A turning point in democracy
Madhusudhan: A Turning Point in Democracy, My overseas friends who had followed the national and State elections as keenly as we had feel that the Indian democracy has come of age for the first time since Independence.
My overseas friends who had followed the national and State elections as keenly as we had feel that the Indian democracy has come of age for the first time since Independence. From their perspective, the 2014 elections notched many firsts, which have been discussed several times by analysts, commentators and political pundits in the media, purely from the Indian angle. But what does the rest of the world in general and the Indian Diaspora in particular think of the massive mandate given to the Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi?
The campaign carried out against him by Indian-origin writers like Salman Rushdie, intellectuals and many more who had jumped onto the Modi-bashing band wagon, had little effect on voters. Nor, for that matter, the slanderous attacks by his opponents on the home turf for his alleged role in one of the worst riots in the country. To think the voters had blissfully forgotten his handling of Godhra riots in choosing his leadership is like skipping pages in black-marked history.
The people – sufferers, victims and witnesses -- have not forgotten the dark period; or the misplaced and absurd notions of Hindu fundamentalists who are closely associated with the BJP. Still, voters turned most of the country saffron without seeing red in it. No doubt, they need to be contained and reined in and possibly that could be done only by the saffron party in a way that fire fights fire.
Gujarat is not alone in suffering communal clashes; different places from time to time have bitter memories and they have suffered not necessarily under BJP dispensation. Riots occurred and can happen if the political parties keep fishing in troubled waters. Probably, communities will foster better relations if they are left alone and counseled to find themselves amicable solutions to contentious issues which are often complicated, communalised and vitiated by vested interests.
How long one keeps digging into history and rakes up issues that would only help saddle us with the past rather than allow us to look at the future with hope? The middle class Diaspora, with moorings in India, want to see their siblings employed back home in an atmosphere that is conducive to their growth; not stymied in a restrictive and suffocative environment.
For them, Modi is the hope. It is too early to judge him whether he could deliver his promises made during his campaigning, one of the most arduous and nerve-wracking any prime ministerial hopeful has ever undertaken. But the confidence he exudes that he would deliver which is woefully absent in Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is one of the major factors for the Grand Old Party’s downfall.
When you are outside of the country, comparisons with other global leaders are inevitable. Age and experience wise, the outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is way ahead of others; but a question mark hangs on his assertive leadership. Who stole the thunder (if at all he has) from him – Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi or both – is a moot point. But the fact remains he is too much of a gentleman to lead a diverse country. Now, in Modi, the pendulum has swung to the other end. He is assertive, also authoritarian; if the latter trait gets better of him, what lies ahead is obvious.
Nevertheless, the vote is seen as an expression of faith and trust in a leadership that has wrenched power from the Gandhi-Nehru dynastic rule. It is not the perceived misrule during the second term of Congress-led UPA II but its disconnect with the people and failure to feel their pulse. Little is the understanding among Congress stalwarts that the world has been changing at break-neck speed and unless one keeps oneself abreast of latest developments one can’t win a competitive race. In other words, one will be left wayside if one fails to join the run in a highly technological world. Congress men themselves have admitted that their party has to leave behind the traditional ways of cashing in on vote banks and find innovative ways to political power.
That’s how western democracies are moving forward. Even nascent, recently ‘liberated’ countries from authoritarian rule in Middle East are able to find expression in digital media which is being utilised to its full advantage by the youths there. In a country that touts itself as a software superpower, whoever manages to dominate the social media is the king and not surprisingly Modi is crowned and his nemesis Rahul Gandhi has to face ignominy.
He is young but lacks youthful exuberance and appeal to inspire the 18+Gen which has little patience for political shibboleths and time to listen to what the forefathers had done. The present day youths don’t live in the past; they live in the present and hope for the best in the future. Whoever had tried to ride on the past with a promise of great future found themselves in the dump.
That’s a lesson voters have taught to political leaders this time. Another warning not to be missed is “Beware of scamsters.” Though it can’t be gainsaid that all those who have been elected have clean record, at least the process for honest leaders seems to have begun and hopefully it will continue.
Is the 2014 national election is a harbinger to a more matured democracy in which there will be more emphasis on developmental agenda rather than vote bank politics; more stress on inclusive growth than empty rhetoric; more unifying themes than divisive schemes; more candidates with clean record than criminal background?
It is possible, provided more voters, particularly the young educated, take interest in nation building responsibility by sending right representatives to legislative bodies and make them accountable for their omissions and commissions. In this election, it has already happened; such rogues have been punished mercilessly.
My overseas friends are happy and proud of their country. Despite money, booze and inducements of all sorts, the voters have used their discretion and used it scrupulously to express their will freely and frankly. That itself is a turning point in our democratic process.