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View: Dissolve the people, and elect a new one

If BJP proves victorious, the Opposition will have make a paradigm shift in their politics. It would no longer be enough to take the voters as given, and try to seek their favour, on the basis of their given preferences and prejudices.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 20, 2019, 04.15 PM IST
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If BJP proves victorious, the Opposition will have make a paradigm shift in their politics.
A remarkable feature of the ongoing campaign for the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections is the dominant theme. Local leaders of the ruling party might indeed focus on the incumbents’ achievements in office, but BJP’s national leadership has campaigned essentially on issues of nationalism: how BJP is the nationalist party that has integrated Kashmir into India, removing its special status, while the Congress had failed to do this and, thereby, “destroyed the country”.

The Indian economy is in trouble. The banks are unable and unwilling to lend. Investment as a proportion of GDP is stuck well below 30% of GDP. Real estate is in the throes of a crisis. The power sector has dragged many a decent entrepreneur to ruin. Auto sales are down, as are exports, industrial production. Jobs are in scarce supply, and there are reports of job losses in the automobile clusters around Pune and Gurgaon-Manesar. But all this seems to matter little for the two most influential politicians of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his effective number two in the Union Cabinet, Home Minister Amit Shah.

They campaign on Kashmir. They campaign on how they have raised India’s prestige in the world. How they have taught Pakistan a lesson. And, of course, they campaign on how the Opposition has been corrupt and inept. Clearly, their estimate is that voters care more about such matters than about their own bread and palm oil. And since the duo have proved consummate politicians, who have their finger on the popular pulse, they might be right. In any case, the matter is being put to the test on October 21st and the results would be announced on October 24.

If BJP proves victorious, the Opposition will have make a paradigm shift in their politics. It would no longer be enough to take the voters as given, and try to seek their favour, on the basis of their given preferences and prejudices. The effort must be to change voter preferences and prejudices.

Over the years, the Sangh Parivar has brought a majoritarian mindset to the fore, and voters have bought into it, to all intents and purposes. This must be questioned, challenged and disputed and democratic values championed and fought for. The pluralism inherent in a polytheistic culture must be emphasised and the attempt to subsume it in a homogeneity pointed out as alien to India’s tradition, apart from to the Indian Constitution. This will not be easy, but this is the only way to realise the promise of democracy.

Bertolt Brecht wrote, with irony, of dissolving the people and electing a new one, as the government had lost faith in the people. It is time to do the same thing, without irony. Indeed, it is far from a ridiculous project. All democracies became democracies after a battle of ideas that often spilled over from the realm of ideas to the streets. India’s votaries of democracy act as if such battles had become passe the moment the Constitution had been adopted.
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