Sixteenth Loksbha Polls: Part-2
by K Vijayachandran
Elections 2014: The gathering storms
With the fifth phase ending on 17th April, polling was completed in a total of 232 Loksabha seats. There was fairly heavy turnout in most constituencies. Barring a serious land mine explosion by Maoists in Chattisgarh, sporadic violence in Naxal-hit areas of Jharkand, Bihar and UP, two cases of booth-capture in Madhya Pradesh, and an attempted booth-capture by Trinamul in West Bengal, polling was generally peaceful during these initial five phases. Turnout pattern across the country did not show any abnormalities.
With the next phase, scheduled for 24th April and covering 117 seats, India’s 16th Loksabha poll will cross the half way mark: It will take another fortnight for the finish, and vote count is scheduled for 16th May. Quality of candidates as well as character and content of electioneering across the regions reveal great diversity, very typical of a multinational country. Ideological orientation as well as the structure and composition of coalitions and political formations were in a flux, as election tempo picked up across cultural and geographical regions.
Elections in the twenty constituencies of Kerala, my home state, showed a mixed trend: No two constituencies had witnessed identical or even similar trends. One was different from the other and there were no signs any wave or even a common general trend. Unlike in other constituencies that registered an increase in poll percentage, there was a decline in voter turn-out in the two constituencies dominated by Muslim politics. the Congress led UDF seems to be restless with reports on infighting and blame sharing, as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) looked confident of a conspicuous come-back.
Candidates as well as electioneering in Kerala were at sharp variance with those in other Southern states. A friend of mine living in Bangalore wrote to me on their poll day morning: “Today I woke up with a problem: How to defeat in my constituency two candidates, one is bidding for a sixth chance to solve the problem of the nation, by building a temple in Ayodhya. And another wanted to build modern temples like Infosys and making many trillionniers like himself and he was bent upon solving the problem of this nation, by giving every Indian a Unique Identity Number!” That sort of exotic fights are hardly sustainable or even conceivable under Kerala polity.
Bollywood star Hema Malini is contesting from Mathura, the city of Krishna, as a BJP candidate. And she is sure to beat the other candidates of Congress and BLD, according to Manorama News: Could we, in Kerala, ever imagine Hema Malini replacing Innocent and contesting from Chalakudy and then defeating PC Chacko, who did a commendable job as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee inquiring into 2G Scam? Unlike Vadodara and Varanasi, not only Modi but even his wife Yesodabehn would have been treated moral outcasts in every one of the twenty constituencies of Kerala, despite their cultural diversity.
Minister Sasi Tarur is unlikely to be forgiven for the unaccounted death of his Desdemona-like wife, despite his reputation as a senior bureaucrat at the UN, while Christi Fernandez despite his long tenure as an IAS officer in Gujarat and under Modi was seen politically OK by the Left for fighting KV Thomas, a sitting minister at the Center and a Professor of repute.
Kerala has contributed to neighboring Tamilnadu several Left candidates and despite Mullaperiyar a couple of them will possibly win. Feedbacks from Kovai, Dindigal, Madurai, Tiruchi and Kanyakumari indicate that Left candidates have a good chance of winning a few seats thanks to the four or five cornered fights. News reports on campaign trends more or less confirm this possibility (1). Despite the big media support enjoyed by environmental enthusiasts and anti-nuclear activists these social activists found it impossible to unfold even their manifestos.
Campaign in the so called national media, under the intellectual and cultural leadership of the English speaking visual media, was focused on the sole issue of next Prime Minister. This seemed to be a clever strategy, jointly underwritten by Indian corporates and global finance. Big money has flowed into the campaign in a well organized manner. There was no Modi wave anywhere in the country including Gujarat, where BJP polled less votes in the last assembly elections and Modi was a highly controversial leader in his own state. There were no signs of any waves in the West, South, East or North. Even then, the London Economist came out with a clever editorial head line, just before election was flagged off: Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?
India Today TV and several other English and Hindi speaking channels had already launched, in unison, their 24X7 interviews on whom do you want as next Prime Minister: Modi, Rahul or Kejriwal? They arrogated themselves as the ECI and positioned the three Prime Minister candidates. There were then long discussions by experts on the views of laymen and laywomen collected from the interviews in suburban trains, long distance trains, flats, work places, house tops and tree tops. These were then broadcast as great exercises in democracy, and as proof for the existence of a non-existent Modi wave.
Even the existence of UPA, NDA, Regional parties or Left parties and their programs and policies did not find a place in such exercises because the total focus was on the question: Who should be the next Prime Minister of India? And everybody knows that, apart from Modi and Rahul, nobody was aspiring for the post. However the English speaking media had selected Kejriwal, the leader of AAP, also as an aspirant for that post, possibly even without consulting him!
The fact that, ECI was organizing this elaborate exercise for electing the 16th Loksabha got submerged under such meaningless mass campaigns and nobody even reminded the people that Manmohan was India’s Prime Minister twice, without facing a single Loksabha election. The English speaking national media played its mis-information role cleverly, by suppressing facts as well as fabricating news on a massive scale.
The so called national media propagated the view that Left is on the decline, even in its own traditional strongholds and published reviews in support of this view. Even the Hindu, which has been fairly objective in political reporting till recently, has published a review piece in its op-ed page on the so called “waning influence of the Left “, with three supporting articles that were hard on facts. With the recent changes in its editorial policies, Hindu is in no way different from the other Left-baiting national media (3).
In sharp contrast, the factual campaign reports from Tripura and West Bengal (4,5,6) are quite encouraging : This is not surprising, taking into account the political isolation of Mamta at the national level thanks to the semi-Fascist polices pursued by her government, reminiscent of the internal emergency of seventies. Mamta is facing a serious political crisis in West Bengal and her TMC and BJP are getting ready for a Fascist alliance at the national level.
Both NDA and UPA are in a flux and the political parties that constituted these alliances have started seeking realignments under the impact of the election trends. There are signs of revolts within BJP and Congress: In fact NDA and UPA do not exist any more, and there could be any number of alliances at the state level soon after the Loksabha elections.
It is unlikely that the joint tally of Congress and BJP together will cross the 200 mark and the Left will improve its presence in Loksabha substantially: That is why a joint initiative at the national level by the Left and the regional parties make plenty of practical sense. And there are clear indications of gathering storm in Indian politics as polling enters its concluding phases.
BJP and the national media, acting as the agents of Indian corporates and global finance, are trying their best to confuse the public with endless debates on the choice of Prime Minister: a question that will be easily settled within a couple of days, after ECI constitutes the 16th Loksabha as scheduled.
Notes and References
1. This report gives a good coverage of CPI(M) campaign in the nine constituencies in TN: http://peoplesdemocracy.in/2014/0420_pd/secular-democratic-alternative-possible-left-campaign-tamilnadu
2. This report gives a good insight into the digital plan for launching the Modi wave: http://peoplesdemocracy.in/2014/0420_pd/walled-gardens-bjp-propaganda
3. This lengthy OP-ED piece in the Hindu of 16th April with inputs from three well known correspondents was very untypical of Hindu traditions. This author had sent a long note on this aberration, which was not even acknowledged.
4. This report on West Bengal campaign is indicative of the new self-confidence of LF in West Bengal: http://peoplesdemocracy.in/2014/0420_pd/lok-sabha-poll-campaign-west-bengal