“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Before I begin, I would like to make a few clarifications that might help you put this article in a clearer perspective. I worked on the campaigning of Mr. Modi, I support him and I voted for him. Also, that by default doesn’t make me a Hindu nationalist. Now, moving on.
Over the last 5-6 months, I have seen unfold a mind-boggling story in front of my eyes. A story of triumph and of loss, of love and of hatred, of politics and of personal vendetta, of innovative strategies and of clichéd shenanigans. I’m glad I got to be a part of this gala in a very small form as a campaigner for Mr. Modi in a few constituencies in Uttar Pradesh through Citizens for Accountable Governance. For those who don’t know what CAG is, can check out here: http://www.indiancag.org. In the run up to the actual polling, I had read and watched and heard a lot about vote polarization, communalism, secular hatred and God knows what not. And while I’m a person with a usually optimistic outlook, I had developed some questions that I needed to answer and hence I thought working with CAG would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at election politics. A lot of my questions were in fact answered and some new ones crept up. But one thing that I learned changed my outlook in a significant way. While I was surveying people and talking to party workers of not just BJP but other party people I met in the market, I realized communal divide is a staggering reality of our society. And unlike what Facebook preachers talk about, this is something that people want themselves.
See, for the larger part in the rural parts of our country, sections of society are not ready to merge so easily with one another when it comes to elections. The primary reason behind this being that elections are an opportune moment to get their demands fulfilled. And we still haven’t reached the apex of Maslow’s Need Hierarchy pyramid that we start putting needs of others first. I wouldn’t call it selfish, rather merely human. So, I realized that votes do get swayed on the basis of religion, caste, community and what not. And we cannot turn a blind eye to it. We cannot counter it overnight. It will take years and decades of continual efforts and urbanization and inclusive development that will slowly turn the perception of the people. I absolutely agree that politicians need to stop fueling it further, but they can’t tell lakhs of voters on how to live their lives. However, in spite of this face-off with darker side, I also came to know that in that particular constituency no Hindu-Muslim riots have taken place in 40 years. I was shocked to hear this. One elderly gentleman told me a very interesting thing. He said “Polarization does not mean we hate the other community. It merely means that everyone is looking out for their own interest.” He added “There can be communal harmony in spite of polarization of votes. And it will take a conscious effort from your generation and younger people because we [older people] are set in our ways”. This really hit me. I could very well relate this to what Mr. Modi said in his interview to ANI “I will follow my religious paradigm. I will respect ALL religious paradigms”. Now, I know this is a very small sample set and hence I won’t make any generalizations. I understand that worse realities exist in many other parts of the country. But can we not take an example from this and build upon it?
Well, eventually, stint with CAG came to end and so did the polling in all 543 constituencies of the country. On May 16, 2014 Indian public handed over a massive mandate in favor of BJP and Mr. Modi crowning him as their new helmsman. We all know that a lot, and I mean a LOT, has been spoken and written over the General Elections 2014. To put things into perspective, I was just 1 out of 29 million Indians who discussed the Elections on Facebook and I was responsible for like 10-15 out of 56 million tweets on the Indian Elections. And I’m the talkative one. LOL 🙂 I have had countless debates on Facebook threads and even in my inbox with quite a few people who upon the declaration of results, called that India’s defeat. The defeat of Democracy and what not. And just because this article starts with a quote that highlights one of the biggest flaws of Democracy, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in it. But I also witnessed that guy like Assaduddin Owaisi won from Hyderabad – a guy who has openly made hate-speeches against Hindus in the country. A guy who’s own brother, whom Mr. Owaisi has defended behind the scenes, spoke in a public meeting urging Indian Muslims to collude with Pakistani military in a fight against India. It is clear that his comments are asinine to the highest order but his brother just got elected MP. And this isn’t the first time he has won. Isn’t this a defeat of democracy rather than crying wolf over the victory of a respected CM who has never spoken against any sect or religion in any of his speeches? The answer, whether you and I may like it or not, is NO. This is the very victory of democracy. We can debate whether democracy itself is a good institution or not. But when PEOPLE elect their representative and when we have by default established that we follow a democratic form of governance, it is nothing but our fundamental duty to respect their mandate. As GBS accurately pointed out, the biggest strength and weakness of a democracy is that its governance can only be as good as its people. Sujit Patel, a friend and colleague aptly stated, “Democracy is a great system of electing a leader only if it is who WE want. Else, it is a system bordering on majoritarian fascism.”
