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The results of the five station elections make us wonder if there is any hope for sanity in India.
Is it whither India? Or is it just wither India, the India of Gandhi and Nehru? Across the country the more secular liberal sections are wringing their hands in despair, more aghast than ever before.
If only Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, handpicked by the former, could be humbled in the Hindi heartland, it could mean that in the general elections two years later there was a good chance the forces of bigotry would be held in check, it was thought. But it was not to be. It might not be a thumping victory, but still a handsome, stable working majority for the BJP in UP, while belying all expectations the party swept back to power in the neighbouring Uttarakhand as well.
Not only UP is the largest state in the country, sending, as it does, as many as 85 representatives to the Lok Sabha, the verdict there is seen as some kind of a barometer of the popular opinion in the Hindi heartland. Sitting down south, nearly two thousand kilometres away, it is difficult to come to any firm conclusion what exactly swayed the voters. Even seasoned reporters are flummoxed. Why was sanity in India not on the ballot?
Sitting down south, nearly two thousand kilometres away, it is difficult to come to any firm conclusion what exactly swayed the voters. Even seasoned reporters are flummoxed.
Well, direct cash transfers have acted as a powerful magnet in UP, perhaps explaining why Dalits and women seem to have plumped for the BJP. Besides, many commentators including Swaminathan Aiyar would like to believe that the citizens are relieved there is a measure of law and order, sorely missing earlier.
We must note that the BJP scored its biggest victories in the western, northeastern, Doab and Bundelkhand region, considered the most backward in the state, with huge victory margins of 12 to 15 per cent.
Not just for the middle classes, even for the poorest of the poor perhaps, an aggressive law and order machinery is welcome perhaps, never mind they too could find themselves under its ruthless heels time and again.
Unsurprisingly for many who voted for the BJP, the Ram mandir was as much a crucial issue as were other factors that proved a big draw. They have willingly swallowed the anti-Muslim paranoia assiduously promoted by the Modi-Yogi duo. In other words, so long as the minorities are put in their place, it doesn’t matter much whether there is anything by way of development.
It is possible people up there are content to say Jai Shreeram and starve. The same should apply to most of the northern states, and the UP momentum should carry the BJP forward at a lark in 2024.
The south’s tally in the 544-member Lok Sabha is less than 130, and if one counts out Karnataka, it will be a pitiful 100 plus. Again among the southern states, only Kerala and Tamil Nadu could be considered resolutely secular, one can never be sure of the bifurcated Andhra.
Gujarat is hopelessly communalized while Maharashtra always teeters on the brink. In the days to come one need not be surprised if the Shiv Sena, now heading the Maharashtra government, recovers its old vehement Hindutva self, now restrained because of coalition compulsions.
In the North East, Assam is firmly in the BJP bag and the rest are very small. Of course West Bengal is a big state with as many as 42 seats, and Mamata Banerjee is in total command, but she herself is unpredictable, anyway a crass opportunist.
You don’t know much about the DMK either, after all it had supped with the devil once – Karunanidhi could not bring himself to condemn the Godhra violence when he was part of the Vajpayee-led government.
The AAP might have ground the BJP to dust in Punjab, but it also courts conservative elements all the time and hence cannot be trusted to speak up for the minorities when the Hindutva juggernaut accelerates. The Left of course is left out altogether thanks to its own blunders and stupidities, particularly rank misgovernance in West Bengal and the tantrums that led to its parting of ways with the UPA government, squandering one more chance to consolidate sanity and decency in public life.
So where does it all leave us? In a hopeless mire of bigotry and antediluvian mindset that Jawaharlal Nehru had fought hard till his last breath. Under Modi, scientific temper, so much cherished by the architect of India, has gone for a toss, as even Vice Chancellors are in the vanguard of the cave pilgrimage.
The othering of the Muslims will be intensified, the amendments to the Citizenship Act will be activated and Kashmir permanently condemned to serfdom. Who can fight back? The GOP is in terminal decline and nothing that the Sonia-Rahul-Priyanka triumvirate say or do would win back the people’s favour, whatever the omissions and commissions of the parivar dispensation. That is what we learn time and again.
The AAP might have ground the BJP to dust in Punjab, but it also courts conservative elements all the time and hence cannot be trusted to speak up for the minorities when the Hindutva juggernaut accelerates.
Civil society too will be progressively paralyzed as all intellectual dissidence is ferociously put down. The courts too are co-opted by and large, not much relief comes from that side, despite some dim glow now and then.
The legacy of Aurangzeb and the Partition riots might explain a measure of ingrained prejudice in the cow belt, and which sentiments were only sharpened by the misguided appeasement policies of successive Congress governments.
Modi fuelled it all like never before in order to reap electoral harvest, yes. But even otherwise the RSS unrepentantly stands for Hindu supremacism and will press forward whatever the costs.
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie, the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie, the standards of thought) no longer exist,” says Hanah Arendt, noted campaigner against totalitarianism.
Whether under Nazis or under Stalin and his cohorts, it is the party that thinks for you. You dare think only on pain of cruel punishment. Populism, on its part, can make you swallow all the vicious campaign without the need for the stick or the gun.
I scoured the Internet for hours to see whether Hannah or anyone else has any viable suggestions. It is all platitudes but, come together, get over, work hard and the like.
Where man is vile, whatever the motives, nothing helps. The Third Reich fell not because of people’s protests; so also the fourth on our horizon will not disappear.
Ireland never got justice for all the miseries inflicted on it, Palestine will continue to suffer for ages to come, as will Sri Lankan Tamils and Rohingyas. Truth triumphs is no more than comforting hocus-pocus, or jumla in the discourse on Modi.
The best case scenario for India is perhaps it will get much worse, but eventually will get better too. Meantime the conscientious should throw their all into the fight against obscurantism for what it is worth, even if it means nothing more than delaying the inevitable.
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