Indian electorate had proved it again. That it can spring such surprises which no political analysts, even of winning streams, could have ever thought off in their wildest dreams. The election results of 2004 general elections, called about six months earlier, had proved disastrous for N.D.A, the ruling coalition Govt. at Centre. And it also took toll of Chandar Babu Naidu in A.P. and S.M. Krishna in Karnatka, who also thought of cashing in by felling in the trap of early elections to their respective assemblies. However only Naveen Patnaik of Orissa was saved of this fate, though he has also about one more year to go to complete the normal term of Orissa Assembly.
In the political history of post independent India, these election results are second most significant results, the first of course, were the results in 1977. An election held in the backdrop of Emergency, with media completely stifled for 19 months and at that time, in absence of any opinion or exit poll, one could not think off in his/her wildest dreams, the results, which trickled off in the wee ours of 23rd March 1977; making the whole country jubilant. When all the big trees fell on the roadside, but of course not leading to ‘the shaking of earth’, as the phrase was used in 1984, in the aftermath of November 1984 killings of innocent Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in the country.
The results of 1977 and 2004 elections need close comparison in political terms and in terms of media coverage, it would show the common lessons emerging out of the two.
1977 elections were held after 19 month long Emergency, with lot of political repression and media completely stifled. C.P.M. and the other left except C.P.I. was with Janta Party then and in fact Sidharth Shankar Ray led West Bengal Congress Govt. of 1972-77 period used to be described as ‘Semi fascist’ by C.P.M then. Naxalite groups called the whole system as fascist. Indian electorate silently punished the biggest centers of abuse of powers in one moment of truth at that time. This is another matter that the new power center emerging out of post-emergency scenario, could not complete even one full term of parliament and yielded power to their bitter political foe within three years, after internal fights among themselves. Media at that time as well was not able to gauge the angry but silent mood of the electorate.
Ever since 1989, when campaign against corruption charges in the name of Bofors gun deal was led by V.P. Singh, the country has been ruled by either coalitions or minority Govt. as of P.V. Narshimha Rao, who managed the support of required number of M.P.’s by whatever means, which included attaché case culture of Sukh Rams at that time. Incidentally, the charges of corruption have been faced first of all and at the maximum level by Congress govts. at the centre and in states. The first corruption charges in post independent India, were leveled against Pratap Singh Kairon and Biju Patnaik like powerful Chief Ministers, during the most popular regime of Jawaharlal Nehru. Later almost all parties in Govt., except left, have been charged with corruption, be it S.P., B.S.P, R.J.D., Akali Dal, or DMK/ AIDMK or any other ruling party in centre or states.
General Elections of Fourteenth Lok Sabha were called six months before time in 2004 in the background of these earlier political developments.
If the elections of 1977 were held in the backdrop of terrorized and under exposed media, with a few stories of Emergency excesses coming out before election; the elections of 2004 were held in the over exposed media glare of twenties of T.V. Channels and hundreds of newspaper print media with a new Middle class glamour culture indulging in affluence. This class chose to play ‘India Shining’, ‘Feel Good’ etc. slogans by managerial skills of new computer boys of B.J.P. and its allies, forgetting the reality that crores of rural and urban poor live in half fed undignified conditions of life.
Here one is reminded of Indira Gandhi calling an early elections of 5th Lok Sabha in 1971, full one year in advance. But her slogan in those elections was ‘Garibi Hatao.’ Compare the two slogans–‘Feel Good’ and ‘Garibi Hatao’ in context of Indian social reality and one can understand the potency of a political slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’ as against the glamour slogan of ‘Feel Good’ completely ununderstood by millions of rural poor. One can also see that ‘Garibi Hatao’ paid rich dividends to Indira Gandhi led Congress party in 1971 elections, despite being called earlier than schedule. This is another matter that ‘Garibi Hatao’ turned out to be ‘Garib Hatao’ later and worse still, term of parliament was extended by one year during Emergency and elections to sixth Lok Sabha turned out on normal schedule in 1977 in the aftermath of Emergency leading to the massive verdict of the people against Mrs. Indira Gandhi as described earlier.
After winning 1999 general election, which were held in the backdrop of now well-known 271/272 seat syndrome of Vajpayee/ Sonia Gandhi, only 13 months after elections were held in 1998 to twelfth Lok Sabha. This Lok Sabha election had got BJP say ‘from 13 days to 13 months and from 13 months to 13 years’,which really frightened many people. Since in worst arrogance and abuse of power, Narinder Modis and Togadias of VHP etc. created a hell in Gujrat in 2002, by worst pogroms of minority community and their abusive language for political opponents before the whole world. The same way Jaylalita Govt. in Tamilnadu dragging almost eighty year old Karunanidhi from his bedroom in full media galore. Murli Manhoar Joshi indulging in saffronization of education and other institutions. A man charged with claiming salary for eighteen long years in his parent University at Allabhabad without performing any duty and claiming himself to be a scientist, tried his best in most crude manner to completely finish off scientific temper in education, introduced and promoted by another great man of Allahabad known as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Last but not the least, were pro-rich and anti- poor economic policies of NDA Govt, crushing poor to pecuniary and leading thousands of farmers to commit suicide throughout the country.
