In a famous speech to the Constituent Assembly, BR Ambedkar asserted that the “individual” not the “group” was the basis of the Constitution. Of course, he was referring to “past” groups. Elections were to be based on “individual votes” (apart from some reservations for SC/ST and others). The Constitution did not mention “political parties”.
That was understood in the English sense. It was later mentioned in the “symbols” order. Due recognition was given to political parties in the Anti Defection Amendment in 1985. It was expected that “candidates” (albeit linked to parties) would be selected on merit-performance. The Karnataka elections are the culmination of juggernaut politics in a way that crumbles sensitivities of the electoral process.
It is true that crucial elections have always invited party leaders to canvass. One approach is to take party leaders to the marginal constituencies. The other is the blitzkrieg. Although Karnataka was preceded by UP, Gujarat and Bihar, the nature of elections has altered. Now every election (including a by-election) has the prestige of a general election — with each victory or loss as crucial.
Elections are like an invasion to conquer. The BJP wants to invade strongholds by whatever means. Their strategy was first pointed towards the Northeast, which is separated from mainland India by a chicken’s neck at Siliguri.
We know that the Northeast was partly won by guile (President’s Rule in Arunachal, Uttarakhand) and the use of governors where they were not the leading party (Goa, Manipur) — forcing electoral democracy to take a back seat. Karnataka represents the invasion of the South across the Vindhya mountains into different realms separated by language, culture, beliefs and practice.
What was involved in this invasion was establishing the BJP empire in the South, putting all their resources into it. Curiously, it was Aurangzeb’s (whom the BJP despise) dream to extend the Mughal Empire beyond the Vindhyas. In pursuing that dream the BJP wants the annihilation of the Congress party at every juncture.
The battle was pitted at different battlegrounds. The entire forces of the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his general Amit Shah. Joining the fray were eleven odd ministers at the centre. The rulers of Delhi seemed to abandon governance of the nation. It was during this period that Trump imposed sanctions on Iran, which will have a mighty effect on India’s oil and its strategic initiative for a port to access Central Asia.
It is no excuse to say that government carries on because bureaucrats run it. Or that the PM was briefed. The only external affairs initiative of Modi was to engage Nepal and assure that a road would be built to connect Nepal’s religious sites with Ayodhya. Saffron-clad chief minister Adityanath of UP found himself in Karnataka when burning issues need attention in his state.
Unconnected was the CM of Haryana questioning whether Muslims could pray in the open. In the Babri Masjid case (1994) the Supreme Court said Muslims don’t need a mosque. They can pray anywhere “even in the open”. The Lingayat issue surfaces because recognition was given to them by the incumbent government but it may backfire.
Constitutionally, the demand for recognition as a separate faith should not be problematic because monolithic Hinduism’s claims over all beliefs other than Christians and Muslims is a hoax though supported by a doubtful judgment in the Swami Narayan case (1966). The Sangh Parivar wants to invite a diversion between Hindus and non-Hindus.
This is its politics played out in the knowledge that pan-Hindus policies can be a trump card for them. Of course, the frontal face is sab ka sath, sab ka vikas.
On its part, Congress took on the challenge to field Rahul Gandhi. The exchanges between the parties were asinine playing on vituperations: Rahul is namdar (derived from his name) or Modi is kamdar (a work based pedigree). Rahul erred in his off-the-cuff statement that he is a possible prime Minister after 2019. But this adds fuel to the fire of juggernaut elections. The fact that the Reddy brothers were with the BJP that was drowned in the rhetoric of exchange.
Many young members of the electorate did not know who the chief minister of the state was as they were sucked into personality-based politics. Yet the Yeddyurappa versus Siddaramaiah battle was eclipsed by the New Delhi leadership. Social media targeting has and will play a role. Cambridge Analytica may have gone but its equivalents are very much alive.
Ultimately, it’s down to the voter and the constituency system. In America, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a million but lost because of America’s electoral system. In India, the aggregate popular vote is eclipsed by constituency results. Psephologists, unable to gauge ground realities suggest that anti-incumbency is a lesser factor.
A hung Assembly is not beyond prediction. Even Amit Shah reduced his expectation from 150 to 130 seats (still above 122). But it is precisely in a hung Assembly that the BJP-appointed governor will play a crucial role. Whether JD(S) will dethrone Congress’ candidate Siddaramaiah for a price will depend on machinations — the ultimate decision maker.
Juggernaut politics has come to stay and will reflect in forthcoming elections this year in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan as a prelude to the general elections of 2019. Indian democracy is usurped by showmanship and the possibilities of electoral fascism. Karnataka is its grave turning point in the new millennia.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)