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Have we matured in Political Choice?

  • Category
    Indian Polity
  • Published
    31st May, 2019
  • Electoral verdict as delivered in 2019 general elections has shocked and surprised all political pundits.
  • While the jury is divided, it is important to analysis - within the ambit of this article, if the verdict of 2019 has demonstrated that the electorates have matured in making political choices.

Issue

Context

  • Electoral verdict as delivered in 2019 general elections has shocked and surprised all political pundits.
  • While the jury is divided, it is important to analysis - within the ambit of this article, if the verdict of 2019 has demonstrated that the electorates have matured in making political choices.

About:

  • For instance, the divided electoral provided a thumping majority to BJP - rising above caste, dynasty, regional dimensions and the son of the soil narratives.
  • This is to be contrasted over how they voted in the recently held general elections. In these elections, the long tenured state governments were replaced with change of guards.
  • Does this imply that the nation is ready for "simultaneous elections" - as envisaged by the political parties and the ECI?
  • Or, was the outcome due to charismatic oratory skills of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
  • In the analysis part, these are some questions, the article will try and find answers of.

Analysis

India Elections: Six lessons from Verdict 2019

  • A mandate only places a particular politics in power; it does not mean, as in authoritarian regimes such as China, the power to run individual or collective writs.
  • Today, while political entrepreneurship is alive and vibrant in India – Arvind Kejriwal being the latest – the candidate has been reduced to a vote collecting machine, based on which she/he jumps party brands, but remains irrelevant to the larger political discourse.
  • In terms of faces and voting thereon, there is only the top job – everyone else, including the candidate, is an adjunct.

Eight pillars of political continuity

  1. One, consolidation of what was an alternative to the Congress – the BJP – becoming the key driver of Indian politics.
  2. Two, a forceful ejection of entitlement-driven, the Gandhi family-dominated politics to one that, looks at the rise of an average person, Narendra Modi, to the top. This is a story of hope.
  3. Three, the rise of a party, the BJP that thinks, governs and articulates itself in Hindi.
  4. Four, delivering a sense of a rising India across the world and a citizenry that basks in that warm-fuzzy idea.
  5. Five, the rebirth of nationalism and patriotism, a sense of going beyond the family, the community and the region to meld into the nation. Clearly, the fragmented ideas have been sidelined for now.
  6. Six – possibly the visible veto – the birth of national security as a political issue. That India can and will use kinetic force to protect itself is now an irreversible political conversation.
  7. The unresolved discourse of no-jobs and undependable-data notwithstanding, a political economy narrative that has been driven by low inflation – this is the only economic indicator that influences the behavior of the voter.
  8. And eight, a corruption-free, family-free, encumbrances-free man – Modi – as brand driver.

Policy stability through six touch points with electorate

Over the past five years, as part of delivering economic governance, the Modi government has made several and regular touch points with the electorate, of which the following six are key:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana delivered bank accounts to 355 million unbanked Indians.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission has built 92.7 million toilets, with more than 560,000 villages and 617 districts that are open defecation free.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana aims to deliver secondary and tertiary healthcare to 100 million poorest and the first flush of 1.8 million beneficiaries are visible to all.
  • Demonetization seems to have hit the commentators more than those on whose behalf they debunk it.
  • Close to 72 million households in 714 districts now have access to LPG as cooking gas that has freed women in these households of smoky choolhaas, under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yoja
  • More than 100 million individuals have availed of small loans of between Rs 50,000 and Rs 10 lakh under the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana.

Minoritarianism doesn’t work anymore

  • The narrative of Minoritarianism – a crude corollary of democracy that suggests the might of the majority suffocating the minority – has finally been called out. A mandate only places a particular politics in power; it does not mean, as in authoritarian regimes such as China, the power to run individual or collective writs.
  • In every mature democracy such as the US or India, in contrast to say those in Pakistan or Turkey, there are institutions and laws that protect minorities. In India, majoritarianism was suspected to be a false narrative; Verdict 2019 has unequivocally proved it to be false.
  • Opposition needs a new narrative. But in hindsight, the word ‘new’ is redundant. Other than ‘remove Modi’, the Opposition had no coherent offer.
  • A post-elections Mahagathbandhan may have worked out if the numbers turned in their favour. But as a narrative they could not see beyond ‘remove Modi’. For the electorate, this was not enough.
  • Now that Verdict 2019 is clear, it is time for the Opposition to create a narrative – the need for a strong Opposition that checks the government remains. Given the failure of extant family-led parties, this demand may perhaps create its own supply in the form of a new and serious political entrepreneur – the field is open.
  • The tragedy at Pulwama made India mourn. The national quest for retribution brought it together. That retribution at Balakot ended Pakistan’s nuclear bluff that India and the world had been reeling under for decades.
  • Coming barely two months before general elections, there was no way the Modi government would not have reacted with kinetic force.
  • When it did, the rhetoric of national security became an electoral issue. On the other side, the Opposition first downplayed the Balakot airstrike, then it tried to take the political credit for the strike away from Modi, then said it was not a big deal as it had been done earlier too without the publicity, and finally gave in reluctantly, allowing the issue do die.