And as if it was not enough, Prime Minster Vajpayee though relatively enjoying an image of gentle and liberal person, started showing signs of narcissism, indulging in occasional rendering of his own poetry, which was nothing but mediocre, like that of young college student. V.P. Singh, in this limited range of ‘politicians poetry’ is much better poet and painter, yet he never flaunted it to give a chance to others for indulging in flattery and sycophancy; which was unashamedly indulged in by such great artists as Lata Mangeshkar and Jagjit Singh, who sang Vajpayee’s boyish poetry as if they were singing ‘Ravindra Sangeet’ This was such a grotesque scene in the field of Art and culture that one felt revulsion for such degeneration of artists like Lata, Jagjit and Bhupen Hazarika (punished by people in election for changing color and turning ‘saffron’ from ‘pink’) . Some bureaucrats by translating Vajpayee poetry in English got. plum posts. The artists brought shame to none else but their own selves by such flattery. Only one eminent Hindi poet, critic and journalist Vishnu Khare dared to speak about the ‘worth’ of Vajpayee poetry at the invitation of All India Radio, of course, that was never broadcast by ‘autonomous’ Prasar Bharti in its programme.
Although in the post 1999 political scenario, Modi and Jaylalita were not the only Chief Ministers to misuse state police in their vendetta against their political opponents, there were and are other Chief Ministers, including some from Congress also, who, used and use state machinery, particularly Police, to the hilt in their Vendetta politics. Some of them do not even spare their own party and ministerial colleagues in using state police to settle scores. In advanced countries and ex colonial masters of Asia and Africa, such as Britain, France etc., Police is considered most people friendly and could arrest even Prime Minister’s son for violating the law of the land. Unfortunately for colonized nations of Asia and Africa, these colonial masters created a police force whose duty was to crush freedom struggles. The colonial structure and mentality of Indian police not only continued after 1947, it got even worsened, when Indian rulers brutalized it much, more and now it has become the habit and practice of any state police to dance to the tunes of political masters of the day and trap people in false cases and harass them to any extent, if they just come in the way of their highhandedness. And when such brutalized police force is encouraged by such words of people in power—‘Lambe Pa dayoon’ (Drag them)‘Tun Doon’ (Huddle them in prison)-(Amrinder Singh), one can very well imagine the fate of citizens of that state. Great jurist, freedom fighter of Congress party and personal friend of Pandit Nehru, also a great Urdu Poet Anand Naraian Mullah was not off the mark, when he had said in post independent India that police is the most organized gang of criminals in India. He should have added that it is the politicians in power, who are responsible for shaping Indian police in this role model. Atmosphere in these terrorized states is such that no attention is paid even to constitutional proprieties. Indira Gandhi Government in centre had abolished privy purses and titles of ex princely states of India way back in 1969. In fact her decision at that time was hailed as pro-people and patriotic. Coupled with Bank Nationalization and with slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao,’ she had won the parliamentary election in 1971 decisively. Yet by year 2002 her own party men have revived the feudal culture of prostrating before certain persons in power, calling them ‘Maharaja’ and ‘Maharani,’ thus insulting the memory of their own leaders like Pandit Nehru and Mrs. Gandhi. But more surprisingly even the Govt. officials in certain states in their official advertisements and in conduct of official business, use these titles illegally and unashamedly. According to Indian constitution, after 1969, no state exist in India, where any person could be called ‘Maharaja’ or Maharani’. While nothing can be done to certain party workers and leaders indulging in such slavish behavior, Judicial institutions in the country can perhaps take note of this gross violation of propriety of Indian constitution by certain state Govt. officials in their official conduct. Interestingly this prostrating behavior of calling someone ‘Maharaja or Maharani’ is being indulged more in Congress ruled states than in BJP ruled states, Although BJP have more ‘Maharjas’ and ‘Maharanis’ in their kitty as it was the party, which in her earlier avtar as JanSangh had vehemently opposed Mrs. Indira Gandhi on this count.
The feudal behavior of such Chief Ministers in these states is such that B class level officers are calling the shots, after getting the status of Ministers and acting as No.2 or 3 in the Government after Chief Minister; whereas senior ministerial colleagues, who have spent decades in public life in politics, cool their heels for weeks together to have ‘darshan’ of such ‘Supermo’ style Chief Ministers.
In such states also people have taught a lesson to rulers in 2004 elections to not to treat states as their fiefdom. The best results in this context have come from Gujrat where Modi has been shown the mirror.