I read another series of posts that talked about whether there will be a place for dissent in the Modi government. In one of the articles in that effect, in a very euphemistic way, the author compared Modi to a tyrant who would put to task anyone who dared oppose him. There are many others who say that skeptics need to find their voice; a strong opposition is what will keep the Modi government in check; we must scrutinize Mr. Modi’s each and every action meticulously etc. etc. I couldn’t agree more. But why Mr. Modi only? Why don’t we and why haven’t we done with every other government and every one of their politicians till now? We do need a strong opposition. When governments come to power with an overwhelming majority like the one Mr. Modi’s government has, they tend to misuse it. It has happened in 2009 and there’s no reason it can’t happen again. But why do we pro-actively make this conjecture that dissent will be met with punishment under the new government. And those talking about the voice of skeptics, where were these voices when the UPA government and their policy paralysis was eating away at our economy, at our industrial growth, at our social fabric? Where were these voices when Muzaffarnagar happened? Where were these voices when they plunged the nation into an abyss of corruption and scams and a farce in the name of law and order?
But let’s not go into the past. I made a promise to myself that over the coming months and years, I will look at the policies of the Modi government as objectively as I can. Before a supporter of Mr. Modi, I am an Indian citizen. I want to believe that the conviction, with which I voted for change and development in these elections, is respected and some good comes out of it. And what reaffirms my faith is exactly this overwhelming majority that BJP got in these elections. Our democratic electorate, the largest in the world, overthrew a dynastic and corrupt government who thought they were infallible with their sheer power of their vote. I hope that the new government takes this as a learning. If a party as old as INC can be uprooted and thrown out so can they. And God forbid, if the day comes when we think Mr. Modi’s government is incapable of leading this country, it is this democratic stronghold that will show the door to him.
In the opening lines of this article, I clarified that even though I support Mr. Modi, I am not a Hindu nationalist. While I was in the middle of writing this article, I realized how sad a state it is in our country and in spite of it being my constitutional right, I have to give explanation of my religious inclination and ameliorate any controversy(ies) thereby. I decided I won’t change the opening line. But let me clarify further here. There is a group of people that have distorted the meaning of the word nationalism. The term in its original sense means the idea of supporting one’s country and culture. However, the proponent of paranoia and what are commonly referred to as “pseudo-seculars” have portrayed nationalism as exclusion and hatred of other cultures or jingoism. This is a depressing state of thought. And what’s more dismal is that some highly intellectual and thinking individuals belong to this group. I don’t know whether this definition was created by these pseudo-seculars or was fed to them as a result of a systematic propaganda by the so called “secular” forces of the country like INC, Samajwadi Party, TMC and RJD by comparing Modi to Hitler and Muslims to Jews. What we need to really understand is that the voter is now aware if not fully educated. He/she *thinks* about what’s right and what’s wrong rather than getting influenced by which cap my party leaders wear.
May be the people of Hyderabad think they made the right choice. And if tomorrow this choice turns out to be sour, I have belief in our constitutional machinery to set the course right again. We can and should not meddle in democratic process. We can’t shout at the top of our voices or write dissenting posts and tweets and expect the entire country to follow suit. But what we CAN do is strengthen the integrity and the credibility of institutions that are put in place to protect the interest of the people and of the country. 100% people where won’t ever agree on anything. They don’t approve of one God least of all one human being. So either we can spend countless hours debating on our own self-proclaimed perspective of righteousness or we can devote that same time and energy in doing something constructive.
And like in every democratic process, the choice is with us.