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Mainstream, VOL LV No 42 New Delhi October 7, 2017

Singular Fixation on ‘Democratic’ Elections - It’s Inherently Undemocratic

Monday 9 October 2017

by M.A. Sofi

Let me begin by putting into perspective the apparent paradox that one may read into the above lines involving the title/subtitle of this essay. In the absence of evidence on the ground of the achievements and accomplishments as promised by the political parties while begging for votes from the people, an obsessive fixation with winning elections after elections and in States after States would only arouse the baser instincts among the politicians, especially those in power, to resort to tactics and to raking up issues which are not only peripheral to the idea of nation-building but can and do cause irreparable damage to the polity, country and its people.

However, what is indeed paradoxical is the realisation that in spite of our great faith in democracy and democratic institutions, it is essentially some of the manifestations of these institutions that have been the root cause of all the mess and mayhem being witnessed right now, especially in the bulk of the South Asian countries. Which is why, we are now witness to the superstructure of democracy being shorn of all that is good about a democratic world order and that has in essence been reduced to the rigmarole of merely conducting elections, even as the most vicious stratagems are being brought to bear upon the electoral process to emerge as victorious in this first-past-the-post electoral system. With the democratic virtues like justice, dialogue, freedom of speech and the right to life being dispensed but only in fits and starts, the only visible sign of democracy has been in the form of elections which remain the singlemost preoccupation of the current political system as part of the democratic process.

Of these, India stands apart in terms of the colossal damage that has been caused to its national and social fabric by this singular fixation on elections/electoral politics which have been reduced merely as a tool to ride the crest of power, never mind the inexorable conse-quences in the form of certain unsavoury developments that have been a direct fall-out of the politics of exploitation in the name of ‘democratic’ elections in India. For one thing, it is no brainer to understand why the nomination of the nondescript dark horse, Ram Nath Kovind, as the presidential candidate was conceived by the BJP top brass and carried to its logical conclusion, even though there were plenty of those around whose political and scholarly credentials were above board and would have brought grace and integrity to the most coveted constitutional position in the country. As was to be expected, the decision has been solely informed by the mundane arithmetic involving the Dalit votes expected to fall into the ruling party’s kitty in the 2019 elections.

In what follows, we provide an exhaustive— but by no means complete—list of these developments which make a case for elections being the source of all major evils in the country:

• Educational and economic backwardness of Indian Muslims as a consequence of the ‘appeasement’ policy of the Congress party which, contrary to popular perception, had actually sought to merely keep the Muslim clergy in good humour, without sparing a thought for doing its bit to ameliorate the lot of the common Muslims in terms of educational, economic and political empowerment of the Muslim community.

• The recent verdict on Triple Talaaq may be seen as a much-needed reform within the Muslim

community by those who are watching the scene from a distance. However, the fact remains that this development is slated to be a precursor to the uniform civil code (UCC) for which the Sangh brigade is working overtime so that the UCC comes about through its government at the Centre.

• Polarisation politics by the main political parties right since 1947 had led to the opening of locks of the Ram temple in the fifties followed by the shilaniyas in 1981 by the Congress and later to unprecedented communal frenzy in the country unleashed by the BJP during its infamous rath yatra on the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that had helped to pitchfork the party from an unknown entity being represented in Parliament by a paltry two members in the eighties to a whopping 120 plus (in alliance with other political parties) in the nineties and later emerging as the single largest party in Parliament in 1996.

• Demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992 is too well known to be recalled as a watershed development which was essentially meant to be used as a strategy to polarise the country purely on communal considerations and thus to consolidate the Hindu vote during the subsequent elections.

• The Muzaffarnagar riots, which had claimed hundreds of innocent lives and were engineered by the BJP, had ensured a massive victory in UP for the party which won 71 odd seats out of a total of 80 seats in the parliamentary elections in 2014.

• The great gamble in the shape of demoneti-sation was actually announced with a keen eye on the impending UP elections with the deceitful hope that it would ‘help the poor’ and bring back black money in the state coffers. But that was not to be, as later developments have proved! In spite of having caused such a monumental discomfort to large sections of the population and, as per recent reports, having ended up as a damp squib to ensure economic growth and to bring back black money, demonetisation had in fact no major impact on the outcome of the elections, chiefly because its

negative impact was seen to be largely neutralised by the aggressive communal posturing of the BJP—recall that sinister reference to the kabristan-shamshan non-issue by the Prime Minister—to score a landslide victory in the recent Assembly elections in UP. Here again, we see communal politics doing the trick and not the ‘people-friendly’(?) demonetisation fiasco!

