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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 1 New Delhi December 22, 2018 [Annual Number]

Resisting Majoritarian Onslaught

Sunday 23 December 2018, by SC



As Mainstream enters the fiftyseventh year of its modest existence with this Annual Number, the nation is getting prepared for an intense electoral battle when the country faces its twentyfirst national polls for the Lok Sabha in five months time in the midst of numerous adversities-cum-complexities plaguing our polity.

Precisely a year ago on December 19, 2017 it was written in these columns:

..... the outcome of the UP Assembly elections this year found Narendra Modi and his team improving their performance in the State over the 2014 UP Lok Sabha poll results wherein the BJP and its allies had won an incredible 73 out of 80 seats. That came as a major blow to all secular democrats who had expected at least some resistance to the electorate’s hardships, especially after the move of demonetisation, to be reflected in the poll outcome. On the contrary those in power at the Centre took the results as public endorsement of the demonetisation drive by the PM that was unequivocally opposed by all distinguished economists across the globe. It was then that a campaign against the use of EVMs began in the social media in a big way...

However, what is significant lately is that the Gujarat Assembly election results have given a definite jolt to the ruling party at the Centre. Even if the BJP has returned to power once again, its victory has not been a thumping one this time. This consequence in the State which saw the genocide of Muslims in 2002 was doubtless noteworthy. What is more, it was a rare spectacle of the PM (who hails from the State and was its CM for a considerable length of time before coming to the Centre) bending over backwards in a strenuous endeavour to secure victory in the face of heavy odds marked a setback, however partial, for the Hindutva project....

Since then the situation has certainly changed for the better. In the recently concluded elections to five State Assemblies including three major States in the Hindi heartland—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—the Congress was able to rout the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh while it won a clear-cut victory dislodging the BJP from power in Rajasthan and in Madhya Pradesh it could secure a majority in the legislature following a close fight with the BJP which was believed to be deeply entrenched in that State. These three victories, for which legitimate credit must go to Congress President Rahul Gandhi for his indefatigable election campaign, have no doubt come as a shot in the arm for the principal Opposition party in the Lok Sabha. These are also significant because in none of these States was there a united Opposition, with the anti-BJP forces being disunited in Chhattisgarh in particular as the BJP joined Ajit Jogi’s party and the BSP to put up a triangular contest. Therefore, the Congress’ success, especially in Chhattisgarh, was more than noteworthy as it came in spite of a divided Opposition.

The election results prove that on the ground the public resentment to the BJP’s overall performance has significantly grown of late. The rural distress has been manifest in large parts of the States that went to the polls and the BJP’s inactivity in helping the farmers (through such measures as loan-waivers) resulted in considerable discontent among them in general and that was expressed at the hustings. The spectre of mounting unemployment also took its toll in this region.

It has been repeatedly conveyed in these columns in the past that since 2014 what the country has been experiencing has no parallel—the incessant attacks on minorities, Muslims and Christians in particular, alongwith assaults on the depressed sections of society, especially the Dalits. Initially these incidents, constituting a real blot on our society, were sought to be attributed to fringe elements but over time one has been witness to the fringe getting increasingly identified with those occupying the centre-stage in the ruling circles.

In November 2016 the PM went for a massive gamble in the form of demonetisation of high-denomi-nation currency. As was written in the Mainstream Annual of 2016,

What is undeniable is that all the distinguished economists of international repute have unequivocally decried the PM’s move on this score with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen assailing it as a “despotic action” by an “authoritarian government” even as Narendra Modi indulges in rampant self-advertisement projecting the kudos he is believed to have received from the poor for this ‘bold decision’!

Today what is the reality? The State Assembly election results have shown that both demonetisation and the hurriedly implemented GST caused much hardship to the common man and ordinary business-men and they thus voted against the BJP in these elections as the impact of these two measures finally sank into the public consciousness.

With the passage of time the real face of the party in power at the Centre under the Modi-Shah duo is getting unmasked. Modi’s image is failing and this is revealed in the results of the latest round of polls. However, the BJP is seeking to exploit any move by the Opposition that exposes the latter’s weakness. But eventually this would not have much effect.

Nevertheless, come what may, the Opposition needs to close ranks if it is determined to save the country’s independence, secular democracy, pluralist ethos (the values of the Constitution) which have come under serious threat due to the majoritarian onslaught from those in power. The battle-lines have been drawn. The majoritarian onslaught must be resisted at all costs.

Mainstream pledges to be a part of that resistance with all its heart and soul.

December 18 S.C.   

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