Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Graphic by Soham Sen | ThePrint
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In the course of my usual trawling of the Hindi media, I am struck by lyrics from a very distant, faded past. It was Kavi (poet) Pradeep’s dire warning to India to watch out for threats from traitors within. These deadly enemies, the song featuring mega star Rajendra Kumar and sung in Manna Dey’s stirring voice said, were hiding in our own homes, and menacing us over our walls: “Jhaank rahe hain apne dushman, apni hee deewaron se/sambhal ke rehna apne ghar mein chhupe huye gaddaron se”. It goes on to warn the patriot in us: “Hoshiyar tumko apne Kashmir ki raksha karni hai” (awake, for you have to also protect your Kashmir).

This was for Mahesh Kaul’s Talaq, released and nominated for the Filmfare Awards in 1958. Why has this again popped up in the heartland chatter?

You will also find references that Nehru so disliked the song, as it insinuated that many fellow Indians were enemies, that he banned it. And of course, facing a war in 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri lifted the ban. Just see, the argument goes, how relevant is this song again today. When the enemy is at the gates, and millions of traitors hide within our homes. Never mind the facts, of course.

Shekhar Gupta, chairman and editor-in-chief of ThePrintIn 60 years, after winning two-and-a-half wars, dividing Pakistan into two and becoming a $2.7 trillion economy, you would have thought we were much too secure, prospering and optimistic to bring back paranoias of the past.

But, after traversing large parts of India, in the Hindi heartland and the South, I have to report with humility that the contrary is exactly what the BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has been able to achieve. At a time when India should be feeling at its most secure, internally and externally, they’ve managed to convince large enough sections of the voters, especially the tens of millions of young who learn their history from WhatsApp and believe India came out of the dark ages in 2014, that the dangers of their grandparents’ era have returned. So, who else can you trust to fight these but a strong, aggressive and fearless leader who doesn’t think twice before sending commandos on surgical strikes or jets on bombing missions in enemy territory?

With the situation on the economy and jobs grim and the crisis so palpable that it couldn’t be “fixed” with propaganda, we had anticipated Modi-Shah turning this into a “desh khatrey mein hai” national security election. We can now say they’re succeeding.

There are three pre-requisites to building a ‘national security’ election. The first, an aggressive, even paranoid redefinition of the national interest. Second, a formidable foreign enemy a true nationalist detests, hates and fears. And most important, a Fifth Column within, consisting of collaborators and sympathisers of the same enemy. Then, you go out and seek votes against those no one can morally or politically defend. To call this merely politics of polarisation is an understatement. It is enormously more diabolical, and effective.

The key to building such a popular concept of the national interest, you first need a sharp definition of identity. American strategist and Harvard professor Joseph Nye Jr., writing in Foreign Policy, calls the national interest a “slippery concept, used to describe as well as prescribe foreign policy”. He then goes on to quote Samuel Huntington in the same journal, arguing that “without a secure sense of national identity”, you cannot define your national interests.

I bet you have figured where I am headed. But, just in case you haven’t, that identity is Hindu and the core of Indian nationalism. What’s good for the Hindus is also good for India, and vice-versa had better be true. If it isn’t, it needs fixing. And non-Hindus? Of course, they will benefit similarly. But if they complain, or don’t conform, they risk being lumped with the Fifth Column, along with liberal bleeding hearts, questioning journalists, activists, ‘compulsive contrarians’ and ‘urban Naxals’. Remember Kavi Pradeep’s warning about traitors hiding in your bedrooms and kitchens.

This is exactly how Modi-Shah have built this campaign. The opposition — with Nyay, Rafale, secularism, equality — is playing a very different game. It’s like one side is marching to martial music while the other is tuning the tanpura. All of those ideas are important as well, but then you see, none of it will be possible unless the nation survives. And since there are such grave dangers lurking, in whose hands would you rather place the nation? A proven, decisive and strong leader or a “Pappu”, whom now you see and now you don’t?

Also read: It’s Modi vs 20 strong state leaders and there is no wave in the air

While an all-conquering nationalist wave isn’t here, it is strong enough to neutralise some of the economic distress and disaffection. In the deepest countryside, you find young, jobless and quite hopeless people saying yes, we have nothing to do and are hurting, but we can suffer a bit for the nation. It takes some campaign genius to get so many in distant places to succumb to such mass suspension of disbelief. We may find the idea ridiculous and abhorrent. But it won’t change the reality.

The other factor is identity. This wave is generally moderated, even blocked, where large sections of the population have a determinant of political identity stronger than Hindu faith. It can be caste, as with the Vokkaligas in Karnataka and the Yadavs in the heartland and Dalits generally everywhere. It can be language and ethnicity, as in the Tamil and Telugu regions. Or religion, as with Muslims and Christians. Wherever some of these factors combine, especially as in Uttar Pradesh, this upsurge can be broken.

