The Big Fat Indian Conundrum – General Elections 2019
The end of the five-year term of our current government marks the beginning of the largest democratic exercise the world has ever seen — the 2019 Indian general elections. Spread out over six weeks, with over 900 million eligible voters, and over 130 million first-time voters, the elections are of a gargantuan size with seven phases of voting. The elections which are carried out to appoint the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha, are meant to provide a voice to every community in our diverse nation.
Indian politics, since independence in 1947, had lacked the existence of a strong opposition. Political dominance by a single party characterised our political system for years, barring the 1977 Janata Party government which came into power for two years, however, a clean sweep by the opposition in the 2014 general elections marked the beginning of a new era of Indian politics — a strengthened conflict of ideologies, with the antithesis clashing with the thesis to emerge victorious. This ideological clash marks the very basis of the 2019 elections. One end of this ideological spectrum is marked by the rise of ‘Mandir politics’ and right-wing nationalism, while the other is a more secular-democratic and liberal approach to governance.
This clash of ideologies cements the formation of a strong two-party system but in many ways moves India away from what it stands for as a nation. ‘Mandir politics’ in a democracy wherein at least 9 major religions are recognised is a blatant ignorance of the idea of a secular country. With religious crimes up by 400%, with unemployment at a record high in the past 45 years (appalling, given that we had a BOP crisis in 1991), and a slew of data manipulation, it remains to be seen whether the mobilisation of the poor Hindu masses will truly be the path that leads India towards its status as a world superpower.
The contradiction to this, however, is still a mobilisation of the masses. Just this time the focus lies more on poor people of all religions, the lower castes, and of course the Indian farmers. The opposition has been blacklisted as a somnambulant party which has done nothing for the nation, and the Indian’s want for active and visible decision making may be a hinderance to its success. The socialist approach has worked, but the rise of right-wing Hindutva poses a serious threat to mass mobilisation through this method.
As of late there has been a wave of socialist propaganda and action being carried out by all parties, yet this approach remains largely convulsed in deception. Elections are sacred to the Indian Constitution for it remains a salient prerequisite for any functioning democracy. Today, this indispensable tool has unfortunately become a mere facade; one under which false promises raise temporary populist fervors to fill vote banks. Populism seems to have emerged as a virus which underlies any ideological approach the governments take, however this phenomenon is not really unique to India. A research paper by Jeffrey J. Harden talks about the discrepancies between the demand and supply of democracies as being a primary explanation to several failures of governance regardless of nation. The same is applicable to India, and thus it may be idealistic to expect a perfect flow of every citizen’s demand equating every political representative’s supply.
It is often claimed that the self-goal is the primary “opportunity” for all political parties in every election. In fact, at times the obsession with this opportunity can be unmistakably reflective in the imprudent ventures of political parties as elections near. However we cannot deny the benefits these same imprudent policy actions may have had. India is not yet a perfect nation, but we at evolv believe that it shall be one in the future. The onus for India’s progress lies in the hands of every citizen, because it is via voting that we can wield our power of anti-incumbency or of approval. As Raghuram Rajan once mentioned, a massive pillar of every democracy is checks and balances which are maintained via an effective opposition and an active citizen base, and thus, we must all vote and make India a better nation than it has ever been.