2014: The Indian General Election In The Present Context

2014: The Indian General Election In The Present Context
~Aashay Sahay~

The 2014 Lok Sabha election are going to be a momentous turning point for the Republic of India either for the better or worse. There is no possibility of a middle ground or in other words, a preservation of status quo. The vital signs on this nation are deteriorating at an alarming rate and if the state of governance remains as is, it will lead India into a future far darker than the present scenario, with irreversible repercussions. This nation is in desperate need of extensive overhaul that can break the shackles of political inertia and drag the state out of its present disrepair. Populist policies deployed by the government over the last decade have been an accessory to vote bank manipulation and have left a significant dent on the economy.  Systematic utilization of the state’s functions and organs for the vested interests of the ruling class isn’t a recent phenomenon, but the brazenness displayed by this lot in the face of complete exposure at the hands of an empowered media is astounding.

The attitude of the Uttar Pradesh government is exhibited by its role in IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal’s suspension and its reaction in the aftermath of the public outrage that followed. Despite the abundance of evidence indicating the true motives behind her suspension, the posse of politicians at the helm of this affair have flouted their power with impunity. There is a sense of invincibility among these leaders as they seem to have conviction in their ability to remain in business by means of backdoor deals for political support, hoodwinking the people into voting on fabricated issues or outright buying their votes. In 2003, several weapons including AK 47s were recovered by the police from the house of Raghuraj Pratap Singh. In 2007, Police Inspector RS Pandey mysteriously died in a car accident on his way to Allahabad High court. RS Pandey had conducted raids at the house of Raguraj Pratap Singh, against whom he was investigating the POTA case and had since complained of repeated death threats from him. On 3rd March 2013, Deputy Superintendant of Police, Zia Ul Haque was killed during a clash in Kunda. The officer’s wife claimed Raghuraj Pratap Singh’s involvement in her husband’s death. On the 1st of August 201, he was given a clean chit by the CBI in the Zia Ul Haque murder case. Raghuraj Pratap Singh, a five time MLA from Kunda is also known as Raja Bhaiya. When individuals like him can roam the streets freely while police officers lie in their graves or get suspended for doing their job, despite the efforts of the Media and several members of the society, one can only imagine the state of an average citizen crushed under the weight of injustice, poverty and lack of redressal.

Over twenty percent of India’s population comprises of the youth. While India is in a position to reap the demographic dividend, it has miserably failed to do just that. This leaves us with a burgeoning youth populace with a large proportion of them engaged in unproductive activity. What critically distinguished the youth of today from that of the past decades is the increasing access to information and urban exposure. The ambition and thereby the frustration as a lack of its fulfilment was limited in the youth of the previous generations as their reference frame for gauging their wants and thereby the success in achieving it was limited to their immediate surroundings for the most part. The other factor that helped curbing their horizons was a dominant social structure wherein people came to terms with the strata they were born into and thereby looked for contentment within it. Those born poor rarely managed to get educated and almost never had access to the media. This made them susceptible to the prevalent indoctrination that commanded them to serve within the family profession. Such a construct enabled the wealthy to hold their positions with limited threat of losing their wealth to somebody more capable than them that was from a financially weaker segment of the society and it empowered the political class to lord over the general populace while being minimally susceptible to scrutiny. The lack of a strong independent media further facilitated their cause.

The youth of today is aware of the opportunities that exist, aware of their right to claim it and aware that they are being denied and oppressed. They are unwilling to come to terms with it and reconcile with their situation. A large chunk of the youth is sub optimally employed or unemployed and this in conjugation with the above factors is leading to widespread frustration and resentment. The economist in an article published in the month of May this year, talks about a firm by the name Frontline that is one of India’s largest private employers. It employs over 86,000 people who are mostly unskilled persons serving as security guards at various installations such as ATM machines. Rather than being an isolated case, this is symptomatic of the present scenario where hoards of Indians spend their lives engaged in work that has extremely low scope for cerebral involvement. These members of the society sit about day after day watching people roll by in vehicles, men and women coming out of clubs, extravagant celebrations and other such symbols of everything they want to posses but can’t. The abundance of time to ponder on such matters leads to the birth of resentment, which in the absence of channelization, gets vented on the obscured of things. A Wall Street Journal report even links the increase in sexual harassment to this situation.

