'I Am an Optimist, But the Situation is Grave'
#TCElects - Live from our watch party at the Press Club
Since morning I have interacted with some 50 people, and 40 seemed to think this is a very bad result. I didn’t interact with politicians, but with chaiwalas, my maid, the ricksha driver, ordinary concerned citizens.
If all of you are opposed to this, I asked, and farmers, and students, and workers, why did this happen? They said simply, the opposition acted mindlessly. It did not come together and strategise. The government had the media and played its hand cleverly, and won.
State by state, as I went there earlier, people who wanted the BJP to be defeated and the various opposition parties to win, those people felt defeated. They kept asking why alliances weren’t being formed, and a real fight fought. Doubts and questions crept in.
The BJP played its strategy well. Such election politics is necessary in a democracy. but our parliamentary democracy, which was becoming affected by money and muscle power - the BJP took this further, and corporatised elections successfully, this corporatisation of elections was on full display. The BJP knew, if not now then never. The RSS knew, if not now then never.
So it wasn’t just sam, dand, bhed, but out and out corporatisation of elections. This needs deep analysis.
Take the example of bihar. A party has 22 seats, and gives up 5 seats for an ally. This needs to be understood by the opposition. In MP and Rajasthan where the margins were narrow, they made use of alliances of different kinds. In Uttar Pradesh, for the opposition not to be able to work out an alliance properly, where the BJP had 73 seats, is novice behaviour.
The government meanwhile kept Lalu in jail in Bihar, knowing Tejaswi would have difficulty carrying the gathbandhan forward there. Tamil Nadu, they gave up knowing they wouldn’t win. They concentrated on states where they had a chance, they increased their alliance partners to 36 nationwide, and they won.
A dangerous thing that has happened in india: parliamentary democracy vs the presidential form of elections, which they had started changing in 2014 and drove it home this time.
Parliamentary democracy has a diversity of political views, political parties, cultures, languages, regions, expressed in its federal structure.
This they carefully and consciously dismantled, and through their corporate house friends used the electronic media to build support for it.
Despite the examples of germany and italy, there are many people in our country who should have felt what is happening in our country but didn't. The huge democracy and huge civilisation of Hindustan - what will happen to it if the RSS is allowed to continue - they didn't realise it, they didn’t see what was happening. It needs serious introspection, not just from the Left but from all those opposed to the RSS and corporate power.
I would also like to say, not everything is lost. People couldn’t digest that after Modi, Yogi. But now after Yogi, Pragya Thakur.
It signifies the strengthening of fascist forces in india.
A debate was begun - forget EVMs, go back to the paper ballot - the debate died, was revived, died again and so on. This debate needs to continue - what are the safeguards we want? What electoral reforms to we need to safeguard our democracy? Elections have been corporatised, making parliamentary politics difficult. Electoral reforms are something we need to think about.
The Election Commission was almost kept in jail. At the outset it was felt the EC hadn’t decided these dates, or how the election should proceed. It was in the last two rounds that the BJP's best results were seen - they wanted a twist at the end which they succeeded in ensuring. Should the EC also be elected? How can it function effectively in such a large parliamentary democracy?
This is another issue to consider for those who seriously analyse the working of our democracy.
It wasn’t just CBI vs CBI, but RBI vs RBI, and ECI vs ECI. These institutional struggles need to be seen for what they are. Political parties failed to grasp the significance, and those that did, were not granted the space in the media or in political alliances to bring up these issues.
The Left was kept cornered and isolated, and was unable to raise these points.
Parties will need to understand one other thing. I am more than 100% sure that the BJP will get fewer seats than currently in evidence, and their vote share (currently about 60%) will come down by evening.
But in every election, the wavering vote, the night before polls, in every election it went to the BJP. Why?
Workers will be attacked, farmers' land will openly be seized, there will be pressure on the media and on independent voices. Those who are opposed, will continue to fight, no matter how many they stuff into jails.
To save parliamentary democracy, and how to defeat them in the next elections, to understand the methodology of elections in the changed, corporatised atmosphere, needs to be understood.
This is what i have seen at the grassroots: at the booth and housegold level, in Begusarai for example, how the BJP and RSS managed the election. The button corresponding to kanhaiya was changed at the last minute, many last minute changes were made. This is what happens, and not only in Begusasrai - are the strongrooms guarded securely? Are the elections administered independently of the government?
We raised concerns about all this when and where we could. But we saw and heard from EC officials ourselves, those who were sympathetic to the opposition, about how machines can be manipulated at the booth level while voting is going on. The idea is to outsmart voters, and without much hi-tech effort they succeed. Are people trained to use EVMs reliably? Are the machines simple enough to use? This needs deeper invesetigation and anaylsis.
The strategy of alliances, the strategy of winnability in elections, and how to restore institutions that have been twisted out of shape or broken - this is how the struggle against fascism will have to be fought, by focusing on the details.
I am an optimist but i believe the situation is grave.
Amarjit Kaur is a senior CPI leader.