Ever since independence, when Sardar Patel cajoled and coerced more than 400 princely states to join the Indian union, our politicians have been assiduously trying to undo his work.
They have been carving up this great country into personal fiefdoms based on caste, class, language, religion, the ubiquitous “cultural identity”, unapologetic regionalism and so on, widening and exploiting fissures that have always existed in Indian society.
The smarter ones-like the Congress and the Samajwadi party-CREATED fissures where none existed in order to manufacture constituencies for themselves.
The most odious example of this in the recent past has been the Mandalisation of an already fractured society by VP Singh, a failed Prime Minister best forgotten.
The Muslim community, whose thread is so interwoven into the fabric of India or Hindustan, call it what you will, that it is colourless and incomplete without it, has been driven into a ghetto from where it is milked for votes every five years and then left to fester in poverty, ignorance and fear.
These scavengers have done their job well.
For the last twenty years India’s unitary and federal structure has been progressively weakening. Regionalism had begun to threaten the very basis of our constitutional stucture and the Central government had ceased to exercise control even over subjects that were its exclusive domain.
Powerful Chief Ministers began to dictate foreign policy and defence strategy, sabotage central programmes, even defy the Center on matters of internal security.
One aging ex-Chief Minister of a border state who himself borders on senility even threatened that his state would cede from the Indian Union if a particular party won the elections!
Opportunistic coalitions based on the sole ideology of grasping power further fragmented a crumbling polity. Governance was replaced by corruption, malfeasance, financial profligacy, appeasement and the politics of entitlement, not responsibility or accountability.
In a democratic India the vehicles of its democratic aspirations-the political parties-have themselves ceased to be democratic or representative. They have been appropriated by a handful of fat cat families-the Gandhis, Karunanidhis, Pawars, Abdullahs, Mulayam Singhs, Paswans, Laloo Yadavs, Hoodas, Badals.
There is little to distinguish them from the Mughal satraps except that even the latter had to possess some competence to survive whereas the former need nothing more than the bank balances and the network of cronies built up over the years. The priority of these feudals has always been their own advancement, not that of the country.
This is the backdrop against which the results of the recent elections has to be seen. Their biggest triumph is not the ascension of Narender Modi but the coming of age of the Indian voter, long regarded as expendable cattle who could be led by the nose.
(Refer to my earlier article IS THE INDIAN VOTER A MORON?).
In one sweeping verdict he has reaffirmed his identity as an Indian and rejected the labels the politician had stuck on him. He has proclaimed that he wants to be governed, not diminished by appeasement or blandishments. He now expects his politician to be chosen on merit, not dynasty. He wants to re-define the two most distorted and falsified words in the Indian political lexicon- “secular” and “communal“.
This metamorphosis of the Indian voter’s mind set is evident from an analysis of the voting patterns in the 2014 Parliament elections. Let us consider a few of them.
The two deepest faultlines in the Indian psyche have been the minority (read Muslim) and Dalit identities. These cultural cracks have been exploited by generations of politicians who have widened them into what appeared to be unbridgeable chasms. Mayawati claimed one, Mulayam claimed the other and the Congress claimed both.
Modi claimed neither as Muslim or Dalit, but asked for their votes as INDIANS-and succeeded. Out of 34 seats (all India excluding J+K) with more than 20% Muslim voters, BJP won 19 (against 11 in 2009) whereas the Congress got only 2 (down 12) and the Samajwadi party only 1. The BSP and the RLD got none. Even more telling, in UP the BJP won in ALL 25 seats where Muslims constitute 25% or more of the voters (except Badaun).
A desperate theory is being floated by the self-appointed gatekeepers of the Muslim vote that the BJP won these seats because the Muslim vote got fragmented and dispersed over a number of parties in multi cornered contests – in other words “the index of opposition unity” was low.
While this is a fact it is not the whole truth. For one, the Muslim vote has always got divided; this time, in fact, the Modi fear factor was hyped up so much by all non-BJP parties that it should have, in theory, got consolidated like never before! This obviously did not happen.
Secondly, at the national level the BJP’s share of the Muslim vote has actually GONE UP- from 4% in 2009 to 9%.
Thirdly, this is further confirmed by the figures for Delhi: in the 9 Assembly segments where Muslims dominate the BJP’s share of the Muslim vote has increased by 106490 votes as compared to the 2013 polls, from 256686 to 363173, an increase of 40%.
