For those observing Indian politics in general, and the Lok Sabha elections in particular, it would be obvious that the two main protagonists – Narendra Damodardas Modi and Rahul Gandhi — are not really debating the same issues. They are in fact running two parallel campaigns, which are diametrically opposite and avoiding, as far as possible, getting into the terms of the campaign of the other side. What we have thus is almost two different elections, being fought in two different echo chambers, leaving the voters high and dry and denying of their legitimate rights of a solid, informed debate.
If we talk about the representational democracy, elections provide an ideal opportunity for a robust debate on issues that directly impacts the everyday life of masses, which in turn should guide the governance of the nation; policies that should be implemented or not; measures that should be taken to ensure security of life, liberty and property of denizens; and reforms that ought to be brought in to make lives better for all and sundry.
Now let us examine this theory in the current political situation. We are just a week away from the first phase of Lok Sabha elections. If we look at the two main political parties, Congress and the BJP, it seems as if they are fighting two different elections. Ideally, the ruling party should have been talking about its performance in last five years in the areas of economy, education, healthcare and security. Unfortunately, it talks about issues which aren’t those which affect people in their day to day lives.
After losing the state elections at the end of last year, BJP realised that the battle for the next government in Delhi is not going to be easy and it needs something new and different to attract the voters. The failed promises together with the anti-incumbency factor have dented its image beyond redemption. It needed a new narrative to check its dwindling popularity among masses. The central government’s policies had proved disastrous for the economy, particularly demonetisation and the roll out of the GST, which caused disruption and alienated people. As a consequence to these ill thought measures, more than 20 million people lost their jobs and around 70 lakhs small businesses were shut. The agrarian distress aggravated the situation further resulting in the dip in farmers’ incomes and the burden of debt forced thousands of farmers to commit suicide.
In this backdrop, the Pulwama terror attack on the CRPF convoy came as a blessing in disguise for the ruling BJP. The focus suddenly shifted to patriotism and taking retribution for the killing of 40 CRPF soldiers. In a surprise early morning attack on 14th February, Indian Air Force fighter planes supposedly attacked the Jaish e-Mohammed training centre at Balakot and BJP suddenly discovered an excellent campaign plank for the Lok Sabha elections and since then, they turned their entire focus to national security.
Most of the BJP leaders went into an overdrive talking about the casualty at Balakot. The Union Home minister Rajnath Singh quoted a figure of 300 but the party spokesman Sambit Patra went a step further and claimed even a higher figure of 400. The entire BJP including the Prime Minister Modi started giving an impression as if it wasn’t the Indian army which is fighting the war but BJP and its political mentor, RSS. Prime Minister unashamedly used the pictures of martyrs in his election rallies as if dead soldiers were members of some right wing Hindutva organisation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi through his campaign speeches is busy patting his back on how India has finally the decisive leadership in place to take on terror emanating from across the border. If we listen to his speeches, he is busy telling people as how earlier governments were weak and cowardly but now after his arrival, the era of restraint is over. If Pakistan dares to hit India, our army will enter Pakistani territory and hit back severely. If India is secure, it’s because of him. He openly attacked the opposition for colluding with Pakistan, terrorists and anti national forces, and exhorted people to vote him back to power.