In the past decade, there have been several flash points across the nation with the most recent being over the gang rape in Delhi which led to a massive agitation in the heart of city. Disenchanted youth in the impoverished rural areas are taking to naxalism. Should the state of affairs in this nation continue to degenerate at the present rate, the populace is bound to reach a tipping point on the tolerance scale. It would be ideal if this tipping point is reflected through the democratic process, but if the masses are disillusioned with the very system that is supposed to alleviate them from this situation and hold it responsible for it; they may be likely to take other recourses with grim repercussions.

The protests that followed the brutal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi on 16th December 2012 weren’t merely an outrage against the incident but rather a larger cry of despair against the failure of the government to perform its duty. I was present at India Gate when the police and other special forces cracked down on the peaceful protesters, an act that was widely criticised. At one point, while trying to escape the lathi charge, I remember turning around and spotting a policeman assaulting a stranded woman. The next thing I noticed was that some of the youth that was trying to get out of the situation had seen this too. They stopped in their tracks, outraged at what they had just seen and took to hurling bricks and stones in the direction of the aggressor. Now consider the following situation. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine a mass turnout akin to the December protests, as a result of the unearthing of another major corruption scandal, something which seems to be constantly looming on the horizon. All it would take is for one cop to lose his cool, fire his weapon and subsequently the casualty of one individual among the crowd to send people over the edge.  A riotous situation would be likely to ensue with severe casualties. An incident such as this can be the flash point to send the rest of India over the tipping point and trigger a nationwide uprising against a corrupt, malfunctioning and oppressive system. It took one self-immolation to change the face of the Arab world and set in motion the Arab spring. It might take one such incident to cause the same in India. The economic reality certainly supports this argument.

The 2014 general elections are set to be a testament to the general sense of frustration among the people with regard to both their present personal and national situations. Across various states, the people have shown a propensity to give clear mandates to a single party or alliance. The people of UP gave BSP a majority in the legislative assembly and upon its failure to the SP. Similarly Karnataka gave BJP a clear mandate after years of dysfunctional alliances and then expressed its disappointment with the party’s tenure by giving a clear mandate to Congress this year. The conclusion is evident and straight forward, the people are seeking to get rid of messy coalitions and vote in the party that has a clear agenda and shows ability to deliver on it. The general elections are likely to reflect this mood provided the BJP can present an unambiguous front to the masses. Given the way things are panning out at the moment, the party seems to be moving in the right direction. Should the BJP declare Modi the Prime Ministerial candidate in due time and thereafter engage in a protracted campaign to spread the development agenda and its virtues to the grass root level across India in the run up to the elections, it will be set for an impressive performance. However, if there were to be a turn in events leading to a lack of clarity on behalf of BJP, given the fact that under almost every fathomable scenario the congress will be taking a major drubbing; there can be two possible outcomes. Either BJP will form some sort of a mega alliance to form the magic number or the next government will be formed by a motley crew of regional parties, backed by one of the two national parties. The former will produce yet another term of minimally functional governance. Consequences of the latter arrangement on the future of this nation are anyone’s guess. Even within the regional satraps, certain luminaries like Mayawati, Mulayam Singh and Mamata among some others that are poised to be king makers, might end up with a shot at the Prime Ministerial seat. This would be a nightmarish situation for the entire nation to say the least. Jaya Lalitha and Nitish Kumar are relatively better off, but with limited seats attributed to their party they will lack teeth should they manage to become the Prime Minster and chose to do something tangible.

All things considered, if one were to evaluate the chips as they lie at this moment; Narendra Modi is headed for the big job.


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