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07th-Aug-2019

Redesigning Democracy

By

Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :
Despite being routine affairs in the established democracies, elections sometimes prove to be turning point in the history of a nation. The outcome of certain particular elections not only demolishes the long held political beliefs, systems, patterns and processes but also set the stage for their replacement with novel alternatives. In this regard, Seventeenth General Elections, held in 2019 may really be termed as momentous in India's recent political history.
The outcomes of these elections have not only unsettled many of the well-established tendencies and practices of Indian democracy but have also acted to provide decisive perspectives on a number of competing issues and challenges facing the Indian political system for long. In fact, during more than seventy years of successful working of Indian democracy numerous issues both constitutional as well as political have remained contentious with varying perspectives being put forward to settle them accordingly.
The 2019 Lok Sabha poll outcome provides inputs to suggest that Hindu nationalism was not just a slogan but an effective mobilizing device. When the results of the polls started pouring in on 23 May 2019, the deep penetration of Modi wave even into the unchartered territories of the country began to get exhibited. In the place of mandatory 272 seats required to secure a working majority in the Lok Sabha, the party's individual seal tally swelled to cross the magical 300 marks and landed at as much as 303.
On the whole, the seventeenth Lok Sabha polls produced a scenario in which the BJP not only returned to power at the centre by registering a landslide victory but also got sustenance to emerge as a truly pan India political party that could register its presence in most, if not all, of the states in India. The strategic penetration of the party into the hitherto unclaimed territories like West Bengal has really been a battle handsomely won. Party's amazing performance in its traditional strongholds need not overshadow its more far reaching and long term gains of spreading its wings to such areas that have remained, more or less, out of reach for the party.
The positive atmosphere in favour of his party created by Modi through his credible promises and convincing arguments has taken full advantage of by party President Amit Shah who has over the years emerged as the top political strategist in the country. 3° Keeping in mind both the short term as well as long term visions for the growth and development of his party, Shah has really propelled the growth of BJP even in such areas which would have seemed improbable just a few years back. The classic examples in this context are that of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. West Bengal under the long period of rule by Communists and Mamata has considered to have become the citadel of anti-BJP sentiments. But the way Shah planned BJP inroads into different parts of the state has really been appreciated. Similarly, in UP, once considered to be the bastion of casteist parties, the phenomenal rise of BJP has demolished the dominance of the well entrenched parties in such a way that they would probably not be able to overcome the shocks of defeat in the near future.
The 2019 poll outcome also underlines, on the other, the point that Indian voters are perhaps the most judicious when they are asked to choose the future rulers with reference to what they deem most appropriate for the country. Here too, that the BJP-led NDA had won a majority in the 2019 election firmly establishes the point that the Hindu nationalist voice helped build a strong constituency for the conglomeration in opposition to those drawing upon the age-old Enlightenment values. So, the 2019 poll was a battle of ideas in which those seeking to rework on the idea of India by reference to her rich socio-cultural and academic traditions seem to have edged out their counterparts espousing the Nehruvian idea of India.
Modi was the sole campaigner for BJP as well as its alliance partners. The feeling in the common people was much for him rather than his party. They wanted to see him as Prime Minister once again. Modi attempted several experiments in his campaign trail. He began with promising sops in the interim Budget for the year and to complete his unfinished task. Spoke of his development agenda and the achievements of his government. But this did not go down well. People were reeling under the impact of demonetisation, farm distress, job- lessens and adverse impact of the introduction of GST. Finally he had to resort to projecting him as a "strongman" who can defend the country's sovereignty. After the terror attack in Pulwama and air strikes at terrorist hideout in Balakot in Pakistan came handy and boosted his image.

 (Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed, writer, columnist and researcher)