplified in the media without asking ancillary questions, were that he was a "polarising", "divisive" and "communal" figure. No one explained exactly who or what he was polarising or dividing, and why exactly he was being labelled communal, especially since there had been not a single incident of communal rioting in Gujarat since the unfortunate 2002 riots, whereas other UPA states like Assam, Maharashtra, and UP had seen repeats of them. The people of India saw for themselves what Modi was really polarising was what was in the interest of the nation versus what was not; that what he was dividing was the army of the corrupt occupying influential decision-making positions in government and public institutions and plundering the country, versus those who were not. The people were also given ample opportunity during the course of the last decade to judge for themselves, how the so called "secular" parties were in fact the most divisive and communal, driving communal wedges as elections drew closer, throwing communal election sops and implementing nothing at all, and disturbing social harmony.
The long election season also saw some unusual and desperate actions by the Congress party. A false complaint against Modi was filed before the Election Commission under Sections 126 (1)(a) and 126 (l)(b) of Representation of People Act, 1951, for which it immediately demanded that the Ahmedabad police should register an FIR. The FIRs were promptly filed, even though I do not think the sections invoked were even properly read or understood. There was no public meeting Modi attended nor did he use any "apparatus" as contained in the section cited. In any event, it was a case of de minimis non curat lex, that the law does not concern itself with trifles. But against Modi, even a molehill is converted into a mountain.
I must say I found Priyanka Vadra's guest appearance, pitching for her brother, at a time when the people of India were still reacting with horror and disgust at her husband Robert's Vadra's dacoities of the nation, a little odd. But what shocked me greatly was her utterly uncivilised response to the exceedingly gentlemanly and civil sentiments that Modi expressed for her in his interview with Doordarshan, which were censored. This is what he is reported to have said: "Any daughter for her brother and mother's victory will do everything. A daughter is after all a daughter, if she does not work for her mother, whom will she do it for? It is her right to work for her mother, to work for her brother. If she hurls ten more curses, then too a daughter is a daughter and as a daughter, whatever she does, I won't be angry at her." The media of course made every effort to distort his original and censored statement, extracted a crude and vulgar response from Priyanka, showing her in exceedingly uncultured light, and it became breaking news for the day. Doordarshan's conduct confirms that it remains as infantile as it was during the Emergency.
Equally vulgar have been Mamata Banerjee's outbursts against Modi. I am informed that she has been particularly rattled ever since her state Intelligence Bureau reported to her that the BJP is going to emerge as a serious political force in the state after 16 May. The BJP vote share is expected to rise from 6% in the last elections to 15%, cutting into the TMC's middle class and urban votes and perhaps benefiting the Left Front candidates. Naturally, Mamata is extremely concerned, and hence extremely abusive.
The signals are clear. The growing cracks at the Centre have now come completely splayed and splinters are flying in various directions. The NCP, and even the National Conference, former ally of the NDA, are speaking in different voices. The UPA has succeeded in its self-destruction. The penance it must perform for its devastation and plunder of India, will hopefully commence soon. And a new dawn shall break for our country.