This is why the Congress is the biggest loser. Unlike the many regional parties, it doesn’t have the hedge of alternate identities. Its Rahul-era idea of fighting hard, even militant nationalism with liberal pacifism is unconvincing, especially given its own record of running a brutally unforgiving hard state. If you think the counter to the BJP’s campaign against “enemies and traitors” is abolishing the sedition law, you have no idea what you are up against.

What the Modi-Shah BJP has succeeded in building among large sections of the younger electorate is more than a mere sense of paranoid nationalism. It is now a dangerous jingoism, and history tells us it never ends well. The enemies have been defined, and weapons earmarked: Jets and commandos for the Pakistanis, calumny and social media lynching for those within.

The dangers and the enemy Kavi Pradeep identified, and which we thought we had vanquished, have been conveniently resurrected, and the Hindi press is the first to see that trend. Sixty years later, the current mood has been captured by a young poet, although of a different generation and style: Rap.

Check out ‘Jingostan’ from the recent Ranveer Singh-Alia Bhatt hit Gully Boy: “Do hazaar atthra hai, desh ko khatra hai/har taraf aag hai, tum aag ke beech ho/zor se chilla do, sab ko dara do, apni zehreeli been baja ke, sabka dhyan kheench lo…” (It’s 2018, the nation’s in peril/we are all caught in a deadly fire/shout, scream, scare, play your venomous fiddle, divert everybody’s attention).

Because, as the rapper concludes, Jingostan is where we now live.

Also read: Modi’s 2019 mantra: Forget achhe din, fear terror, Pakistan, Muslim


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  1. Shekhar ji according to you who should be the PM of India. Rahul Gandhi, Soniya Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra, P Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar, etc. For me:
    Rahul Gandhi is good for nothing.
    Soniya Gandhi is dictator
    Priyanka Vadra’s family is facing corruption charges which includes Rahul Gandhi and Soniya Gandhi also.
    P Chidambaram as finance minister did nothing for India’s development but his children is facing corruption charges
    Manmohan Singh is puppet of Soniya Gandhi.
    And list continues

    While Modiji never gave undue advantage to his family. He gave India some stand against cross border terrorism on international level.

    Modiji is trying to keep the country clean. What you did to keep your country clean?

    Regarding job creation what Congress did when they ruled the country for 65+ years.

  2. This time Modi must be elected. Only then Indian will know the real consequences of ONE MAN SHOW and TWO MAN ARMY that India has suffer in the coming years.
    Good Luck Indians

  3. Your article is well-written and it portrays the situation on the ground. In fact, the comments you have received justify whatever you have expressed in the article.

  4. The article is saddening and the comments are scary… I do hope that most of these come from the BJP it-cell, else it bodes very ill for India. Thank you SG for putting down in writing what many of us realized already with sadness and foreboding.

  5. “It takes some campaign genius to get so many in distant places to succumb to such mass suspension of disbelief.”What I find amusing is this allegation that the ordinary “stupid” people of India, especially its youth, unthinkingly fall for concern about a sense of attack on the identity of India from within and without. This, when the elite intellectuals have bought all the nourishment thrown at them by the corrupt dynastic political entities without questioning what they represented and the limitless looting of the national coffers. Seen the lifestyle of Socialist Gandhis, Mulayam Yadav, Mayawati? The obscene corruption of Jayalalithas and Karunanidhi? And even today these Lutyens Lackeys would heartily adopt a moronic coke-head Rahul Gandhi or Mayawati or anyone but Modi as the credible leader of their country! When you have such patriots who needs anti-nationals?

  6. Sir,
    You are always close to accuracy.

    As I am an Economist, what I believe is :

    According to Adam Smith Supply creates its own demand and according to Keynes Demand creates its own supply.
    Modi, Shah are suppliers and Hindu fanatics are demand creators AND at times vice versa.
    They are complimentary to each other. They can’t survive without each other.
    As they are in majority, all those who don’t like them have to wait with clasped hands and dropped jaws.
    Democracy is the rule of majority and so No option.
    History is full of Hitlers, Saddams, Chengez Khans, Ahmed Shah Abdalis.
    They were adamant and they made downfalls of their empires rolling.
    I believe India is still strong from within and won’t let it’s own destruction, and divisions. It’s just a time period and India will come out this communal divide and jingoism.

  7. Sekhar sir, please tell us your own contribution in nation building. Where you have taken some permanent loss for the country.
    We have options, some one is taking personal risk and implemented some policies against the political normal and still has courage to talk why he has taken those decisions. Give me one example in Indian political history where ruling party has spoken so openly against their core otters .

  8. Well, it took you so much time to recognize it. After 2 phases. God knows what you will realise after 4 phases! Carry on.

