National Affairs

Lok Sabha Election 2019: Talking about the defeated

2019 2014 DIFF.
NDA 353 336 +17
UPA 90 60 +30
MGB 15 5 +10
OTHERS 84 142 -58

A thousand kudos to the BJP, party, that won Lok Sabha elections 2019 by a decisive margin! This would bring to power a stable government for the next five years, thanks to overwhelming majority that people gave to the party in a presidential sort of election in which charisma of Narendra Modi overshadowed all opposition leaders and also the issues raised by them. Elections seemed to have been fought “for Modi” and “against Modi”. The opponents of Modi had valid points, but they had credibility crisis. The winning party must rejoice and celebrate. Those who voted BJP have reasons to be overjoyed and overwhelmed.

This is not the first time that a party has got mandate for the second time- Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had done it in the past. And this time again Narendra Modi has done it. They, nevertheless, worked in the national interest according to their visions and capabilities. The winners and losers in democratic elections should be treated as “rivals” and not as “enemies”, rightly says so our honourable Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. Are we ready to listen to his lament on decline of political culture in India! What is seen in the media in general and social media in particular is ominous signs i.e., turning the democratic elections into hate campaigns and enmity. Bad news, of course for the Indian democracy.

This is a time when talking about losers in the Lok Sabha elections 2019 would be taken as a villainous act by many. Everybody talks about the winning party and leaders as if the counterpoints raised by the losing opposition were futile and useless. It is not so. Talking about the defeated parties and leaders and the issues that they raised is also important for keeping the democratic space for alternative views which voters on the other side supported, yet lost. Not that there was no dissatisfaction against the BJP and Narendra Modi Government. But many journalists have reported that despite dissatisfaction and disillusionment, people wanted “fir ek baar, Modi Sarkar”, probably because people believed that 5–years is not sufficient enough a period to give final judgment on performance of the Modi Government and a perceived TINA (there is no alternative) factor.

The true spirit of democracy needs that the victors should treat the vanquished with respect, grace and dignity. Those who lost still represent about 53 percent of votes, it is other thing that they failed to cobble together a viable and effective opposition. Even then the issues on which they fought election cannot be brushed aside as trash and meaningless. They also represent a large number of Indians whose mandate failed to bring victory to their favoured leaders. The leaders who were defeated cannot be tarnished simply because they lost.

There are many takers of victory. Failure is an orphan. Everybody from streets to electronic and print media is trying to reason out the victory by citing and counting the positives of the BJP and Narendra Modi as if winners have all that is “good” and the losers were all “bad.”. The winners have every right to celebrate and media to talk about it. But many of them are reading too much in the mandate- voters maturity, voting for nation, voting for a new identity for India, voting for Vikas and rejecting cast and religion as issues, voting against negativism etc. May be that we try to find ‘n’ number of good reasons on which people made their opinion, but Indian elections cannot just be seen as winning of the good and defeat of the bad. It was true in the past and it is true now. Delivery may often be necessary criteria, but it is not a sufficient criteria. Vajpayee jee was defeated in 2004, but he had delivered. Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy was facing corruption charges, but he defeated iconic Chandrababu Naidu. The captain Amrinder maintained his Sardar (headman) appeal to people despite lots of negative assaults from within and without? M.K Stalin stopped Modi’s charisma in Tamilnadu and the Odisha CM Navin Babu returned victorious the 5th time. Who is good and who is bad? Laughing on liberal and left oriented leaders and journalists and mocking them would not serve and purpose. There are people and journalists who are celebrating the death of liberalism and Marxism and for them end of history has come or history has done the infallible justice. The Amartya Sen and Jean Derez have been mocked for their futile and ineffective intellectualism by some journalists who walk the talk with people in power. The points raised by the likes of Pranav Roy, Raveesh, Yogendra Yadav and Pranab Bardhan, nevertheless, are still extremely relevant to India’s development and progress, no matter leaders who were working on those planks failed due to lack of sincerity and intelligence required for effective electioneering apart from organizational weaknesses like centralization, inherent rigidities and giving preference to loyalty over talent.

In the process of democracy there is competition between several “visions” and “ideologies” one of the political parties wins. Victory of one vision or idea against the other does not prove their goodness or badness or morality. It proves their relevance for a particular time and leaders’ capability to sell the idea, howsoever good or bad, to the voters. In any election many things matter: strength of political party and supporting organisations, organisational strength, charisma and capability of the leaders, and factors like funding and media support, to name a few. People’s perceptions in India and almost everywhere depends more on “faith” rather than “reason” and thus a wave “for” and “ against” needs to be created with deft and skill by touching emotional chords and damaging the image of the rivals by this way or that way.
The point, therefore is that winning and losing elections gives or does not give power to a political party and its leaders, but it cannot be taken as a certificate of being morally and logically correct or incorrect. It may be politically correct helping the leaders in getting power. Mayawati, Lalu, Jayalalitha for instance, had their own shining eras; but it can never be treated as being morally or logically correct. They were able to understand people’s aspirations during their times and some issues came handy as fashion in those times. And we know Balakot and aftermath!

People’s perceptions and aspirations keep changing and leadership may also be capable to mould these. No issue remains permanently in fashion or acceptable in its original form; it requires contextualizing. The issue is that the alternative vision that was defeated in Lok Sabha elections 2019 such as safeguarding the elements of constitutional values like diversity, secularism, or acting to eliminate poverty, unemployment, bring equality and justice, and safeguards to minority, SCs, STs and OBCs played significant role in returning political parties to power in the past. Today nationalism, security and Hindu identity has given much fillip to the winning party, apart from claims of Vikas. The issues that appeal people may differ from time to time.

