Mainstream, VOL52, No. 22, May 24, 2014
BJP: The People’s Choice, but . . .
Friday 23 May 2014, by
Some writers had predicted decimation of INC, with the BJP becoming the single largest party in the 16th Parliament, but doubted whether it would go past the magic figure of 272 on its own. Indeed, Modi contesting from two places indicated that he was not very sure of winning in Varanasi. However, this writer had predicted that the 16th Parliament would not last very long, and that the BJP would come in with a thumping majority in the 17th Parlia-ment. But “India has chosen the BJP” right away, and it is also more than likely that the 16th Parliament will serve a full five-year term. Essentially, the vote is against the dynastic political leadership at the national level, and for the strong individual leadership that Modi is expected to provide. The people of India have voted for a BJP Government (or perhaps they have voted for Modi as the PM), and all citizens who may not have “voted the BJP” have to accept the BJP’s electoral victory in 282 seats, with an “additional legitimacy” of unprece-dentedly high voter turnout. The BJP’s unprece-dented victory is accompanied by an equally unprecedented decimation of the INC.
For any polity governed by an overwhelming majority government, the existence of a credible Opposition in terms of quality and numbers, is essential to ensure the democratic functioning of Parliament. Beyond a mere reckoning of ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ on a particular issue, effective democracy also involves taking due cognisance of dissenting views based on cogent arguments. A majority that can pass any and every legislation by steamrolling Opposition on the strength of voting had been won by the INC in the past, and has been achieved by the BJP in the present.
It is well understood that the first-past-the-post winner of an electoral struggle rarely, if ever, represents the majority of the electors. Thus a majority of legislators in a legislature of such a first-past-the-post elected representatives does not really represent the majority of the electorate. We have to live with this reality of the present system, and not forget to congra-tulate the CEC and its countrywide network for conducting the world’s largest democratic exercise involving 815 million electors and securing an unusually healthy voter turnout.
But we need to accept that a steamroller-capable majority such as the BJP has in the 16th Parliament presents severe limitations to democracy, especially with a Prime Minister who wields overweening authority and power mostly due personal charisma and political savviness of communicating promises to the public, and somewhat less from the disputed uniqueness and success of Gujarat’s development model. Thus, with no credible Opposition in the 16th Parlia-ment, the situation could well lead the way towards a hidden-hand dictatorship safely concealed behind a massive mandate by the highest-ever voter turnout. This constitutes a decisive shift of the Union Government to the Right both in terms of communal politics and neo-liberal, pro-corporate economics, a combi-nation that some choose to give the label of fascism, while several State governments ruled by regional parties with dictatorial leaders follow suit.
The BJP, led by Modi, has given the people the opportunity to believe that replacement of the INC will solve the country’s problems, and has proposed a three-point macro-agenda of Ram Mandir, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code. It is a matter of time before people get disillusioned with the BJP (NDA) Government and the 16th Parliament, simply because the model of development that the BJP will follow is no different from what the UPA-1 and UPA-2 (and indeed the NDA before UPA-1) have been following ever since Dr Manmohan Singh formulated the New Economic Policy in 1991. But this time around, the hold of the big corporations on the print and electronic media and on governments, can ensure that dissent and protest is silenced more effectively than the UPA could ever do.
The State Legislative Assembly elections and even the third-tier elections during the term of the 16th Parliament may also show greatly improved performance of the BJP, all at the cost of the INC. This can consolidate the BJP’s Right-wing politics and economics across the country sufficiently to put all presently politically irrelevant Left movements into decades-long redundancy unless there is immediate and concerted effort at Left unification. The writing is on the wall, this time in block capitals.
Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired in 1996 as Additional DG Discipline &; Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch. He holds a PhD degree in Structural Dynamics from the IIT, Madras. He is Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, USA, in international studies. With over 370 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his current area of interest is strategic and development-related issues.