There can be no doubt that the Muslims are beginning to accept the BJP under Modi, are willing to try him out and are moving away from the parties that have utilised them for decades. One wall that divides India has become to crumble……
Another bank where divisive political parties have traditionally put their ill-gotten electoral gains is the Dalit “vote bank” (which constitutes 14% of our population) and the OBC bank, an artificially created repository of votes post Mandal.
Whereas Dalits Inc. has reached a saturation point and no fresh capital can be infused into it, the OBC is a growing business for the politician-in fact the shameless opportunism of the Congress plumbed new depths when, just days before elections, it notified Jats – the most feudal, prosperous and exploitative community in western UP and Haryana – as OBCs!
But a tethered falcon can never fly, no matter how many crumbs it is fed – this was Modi’s message and it appears to have got through to both these communities.
In these elections the BJP has garnered 26% of the Dalit votes, highest of all parties, not excluding even the BSP which received 20%.
Further confirmation that the Dalits are breaking out of their stifling mould is provided by the fact that out of 84 seats reserved for the SCs as many as 68 have been won by the NDA, and of 43 ST seats 30 have gone to the NDA! Continuing this trend the BJP also claimed 45% of the lower OBC votes and 33% of that of the upper OBCs.
Modi is beginning to do the unthinkable – he is consolidating the Hindu vote across India. A pan-Hindu consolidation across caste and class lines is taking place and the space for the Mulayams, Mayawatis, Ajit Singhs and Laloo Yadavs has shrunk rapidly.
Nothing else can explain the 9% increase in the BJP vote share, the 73 seats won in UP, the decimation of the four worthies mentioned above, the fact that the Congress has not won even one seat in 9 states, that 178 of its candidates have lost their deposits.
Modi has reawakened and united a Hindu psyche that had somehow, by some twisted political logic, been bludgeoned into a state of self reproach and self-denial by mercenary politicians , an effete, English speaking, ersatz liberal intelligentsia and secular fundamentalists.
He has rekindled a pride in Hinduism as a way of life and culture, not a religion. He has brought about a realisation that India cannot survive as one nation if its Hindu constituents continue to fight each other.
He has gone a long way in convincing the minorities that his version of secularism will deliver them the safety and progress that sixty years of Congress secularism has not.
Modi has decisively breached another citadel-that of regionalism, which had increasingly been putting narrow, parochial interests above that of the nation.
(I have written about it earlier in a piece titled WHO WILL SPEAK UP FOR INDIA?).
ALL regional parties, with the exception of three – AIADMK, TMC AND BJD – have been reduced to insignificant rumps-all non-NDA parties (except Congress and the three above) have a combined vote share of just 22.8%. The combined vote share of AIADMK, TMC and BJD too comes to just 8.8%.
Regionalism survives now in only a handful of states and even there Modi and the BJP have now made in-roads for the first time: Nagaland, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir.
This can only be regarded as a positive development, one that has reversed the destructive trend of the last few years. It can only make us stronger as a nation.
Concommitent with the decline of regionalism has been the withering away of dynasties, that scourge of our democracy. The Maran/ Karunanidhi family of Tamil Nadu, the Yadavs of Bihar and UP, the ( Ajit) Singhs of western UP, the Pawars of Maharashtra, the Abdullahs of Kashmir, even the Gandhis- all have been dealt mortal blows, and it needs only five years of good governance by Modi to ensure that they will go the way of the dinosaurs.
A few still remain, some of them allied to Modi-the Thackerays, the Badals, the Paswans – but even their days are numbered and they too will have to change their ways or perish.
It took only a tea-seller to change the course of a nation. We now have a strong hand on the tiller, one that can perhaps take us into the future with greater confidence. Yes, he has faults and perhaps weaknesses, but at least they are visible and can be improved upon, unlike our previous rulers.
Remember these lines from King Lear:
” Through tattered clothes small vices do appear; Robes and furred gowns hide all.”
|The author retired from the IAS in December 2010. A keen environmentalist and trekker he has published a book on high altitude trekking in the Himachal Himalayas: THE TRAILS LESS TRAVELLED.
His second book- SPECTRE OF CHOOR DHAR is a collection of short stories based in Himachal and was published in July 2019. His third book was released in August 2020: POLYTICKS, DEMOCKRAZY AND MUMBO JUMBO is a compilation of satirical and humorous articles on the state of our nation. His fourth book was published on 6th July 2021. Titled INDIA: THE WASTED YEARS , the book is a chronicle of missed opportunities in the last nine years. Shukla’s fifth book – THE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER’S DOG AND OTHER COLLEAGUES- was released on 12th September 2023. It portrays the lighter side of life in the IAS and in Himachal.
He writes for various publications and websites on the environment, governance and social issues. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla.
He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/