  9. Usual left liberal pseudo secular article but written in his usual style by Shekhar. BJP has to strategize this election on majority versus minority plank, as all the regional parties are ganged up with Hindu caste card plus minorities. No opposition party is talking of jobs, growth, etc that BJP has to counter those arguments. Thus, everyone is polarizing the elections in own ways. So why blame BJP! After all, Modi came to power on the back of development and reform plank in 2014. This time strategy has changed. If you don’t want to vote for him, why beat your chest? Just go and convince voters directly but don’t waste time in howling at BJP. Come on, Shekhar, go back to true national interest and write some good articles.

  10. I keep seeing their argument here and thinking… Are we moving to the worst phase of India after which it will be difficult to look back… Even here I am seeing people writing that Pakistan is a reality and Muslims in India are a harm… It saddens me..

    Tell me how many of you guys would ask your mother to slap your Dad and mistreat him because in the neighboring houses the men mistreat women… ?

    It’s the same logic which has been thrown at everyone here by BJP.. and people seem to love it…

  11. Duh! comes to mind after reading this.

    Mr Shekhar Gupta how come you are not commenting on the allegations of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India?

    Last year when the CJI along with 4 other sitting SC judges went on a unprecedented press conference — i think you were seen escorting the judges at that presser.

    Shekhar Gupta then hysterically wrote the next 48 hours are crucial for the republic. Nothing much happened. Life went on.

  12. Shekhar Gupta’s mask finally comes off. I guess his political masters are demanding repayment for the past favors.

    • So True !! The MASK behind which Shekhar Gupta has been hiding for 35 years has Finally Come OFF ! HIS POLITICAL MASTERS of who Shekhar is a INSIGNIFICANT STOOGE & PUPPET are UNDOUBTEDLY Demanding REPAYMENT with Interest for PAST FAVORS !!!!

  13. Very well written, as usual classic Shekhar Gupta, though do not agree fully with this. Right now there are three choices for those who dislike the way democratic elections are being fought in some of the most vibrant democracies: (1) grin and bear it (the US, the UK, India); (2) migrate to seemingly more staid political atmosphere (China, Saudi, UAE, Pakistan); or (2) migrate to seemingly saner political landscapes (Canada).

    I was born in Mumbai though raised as a North Indian. Then worked in Mumbai in late 1990s (pre 9/11 days), and then visited Mumbai recently after a long gap. I got a feeling that the number of burqas even in liberal suburbs was much more than I had seen during my earlier stay. Some would say that it is a freedom of choice, others could argue that the overwhelming display of conservatism may be due to some unofficial diktat within the community to assert its identity.

    Finally, these are facts: where did Dawood and Osama get sanctuary? In Islamic Republic of Pakistan. What was their religion? Everyone knows. The identity led war is on for a long time (remember the famous words “if you are with them, you are not with us”). It is just that Modi and Shah are now playing that wavelength on a national scale.

  14. Excellent. But please also tell me — and I would really appreciate an answer — how you see Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declaring openly that the first right on the resources of India vests with Muslims? In BJP’s campaign, I only see a call for a vote for equal treatment of ALL, a vote for the party that is bold enough on its borders, a vote for a stable government rather than a mishmash. If you see demons where none exist, you have only yourself to blame.

    It is even more odd that Shekar Gupta should blame Modi-Shah for ‘jingoism’, when his own publication has this story, that too right below his:

  15. Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist, Barnala (Punjab)

    Mr. Shekhar Gupta, you seem to be confused, suffering from ambiguity !

    This week’s ” National Interest ” episode from your pen is full of too many
    overlappings and yawning gaps ! At the behest of NaMo and Amit Shah you
    are creating an ” aura of fear psychosis ” among the countrymen in wake of
    bogey of ” Pakistan Scare ” harped on “scary jingoism” by the duo on the one
    hand and then on the other hand you are patting them up with “ifs” and
    “buts” of success !

    Then in the age of technological revolution, your observation that the duo
    can mislead the “youth “and ” demographic dividend” with past of India since
    independence defies logic !

    In nut shell, I am of the conviction this episode in question is not free, fearless
    fair and objective piece of writing !

    The independent journalism ought to boost up the morale of the masses cheering
    them up guiding them to follow the right track in such like pell-mell situations !
    It is not at all desirable to mess up things and baffle the electorate complicating
    the scene with plethora of conflicting and paradoxical pleas !

