Bhartiya Janta Party’s win in Uttar Pradesh has me wondering what do Indian voters really vote for? Voters across India and especially in UP have invested their unequivocal trust in Narendra Modi and the BJP.
To some extent we vote for change, as can be seen in the way incumbent governments have fallen. However, I think India largely votes for the powerful. Most people, particularly the disenfranchised tend to be in awe of power and queue up behind the hero. Indians especially like to have powerful friends, to boast of connections and we cant even comprehend a liberal society where things work according to the law, where no one has privileges and every one has the same chances.
Today Narendra Modi is packaged as the most powerful hero of our times and we naturally queue up behind him. Narendra Modi’s personal popularity and BJP’s spirited campaign led by Amit Shah is where the credit of the mega UP win lies.
What then of Modi’s supposed debacle of Demonetisation, his escalation of hostilities at the border, his communal polarisation. Are the voters not affected by it? The answer is quite clearly no. Where economic, foreign affairs and other policy issues are concerned, the voters are not interested in debates, they just want a man in charge who is decisive and Modi has shown that he will take the call and the risks that go with it. As for polarisation – this verdict makes me accept that many Indians share the views of the BJP – they believe that the minorities, dalits and women need to be treated as second rate citizens.
So do we accept this and settle down to 20 years of Modi. No. When power is based on divisive agendas and on unsound policies it seldom lasts. It causes havoc yes, but it has to die a violent death. Whether it is in the extreme form of Nazi Germany or our own Emergency, its end is rooted in its very nature. In a country as vast and disparate as India this kind of power will outrun itself soon.
The question before us is whether we need to fight this fire with fire, or can we slowly grow into a society of values where this mindless mentality of following a dictator will be vanquished. The first is not an option. Replacing a Modi with another Modi doesn’t help India, it doesn’t improve our quality of life or assure us of liberty. So we need to change mindsets and values. But how does one do that when faced with such a big cultural hegemony and the accompanying McCarthyism where every dissenting voice that actually speaks for liberty for all Indians is labelled anti-national and sent to Pakistan?
We do it how the freedom fighters did it, how the reformists did it. We stand up and we fight even if the odds are stacked against us. Can the Congress do it – unlikely. It is a slumbering giant and while it can be by no means written off, it will certainly not take pole position in a revolution. Which brings us to Arvind Kejriwal who was poised as the voice of the liberals and as the biggest opposition to Modi. The AAP was hoping to sweep Punjab, it left no stone unturned in its campaign yet it lost and obituaries are flowing generously since.
No one is taking a moment to think that when the BJP was formed it took 4 years to win 2 Lok Sabha seats and nearly ten years to form its first state government, despite having roots in the historic 1977 Janata Party and the backing of the mammoth RSS organisation.
The AAP in its 4 years has 4 Lok Sabha seats, one state government, and is the primary opposition in the another state, despite having no resources and despite being easily the most targeted and ridiculed party ever. (No need to elaborate here, many articles have been written on how the nexus of politicians, media and business is averse to anyone who wants to break up their club.)
The AAP will never be given credit for this meteoric rise as today is the world of instant everything and even though it is a rank newcomer it has to run the race as if it is equal in strength and resources to the Congress and the BJP. The other reason why the expectations from the AAP are too high is its own doing, it has positioned itself as having lofty ideals and ambitions.
Yet, AAP is a revolution, its base is in common educated people who want a liberal, fair world of equal opportunities and hence it is also the only hope, the only possible opposition to Modi. It will have to go back to the drawing board and calibrate a new strategy that will have to fight the now bigger and more powerful Hindutva brigade, as well as the cynical old schoolers who hate rank outsiders in their turf.
And keep fighting it will. When a Jalianwala Baug or a Chaurichora or Kalapaani did not deter the revolutionaries of yore, what is an election debacle or false cases or vilification campaigns for today’s revolutionaries. We will keep calm and carry on fighting for liberty, justice and truth.
(The author is an Aam Aadmi Party’s spokesperson and views expressed here are her own)