By Apoorvanand / Scroll
The factors that drove the mandate of the recent assembly elections in five states are being dissected enthusiastically. We know that the voters make decisions for diverse reasons but the meaning and implication of the mandate resulting from these individual decisions can sometimes turn out to be quite different from their own expectations.
It is true that in 2014 many voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party, believing that there was a Gujarat model of development that was needed by all of India. It was a myth. Even at that time, many people tried to explain this to voters but their voices were drowned by the excited opinion makers who were keen to enthrone the Narendra Modi-led BJP in Delhi. Voters were misled into believing the slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, development for all.
Before that, a campaign was created to attack the government of the time as being hugely corrupt. The 2G case relating to claims of corruption in the allocation of spectrum to specific firms was cited as an example. As an omnibus remedy for this, an anti-corruption ombudsman called the Lok Pal was suggested. A movement was created to press this demand. A hope for a new moral politics was generated.
One of the men who pushed that line is now heading the government of Delhi and his party is set to rule the state of Punjab. Another took over India itself. Since then, the Lok Pal has conveniently been forgotten.
The greater good
We need to think about how we managed to celebrate them as harbingers of change. We often rationalise and justify lies as being necessary for the larger good, for bringing political change. We should keep this in mind as we try to understand where the results of the recent assembly elections are leading us.
Some of the Frankensteins who had conjured this web of lies were themselves thrown out by the monsters they created. They have still not confessed for their deeds or apologised for them. They continue to speak from the moral high ground, even though they know they actually never cared for morals.
We should also accept that even if they did know that what they were feeding the people were lies, the people did not know it. They had no way of knowing the truth. All the instruments of information were in the hands of those who were spreading their lies.
The lie that the only national alternative was a Narendra Modi-led BJP. About the fast-track development that he had introduced in Gujarat. How the state prospered under his leadership.
But there was silence about what he had done to the social fabric of Gujarat. About how the very idea of the rule of law had been destroyed by a chief minister who openly advocated extra-judicial executions by the police and pushed citizens to endorse it, about how anti-Muslim he was.
Voters fell for it. Not everyone who voted for Modi voted for what he actually represented. They voted for a myth.
But that myth did not turn into reality. The truth started revealing itself. The reasons for the 2014 mandate could not decide its direction or destination. It began with the murder of a tech worker named Mohsin Sheikh in Pune, days after Modi took office. He was killed, as the court also noted, for having provoked his killers by simply being what he was: Muslim. Gradually, lynching Muslims seemed to become part of the national culture.
Was this part of the 2014 mandate? Had the voters ever thought that their decision would mean ending the lives of Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehelu Khan, Junaid, Mohammad Afrazul and numerous with names like them? Did these killings have any relation to the mandate? Or were they done despite it?
Then the bans on cow slaughter, gradually, systematically blocking livelihood routes for Muslims. Then the renaming of cities and streets with Muslim identities got underway. Was this also part of the mandate? Had the people voted for it?
Yet the mandate justified everything. The killings, the cultural plundering. In 2019, the mandate was repeated. Then came the triple talaq law, the judicial usurping of the land on which the Babri Masjid had stood, the breaking up and downgrading of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the removal of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act, the announcement of a National Register of Citizens and anti-conversion laws, laws criminalising Muslim men marrying Hindu women.
Were they part of the mandate? Was this the hope that the Modi-led BJP represented? Hounding human rights workers, criminalising protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, killing and jailing of protesters. While voting, citizens could not have ever thought that they were actually giving a dagger to killers.
Waiting for the miracle
So, when the people of four states have voted again, still believing that an economic miracle will be performed by the magician, it is unlikely to happen. We cannot say that since economic reasons have driven this result, the mandate resulting out of it will actually be used to address economic concerns. This time, right from the beginning, the mandate was sought for rule by the bulldozer. BJP leaders had not even hidden what they want to do with this mandate.
In Uttarakhand, the leaders of the BJP promised to introduce laws to prevent undesirable elements from buying land in the state. Just a day after the announcement of the results, threats were being issued that bulldozer would run fast. The meaning of the mandate, if it was obscure to the voters, is being made clearer.
The implication of the mandate is the active destruction of the very idea of the rule of law by replacing it with the rule of the bulldozer, further marginalising Muslims and Christians, criminalising protests and speech, outlawing human rights and ending federalism. We have no option but to resist.
This article first appeared on scroll.in