More than 800 million Indians are voting in what is being touted as the world’s largest democratic exercise. The Indian parliamentary elections 2104 are currently taking place in nine phases extending over a month. India’s grand old party, the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, after its 10 year rule is pitted against a resurgent Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its campaign led by Hindutva poster boy Narendra Modi who is known for his anti-Muslim bias and rhetoric. Narendra Modi has been the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat since 2001. In his very first year in office around 2000 Muslims were massacred in Gujarat in what various international organisations consider as a well-planned mass murder. The contest however is further complicated by the presence of numerous regional political parties which ultimately play a significant role in deciding which party forms the government. Although the political contests in recent years have been characterised by more or less the same political parties, however, this time the added dimension in the form of the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is bound to tilt the balance in at least some electoral constituencies.
For the ruling United Progressive Alliance widespread corruption in its rule coupled with anti-incumbency is going to harm its prospects. In addition to this, for the Hindu nationalist BJP it has been an old plank to accuse the Congress party of appeasing Muslims while as in reality none of the two sides has done any substantial good to Muslims of India. The BJP uses this rhetoric to instil a sense of insecurity with Congress in the majority Hindu population to attract their votes in its favour. Anti-Muslim communal riots have been a consistent tool used by the Hindu nationalist parties to polarise the community and take the maximum out of sense of insecurity in the communities.
The BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has been able to galvanise much of the Indian youth towards the BJP based on high pitched and attractive slogans like ‘Brand India’, ‘Unstoppable India’, ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’, ‘Time for Change, Time for Modi’. He has been successful to a large extent in roping in big corporate houses to invest in his state and hence project himself as a development man in an attempt to make up for past misdeeds. Although much of what he promises fail to impress the rational thinking class who are able to see beyond the flimsy sugar coating of these slogans. Interesting to see that he has not even shown any sense of remorse for the anti-Muslim pogrom that took place under his administration in 2002. Commenting on Mr. Modi’s policy, The Economist magazine warned in a featured article recently, "By refusing to put Muslim fears to rest, Mr. Modi feeds them. By clinging to the anti-Muslim vote, he nurtures it". Pertinent to mention here that he has been denied a visa by the United States administration for these very reasons since 2005.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is the latest addition to the Indian political scene and will be contesting the parliamentary elections for the very first time. Led by Arvind Kejriwal, a former civil servant and an anti-corruption crusader, its aim is what Mr. Kejriwal says in his Twitter bio, “Political revolution in India has begun.” The party aims at a complete overhaul of the political system aiming guns at most of the established political figures. Arvind Kejriwal himself has chosen to fight elections against BJP’s Prime Minsisterial candidate Narendra Modi who is contesting from the parliament consitiutency representing the Hindu holy city of Varanasi. The AAP has fielded social and environmental activists like Medha Patkar and Soni Suri who were otherwise political outcasts for other political parties and is bound to have at least some role in who forms the next government in India. AAP may not have a fair chance to form the next government but it will have a role in how the results come out in the election. May be not in the form of parliament seats won but in the way it will split the conventional vote banks of the two main competitors – the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
However, all political parties remain rigid with respect to Kashmir although AAP is willing to tread an extra mile as compared to the other two which are stuck in history. But none of the political parties in India, AAP included, are willing to listen to the genuine aspirations of the Kashmiri nation and feign ignorance to the writing on the wall. In consonance with this reality, Kashmiris do not expect much from this exercise as it just tends to lend legitimacy to Indian control over Kashmir. People, particularly the youth, have been witness to the killings in 2008, 2010 and years throughout and are visibly opposed to this electoral process. This will be the first Indian parliamentary election after the 2010 popular non-violent uprising in which more than 120 unarmed protestors were killed by Indian forces in various parts of Kashmir. Although the dominant discourse in Kashmir regarding Indian parliamentary elections is that of boycott, it would be interesting to see how far people stick to their ideals or will just fall prey to the wordplay of local politicians. Nevertheless, Kashmir is yet to see the dawn of democracy even 67 years after the British left the Indian subcontinent!Last Mod: 16 Nisan 2014, 09:47