The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly… of Loksabha Elections 2014

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It is celebration time in BJP camp. They have not only managed a phenomenal victory, beyond the estimates or apprehensions of people, they are now the biggest political party of India.

While the people who voted for BJP or its allies are jubilant, the rest sixty some percent are aghast at the turn of events. Many feel pissed at the state of our democracy where a party gets to govern the country with only 31% vote share. I find that line of thought somewhat irrational since we have always had a fractured polity right from the first election of free India. No party has ever managed to secure more than 50% votes in India. I guess we will have to live with this until we have a two-party system; which of course means forever.

Whatever the results, it sure was an eventful and energetic election. If we look back – for the sake of intellectual curiosity and some possible learning – we find a lot of things that one can categorize into the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good
o After thirty years, one party has got a clear majority, meaning India would have a stable government for next five years.
o The entire country witnessed higher voting percentage, which in itself is a great trend.
o Election Commission has done a tremendous job at holding clean and impartial elections. It spared none when disciplinary lines were broken.
o A conditional good – each failure is an opportunity to learn. I am sure if they care enough to pause and think, most political parties can find a lot to learn. I sincerely hope someday they will consider giving up religion and caste based politics.

The Bad
o It was disheartening to see the biggest political party (before the results), Indian National Congress, believes more in dynasty-based politics rather than merit based democracy. In this old and experienced party, they could not find a more able PM-candidate than an inexperienced young prince who is yet to prove his mettle.
o The religion and caste based politics is very much alive in India.
o The inequality and lack of meritocracy in the election results is disturbing. Among the winners:
– only 11% are women
– 63% are over the age of 50 years
– 23% are only moderately educated, with 12th pass and below

The Ugly
o Some of the hate speeches and derogatory statements were extremely embarrassing – Togadia, Ramdev, Imraan Masood, Ramdev, Giriraj Singh and Siddaramaiah are some of the culprits, to name a few.
o Arvind Kejriwal was attacked multiple times; his primary fault was he tried to be more accessible to people. Some BJP leaders argued he was beaten for his poor performance in Delhi. They probably do not know, there are thousands (if not lakhs) in India who would love to lay their hands on Mr Modi, if he just dares to be just as accessible.
o There were several instances of AAP volunteers being thrashed by other BJP and Congress volunteers. The uglier part was that the BJP and Congress leaders did not care to condemn the attacks.
o The crime statistics of MPs have worsened:
– The percentage of MPs with criminal cases has gone up from 30% in 2009 to 34% in 2014 Loksabha elections. Up from 15% in 2009, 21% of MPs have declared serious criminal cases that include cases related to murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women etc.
– BJP, now our ruling party, is no cleaner than the rest – 35% of their MPs face criminal charges. Out of 28 winners who have declared cases related to murder or attempt to murder, 14 are from BJP.

These crime statistics will sure make Aamir Khan a very unhappy man, just like the staff of organizations like ADR (Association of Democratic Reforms) and SNS (Satark Nagrik Sangathan) who worked for years educating masses on the importance of voting for clean candidates. From now on, perhaps EC should make all voters go through a short episode of Satyamev Jayate right before they vote.

What lies ahead?
While the emphatic victory of BJP has caused ecstasy among many, many others are mum, and some are gripped in fear. They fear BJP’s unprecedented success might empower and embolden those fanatic elements (the likes of RSS, VHP, BD) who may feel they own this country now, and may consider this a perfect opportunity to suppress the minorities. While their fears are not ungrounded, I would like to stress that this country still belongs to all of us equally, the one hundred and twenty crore citizens of India. I am sure Modi and BJP understand that – isn’t that why they decided to tone down their Hindutva rhetoric in this election. Besides, I doubt if Modi would commit the same mistake twice, especially when the ghosts of 2002 have haunted him enough already. Plus, I am sure, somewhere deep in his heart he is nurturing the ambition to hold the PM post for multiple terms. A mistake like 2002 could wipe out their ambitions forever.

Back to optimism… it is the perfect opportunity for Mr Modi and BJP to prove their credentials. Let me emphasize, clear majority only means a perfect opportunity, not a perfect government. The quality of governance will unfold itself over the next few years.

That being said, it is time for all, the believers and the non-believers, to wait and watch. And, watch we must, so we are not fooled again by another bunch of inefficient and self-serving politicians.

Good luck India! I hope sanity prevails!

Can we all get along?

With the parliament elections on, a political mayhem is rocking our nation once again. I don’t recall being so involved in politics ever before in my life. I wonder if it is just a side effect of age; or being in Delhi is to blame for it, because this city seems to be stuck in a never ending cycle of elections.

The good thing is we are seeing a much higher participation from educated folks. And, their involvement is not just limited to discussion; they did help improve the voting percentage in recently concluded Delhi elections. I think I can safely attribute this to two important factors – Modi and AAP. Without commenting much, I just hope this phenomenon is here to stay.

Citizens actively involved in making a responsible choice sounds absolutely perfect, but what worries me is the “political extremism” I witness on a daily basis. Supporters of one party wish for complete annihilation of other political parties. Some go on to the extent of bad-mouthing not just the leaders, but also the supporters of other parties. The heated exchange between friends over their differing political affiliations is a common sight on facebook.

I wonder why? Why do we feel so strongly attached to our political disposition that we are ready to sacrifice our friends? Why can’t we just speak your mind politely and cast our vote to whosoever we want, and allow others the liberty to do the same? After all, isn’t democracy about multi-party system?
Is it ego? Someone challenging our strongly held beliefs (religion or politics) makes our heart bleed. After all, how could we be wrong?

Or, is it insecurity or embarrassment of our candidate losing that makes us react in somewhat passive aggressive way?

Or, do we really fear the other options are so evil that our world will become far worse that what it is today?

Or, is it our helplessness of five years that makes us desperate when we get the only chance to give a better direction to our democracy, our vote?

No matter what the reason for our strong attachment to our political dispositions, one thing is sure – voting in India is a gamble after all. A roulette table to be precise – where you must put your belongings on the table and pick a number (or name). Then, the dealer decides your fate. The worst part is the stakes of losing are extremely high, because you may lose even if your number strikes; the candidate you vote for may turn out to be just another rogue chameleon. [So, we may be losing our friends for nothing.]

Am I saying there is no point in voting? Or, NOTA is the best choice?

Not exactly. All I am saying is – though it is important to rely upon our best judgment – let’s not put so much emotional energy into it, because elections are just a means to an end, an extremely important one though, the democracy. But, democracy only begins with elections. The real democracy must play out over the course of next five years.

Let us say I vote for AAP, another friend votes for BJP, and yet another friend for Congress. No matter which candidate wins, we three are still equal citizens of this country, and that MP or MLA must care for us just the same. Now, given the high ratio of politicians who default on their promises, it makes it important that no matter who we vote for, we must stick together. We must stick together, for if our leaders dare turn their back on us, we can drag them off their throne and rip them apart.

I know we are not there yet. But then, we will never be unless we step beyond our religious, political and regional boundaries.

So, while we ask ourselves ‘Who is the best candidate in my area?’ or ‘Who is the best candidate for PM?’ during elections, the important question we must ask ourselves for next five years is ‘Can we all get along?’.

If we can’t, we will continue to lose every five years.