The election results of year 2004 have to be seen and analyzed in the background of these ground realities of Indian society and making the evergreen words of Abrahm Lincon once again true, ‘you can not befool all the people all the time’. The verdict of 2004 elections is first and foremost against the communalism of all kinds. This is a lesson for BJP more and somewhat for Congress as well as whose leaders in Punjab have roped in known Khalistani terrorists, Akali and B.J.P leaders in the party, during elections, knowing fully well that Congress was always suspected for patronizing Khalistanis surreptitiously to counter and undermine their traditional political rivals Akalis in the state. Secondly these results are also an indictment of all kinds of feudal, oppressive and arrogant conduct of all political parties in states. While again emphasizing the most important factor that anti-poor economic policies of N.D.A. have been decisively rejected by these results. Having said all this one must not overlook few more facts of ground reality of Indian politics. Out of total 540 odd seats of Parliament, the break up of parties should be seen from various angles, such as region, ideological moorings and percentage of votes secured by parties.
(A) Ideological break up of Parties
Total seats scored by Congress Party – 145 +
“ BJP -140+
(Concentrated mainly, Left – 60+
in W.B., Kerala & Tripura)
Socialist block (S.P., R.J.D., JD (U), JD(S), LJSP etc.) -70+
(whole socialist block is concentrated in U.P, Bihar and Jharkhand and in Karnatka in south.)
(B)Region wise Break up of Parties
Another angle of these seat sharing is important to know, that is region wise break up, particularly of two main parties i.e. Congress & BJP.
Total seats in whole Hindi speaking belt plus Punjab and J & K. (Hindi speaking states are H.P., Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, U.P., M.P., Bihar, Uttaranchal, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand).
Total Seats 245 plus or minus
Congress tally 51 seats
BJP tally 80 seats
Socialist tally 70 seats
Total seats in South are 130, out of which Congress has best tally of 47, yet nearly twenty short of even simple majority. Here BJP is poor shadow of Congress with just. 18 seats
Total seats in East & North East together are 88, out of which Congress has 19 and BJP just 9.
Total seats in West region are 76 and here both are in neck to neck race. Congress having 26 seats while BJP 28 seats.
(C) Percentage of Votes secured by Parties
Percentage wise Congress this time has secured 26.69% of total votes with 145 seats, while BJP has secured 22.16% of total votes with 138 seats. Left and socialist block together count for about 15% of total votes with 135 seats. B.S.P. crossing 5% mark, with about 20, while regional parties hold other votes and seats. These ground realities would shape Indian polity in next few decades.
The verdict has put to rest the foreign origin controversy of Sonia Gandhi , particularly after her decision to decline to become Prime Minister, however opposition making use of it again after few years, as anti incumbency factor can not be ruled out. Any number of assertions by Sonia Gandhi being Indian would not work unless her policies are such which are pro-poor and her rule is more democratic in its administrative functioning. Perhaps she needs to keep only Pandit Nehru as role model and not the later Congress leadership in this context. Though Pandit Nehru had also crushed Telangana communist movement and had also dismissed first ever democratically elected Communist Govt. of EMS Namboodripad in Kerala in 1959, yet Pandit Nehru was the tallest democratic leader of the country.
It was time for glory for Ninety years old CPM General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, master of parliamentary power politics in India, who got the highest number of seats for left in independent India in 2004 elections. It was Surjeet who had shaped the first ever non-Congress opposition parties coalitions in 1967 in eight states and he himself was Chairman of steering committee of Akali-Jansangh-left coalition in Punjab, at that time he was called ‘Super Chief Minister’. Taking a full circle in 37 years, Surjeet is crowned with as the architect of first ever Congress led coalition ministry of India. A life of fulfillment for any political leader, whether this brings ‘revolution’ of Marxist philosophy or not, that is another matter.
However Left by now must have realized sooner that , that it is a favorite whipping boy of media controlled by big industrial houses, which can hardly afford to loose their profits. If Modis and Togadias were whipped by the media yesterday; it is the turn of left groups now for their resistance on public sector or against disinvestment policy etc. Already they are being taught to learn from ‘Deng’ and become ‘pink’ instead of ‘red’. The marriage of Congress and left was yet to be brokered and as the Punjabi saying goes ‘Marriage breakers were already on the prowl’.
Meanwhile media has already made its intentions clear. MEDIA IS PLAYING THE ROLE OF COUNTER-PRESSURE TO NEUTRALISE THE PRESSURE OF LEFT PARTIES ON GOVT.FOR INITIATING SOMEWHAT PRO-PEOPLE POLICIES. MEDIA CONTROLLED BY INDUSTRIAL HOUSES IS STRIVING TO MAKE GOVT. CARRY ON THE ANTI-PEOPLE POLICIES INITIATED BY CONGRESS EARLIER AND PURSUED MORE VIGOUROUSLY BY NDA LATER ,PARTICULARY IN THE FIELD OF LIBERALISING THE ECONOMY AT THE BEHEST OF AMERICAN IMPERIALISM.ONLY TIME WILL TELL WHETHER LEFT PARTIES ARE ABLE TO RESIST THIS TREND OR GET DAMNED AND SLAMMED BY AN POWER ARROGATED MEDIA.
The writer is Hindi-Punjabi author and has edited Martyr Bhagat Singh’s complete documents in Hindi.Presently he is Professor in Centre of Indian Languages at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
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