In electoral wins what matters more is how a political party and its supporters are organised, how campaigns are done, how leaders communicate with people and how leaders identify dissatisfied voters and wean them away from existing political parties as happened in case of non-Yadav OBCS and non-Jatav SCs in UP and Bihar. The purvanchal people and tribal people in Kolkata were weaned away from Mamata Didi’s TNC. The Celebrities captured the imagination of the Delhi people, howsoever, educated they are. All this requires that political parties search and utilise their talents well and do proper electioneering in a calibrated manner giving deserved opportunities and freedom to regional party units and leaders apart from reading the pulse of time appropriately. All this requires effective communication and engagement. The winners might have done it right; the losers might have gone wrong and hence, failed. Nonetheless, the conclusion that the winner is essentially good and the loser is essentially bad is flawed, uneducated and illusory. In the end people’s emotional impulses led aspirations will boil down to the truth of their daily lives and issues like bread and butter, liberty, equality, fraternity, performance, development and peace. The issue of security was important in the past and remains important today as well, but its methods may differ while evolution of policies is a work in progress all the while. India had won two decisive wars, one in 1965 and the other in 1971 which brought dividends to the leaders, unfortunately, however, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the statesmen of India could not reap the advantages of winning Kargil war. All other talks are bravado or about skirmishes.

Defeat is a sobering experience, but victory should also come with polite gratitude. Defeat is a teacher for a true learner while victory should also be handled with due care because nothing is as uncertain and transitory as victory. People win and lose elections in India and transfer power without bloodshed. This is a great achievement of the Indian democracy imbibed due to efforts of previous leaders. We must owe our gratitude to past leaders, no matter we win or lose. Learning lesson is possible only if we are open to it. Confession is the first step of resurrection. The Congress party and the left parties are obdurate and rigid in their self righteousness. It is not suggest compromise on principles and conviction, but to hear the need for change according to changing aspirations and times.

Elections are today not only about “issues” and their “moral” planks. Elections are not about just expressing people’s aspirations, but suitably moulding the perceptions so that it suits a political party and its ideology. This needs perception building, propaganda and foot soldiers and messengers who engage people in the “narrative” that is pervaded by a political party and its ideologues. All this requires funds, media management and strong organisation with party units from top level at centre to block and village level. Today elections require local and regional level party leaders who send across people ideas and promises of political parties among people and mobilise them in favour. Those who win succeed in doing all that. The Congress party over a period of time has been centralised and it has no regard for its own talents at both regional and national levels. If the star pracharaks come from “the family” only, then the allegation of dynastic rule stands correct in the mind of people. The regional and local units of Congress are defunct and hopeless. The internal democracy is missing in all political parties, but of all BJP can claim to have made the son of a primary school teacher and a chaiwala prime ministers and it has immense appeal to collective conscience. BJP disowned a great leader like Lal Krishna Advani while trying to find a president for reasons unknown, but it did not stick to the minds of the people as much as denial of Prime Ministerial post to Pranv Mukherji or putting loyalty over talent while selecting and utilising the leaders in the Congress party.

Notwithstanding its defeat, the Congress party raised compelling issues and suggested appealing solutions- the best which a liberal party can do. But the fault lies in poor and undemocratic organisational structure and election management; and everything that came in a post thought was too little and too late to improve. Theresa May put forth a great example of grace and dignity while giving her resignation speech after she failed to deliver a consensual solution to the Brexit problem. All the leaders, think tanks and journalists who are on the defeated side also must stand tall. Ideas do not die. They have to wait till their time comes again and till they find a suitable leader to steer those ideas ahead on a victory path. No need for shame or impatience. It happens in democracy!

The biggest thing for the opposition as a whole in general and Congress party in particular was “credibility crisis” that Congress is facing since long, especially after 2014. The inertia coming from past glory of the Congress party and overconfidence did little to address the credibility crisis. In fact this election also saw credibility crisis in case of the left parties which kept doing shadow fighting and failed to mobilise people against excesses of state and interference in its institutions. It failed to articulate the crisis of modern state and neo- liberal economic policies favouring the rich and the powerful corporate houses at the cost of common people.

The learning is loud and clear. The opposition including Congress was weak to sail across the issues that were extremely relevant for India’s development and progress. The opposition, and especially Congress has failed the people as a viable alternative to a party which relied overly on charisma of one man and issues that were lower at priority of people, but expedient in propaganda. The students, whose preparation is poor and who do not learn from the mistakes of the past fail.

The ideas endure and never die; only the leaders fail to take it to the people in an appealing manner. Liberalalism and Marxism therefore, have not failed, the leaders who claim to be the carriers of these ideas have failed. The final statement is that failure is never fatal and success is never final. The issue is will the parties and leaders which failed, will be open to learning and change? The conservatives will mock, cut jokes and may announce the death of liberalism and Marxism (it suits their propaganda (and Sandeepan Deo knows it), but it is like living in a fool’s paradise. Things that are vital for India would remain vital and people will come out of the impression of the opium and bravado of “nationalism”, sooner than later they would realise with repentance that they require roti, kapda aur Makan and independent democratic institutions that can protect their life, rights, liberty, dignity and collective dreams. This is a lesson the winners also need to remember. Winning the election was like arrival to the base camp-1 and there are two more base camps to reach, base camp- 2, i.e., performance and base camp-3 i.e. maintaining unity in diversity by meeting all legitimate aspirations of the people, then comes the Everest of “maximum happiness for the maximum people” of India that is Bharat.

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