Summary note:

  • As factored in - in the analysis part, there were multiple narratives at play - which the opposition failed to gauge in.
  • Verdict 2019 has hinted at new wave of political maturity - however to sustain this - a stronger and constructive critic - both at media and at the Parliament is essential.
  • How quickly this is realized will help capitalize the gains of this critical exercise.

Analysis

India Elections: Six lessons from Verdict 2019

  • A mandate only places a particular politics in power; it does not mean, as in authoritarian regimes such as China, the power to run individual or collective writs.
  • Today, while political entrepreneurship is alive and vibrant in India – Arvind Kejriwal being the latest – the candidate has been reduced to a vote collecting machine, based on which she/he jumps party brands, but remains irrelevant to the larger political discourse.
  • In terms of faces and voting thereon, there is only the top job – everyone else, including the candidate, is an adjunct.

Eight pillars of political continuity

  1. One, consolidation of what was an alternative to the Congress – the BJP – becoming the key driver of Indian politics.
  2. Two, a forceful ejection of entitlement-driven, the Gandhi family-dominated politics to one that, looks at the rise of an average person, Narendra Modi, to the top. This is a story of hope.
  3. Three, the rise of a party, the BJP that thinks, governs and articulates itself in Hindi.
  4. Four, delivering a sense of a rising India across the world and a citizenry that basks in that warm-fuzzy idea.
  5. Five, the rebirth of nationalism and patriotism, a sense of going beyond the family, the community and the region to meld into the nation. Clearly, the fragmented ideas have been sidelined for now.
  6. Six – possibly the visible veto – the birth of national security as a political issue. That India can and will use kinetic force to protect itself is now an irreversible political conversation.
  7. The unresolved discourse of no-jobs and undependable-data notwithstanding, a political economy narrative that has been driven by low inflation – this is the only economic indicator that influences the behavior of the voter.
  8. And eight, a corruption-free, family-free, encumbrances-free man – Modi – as brand driver.

Policy stability through six touch points with electorate

Over the past five years, as part of delivering economic governance, the Modi government has made several and regular touch points with the electorate, of which the following six are key:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana delivered bank accounts to 355 million unbanked Indians.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission has built 92.7 million toilets, with more than 560,000 villages and 617 districts that are open defecation free.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana aims to deliver secondary and tertiary healthcare to 100 million poorest and the first flush of 1.8 million beneficiaries are visible to all.
  • Demonetization seems to have hit the commentators more than those on whose behalf they debunk it.
  • Close to 72 million households in 714 districts now have access to LPG as cooking gas that has freed women in these households of smoky choolhaas, under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
  • More than 100 million individuals have availed of small loans of between Rs 50,000 and Rs 10 lakh under the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana.

Minoritarianism doesn’t work anymore

  • The narrative of Minoritarianism – a crude corollary of democracy that suggests the might of the majority suffocating the minority – has finally been called out. A mandate only places a particular politics in power; it does not mean, as in authoritarian regimes such as China, the power to run individual or collective writs.
  • In every mature democracy such as the US or India, in contrast to say those in Pakistan or Turkey, there are institutions and laws that protect minorities. In India, majoritarianism was suspected to be a false narrative; Verdict 2019 has unequivocally proved it to be false.
  • Opposition needs a new narrative. But in hindsight, the word ‘new’ is redundant. Other than ‘remove Modi’, the Opposition had no coherent offer.
  • A post-elections Mahagathbandhan may have worked out if the numbers turned in their favour. But as a narrative they could not see beyond ‘remove Modi’. For the electorate, this was not enough.
  • Now that Verdict 2019 is clear, it is time for the Opposition to create a narrative – the need for a strong Opposition that checks the government remains. Given the failure of extant family-led parties, this demand may perhaps create its own supply in the form of a new and serious political entrepreneur – the field is open.
  • The tragedy at Pulwama made India mourn. The national quest for retribution brought it together. That retribution at Balakot ended Pakistan’s nuclear bluff that India and the world had been reeling under for decades.
  • Coming barely two months before general elections, there was no way the Modi government would not have reacted with kinetic force.
  • When it did, the rhetoric of national security became an electoral issue. On the other side, the Opposition first downplayed the Balakot airstrike, then it tried to take the political credit for the strike away from Modi, then said it was not a big deal as it had been done earlier too without the publicity, and finally gave in reluctantly, allowing the issue do die.

Summary note:

  • As factored in - in the analysis part, there were multiple narratives at play - which the opposition failed to gauge in.
  • Verdict 2019 has hinted at new wave of political maturity - however to sustain this - a stronger and constructive critic - both at media and at the Parliament is essential.
  • How quickly this is realized will help capitalize the gains of this critical exercise.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

As we dissect the elections and engage in deeper analyses around regions, states, genders, first-time voters and so on, more insights and lessons will emerge on what delivered Verdict 2019 is and how it can reshape Elections 2024. How far do you agree? Discuss.

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