• The den of vice and evil in the sacha sauda dera of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim could only flourish as a result of tacit connivance, earlier by the Congress and now by the BJP, which had reaped huge electoral dividends in return for the patronage the party had provided to the Baba in carrying out his criminal activities.

• Whether it is the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 or the 2002 anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat, the massive electoral victories of the respective political parties having engineered these riots, with the architect of the mayhem in Gujarat being voted to power in election after election and finally rising to occupy the hottest seat of political power at the Centre, redounds to the unlimited potential of the elections in India as the mother of all evils and as the shortest path to political power, to boot.

• The recent phenomenon of lynching of those suspected to be involved, not necessarily in cases of cow slaughter but merely of carrying mutton or chicken as food items, tells the story of an India that is currently presided over by a political dispensation which looks the other way when such gruesome acts are perpetrated in the name of gaurakhsha. As the victims of this gratuitous violence happen to belong to a certain religious community, the electoral dividends of this policy of active connivance—and in some cases of active support—in these gruesome acts of murder and mayhem are too many to let the law take its own course while dealing with the criminal lumpens involved in these ghastly acts of inhumanity.

• The act of letting off the hook the shady characters like Col Purohit, Aseemanad etc., who were involved in the Samjhauta Express blasts, is of a piece with this strategy of currying favour with the majority community in return for the latter to root for the party at the hustings. On the contrary, framing innocent Muslims, more often than not on flimsy grounds, and perceived of being involved in acts of terrorism has been used as a hugely dependable election plank, especially by the Right-wing political party currently in power.

• The spurt in unrest and violence in Kashmir, which has actually been a consequence of the strong-arm tactics of the BJP in the Valley, has been a time-tested election ploy to garner the Hindu vote, simply because demonising the Kashmiri Muslims as deshdrohis has takers amongst vast sections of mainland India.

• The out-of-turn execution of Afzal Guru and the consequent violence in Kashmir, even as his

culpability in the offence alleged to have been committed by him was not established by the court of law beyond reasonable doubt, was yet another ploy aimed at enlarging its vote-bank by the Congress party when it was at the helm of affairs.

• The idea of resolving the Kashmir issue by seeking to repeal Article 35A is again part of a devious strategy to polarise the country purely on the ‘us-vs-them’ lines and exploit it for electoral dividends. The other alternative involving a much easier, more practical and a quint-essentially democratic way of addressing the issue through dialogue and discussion that would ensure durable peace in the region is an anathema to the present dispensation which has for long been known to fete itself on communal politics and hatred.

Of all the instances of misuse of democracy, as mentioned above, the facade of democratic polity in the State of Jammu and Kashmir stands out as the most glaring when compared to the other States of India. Come to think of it, the State has witnessed unprecedented loss of faith of its people in the idea called democracy, much as the most heinous acts of brutality have been committed upon them in the name of elections which have been grossly manipulated and roundly rigged to foist their stooges upon the people of Kashmir ever since the farce of elections was enacted here for the first time in the fifties. It is part of my conviction that India would be a better place to live in the present set-up of a democratic system, were the farce of elections given a formal send-off as an avoidable public scourge. By the same token, Kashmir would have since yielded to an amicable solution had it not been for the electoral calculus being played out to outwit their political adversaries by the politicians fighting it out on the electoral battlefield in mainland India.

If indeed elections in India are being celebrated as a victory of the democratic forces over despotic rule, it is at best a pyrrhic victory, what with the huge price it has exacted—and continues to do so—in terms of the reasons catalogued above. How one wishes there were alternative ways of making choices of those who would rule the roost and provide governance based on peace, justice, law and fair-play. Here it is not out of place to conclude with the following words which have appeared in a recent article by the veteran journalist, Kuldip Nayar, and which aptly sum up what has been sought to be hammered home in the previous paragraphs:

“Those who are at the helm of affairs are pushing the (communal) division because elections fought on the basis of Hindus and Muslims are bound to benefit the Hindus.”

Prof M.A. Sofi is an Emeritus Professor, Department of Mathematics, Kashmir University, Srinagar. He can be contacted by e-mail at: aminsofi[at]gmail.com

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