    Prof PK Sharma, Freelance Journalist
    Pom Anm Nest,Barnala (Punjab)

  16. Sir, please don’t pretend that Pakistan doesn’t exist or it means well. I was watching 26/11 in horror on TV and I was quite sure that MMS and Gandhi family wouldn’t go beyond empty platitudes and incoherent murmuring.
    That Modi (yes not the army) makes Pakistan close its airspace for a month is reassuring to me indeed and I am not ashamed.
    As for fifth columnists, a fifth of this country is populated by people whose ancestors only a generation and a half back created separate countries for themselves. They swear by the same book ISIS does, continue to deny the majority their number one place of worship, run their own personal laws, vote enbloc for regressive parties who pander to them but hold the nation back and play the victim card most expertly. I am sure you can’t guarantee they wouldn’t ask for a separate country in another 30 years time.
    Yes Modi has weaknesses. He needs to replace Jaitley with someone who knows what he is doing, someone from Harvard/Chicago maybe. He shouldn’t have done deMO obviously. Modi needs to build institutions that the Congress only destroyed – judiciary and a functional policing system etc. he needs to double down on infra and job creation.
    But there is no way that anyone from your Mahagathbandan is even remotely willing forget capable of doing. It’s a classic case of Fool me once, shame on you, fool me over and over and over again..well you know how it goes.

  17. The people are to be blamed for electing leaders like Modi.Of course most of them are gullible and naive. You can’t help. see what happen in USA and Israel.People elect wrong leaders and end up destroying themselves.This is what Amos Oz the famous writer and peace activist observed when he said democracy is facing serious crisis sitting the election of Trump and Netinyahu.

  18. How much are you getting by writing stupid thing.
    I see no fear not is just media and some stupid reporter like you, who earned money by Congress for years for writing bad about others.
    See yourself in mirror once. kashmiri pandito ka khoon tumhare hath pe bhi hai.

  19. Shekhar. How have you woken up to this now?!

    Gujarat? It’s the same playbook. It was always the same playbook. India has chosen this.

  20. Dear Shekhar

    I used to have a semblances of respect for your political neutrality as reflected in your well argued articles, till I read this howler.

    Reading this almost completely gives an impression that you have cut the body to fit the jacket rather than the other way around!

    What you call Jingostan sounds romantic and cute, till you have a sudden 1962 or a 1999 where India was treacherously and unexpectedly attacked by your great neighbourly friends China and Pakistan.

    It is the unprecedented resolve and action both at Doklam and Balakot that Modi showed which has indeed infused a new fear of uncertainty in the minds of India’s enemies. But perhaps you more approve of the Lutyens Dr Saab doctrine of ‘peace’ and ‘glorified non action’ when India meekly submitted at the time of 26/11. Your article is indeed very poorly argued and has a naked bias towards Modi that borders on compulsive contrarianism as someone put it.

  21. I thought Shekhar Gupta was an almost neutral journalist. But this article is hollow and reeks of Congress propaganda.

  22. दिनकर जी ने लिखा है: जब नाश मनुज पर छाता है, पहले विवेक मर जाता है। पढ़े-लिखे, अपने को कुलीन समझने वाले स्वयंभू उदारों की मंडली, खुद को ज्ञानी दूसरों को अनपढ़, अशिक्षित समझने वाले पत्रकारों का समूह भी अविवेकी हो सकता है।आप तो समझते ही होंगे कि विवेक का शिक्षा से कोई सीधा संबंध नही होता।अर्थात, एक अशिक्षित या अल्प शिक्षित व्यक्ति भी विवेकवान हो सकता है।उसी तरह अकादमिक ज्ञान से सुसज्जित किन्तु व्यावहारिक ज्ञान से विहीन व्यक्ति भी अविवेकी हो सकता है। देश में एक धनाढ्य किंतु जातिरहित लोगों का ऐसा वर्ग है जो मौसम के थपेड़े से मुक्त होता है क्योंकी सामाजिक संरचना में सबसे ऊपर रहता है और ‘कोई भयो नृप हमें का हानि’ जैसे रक्षा कवच से लैस होकर सभी तरह से साधन सम्पन होता है।उन्हें किसी किस्म की असुरक्षा का अहसास नही होता। इसीलिए ऐसे लोंगों को दम्भ और अहंकार घेर लेता है और उन्हें आम देशवासी बेवकूफ़ और अंधे नजर आने लगते हैं।लेकिन हम जैसे आम लोग जो जमीन पर रहते हैं और सभी तरह के बुरे प्रभावों को झेलते हैं उनमें असुरक्षा की भावना तो पनपेगी ही खाशकर जब वह देखता है कि बाटला हाउस एनकाउंटर में शहीद इंसपेक्टर एम सी शर्मा का कोई नाम नही लेता लेकिन तत्कालीन सत्ता के गैर संविधानिक प्रमुख दो आतंकियों के मारे जाने पर फुट-फुट कर रोती हैं तो असुरक्षा की भावना तो पैदा होगी ही। जब वह देखता है कि रक्षा सौदे में कमीशनखोरी की बात ना हो सके इसलिए लोकतंत्र के चतुर्थ स्तम्भ का पैसे के बल पर मुंह बंद कर दिया जाता है, जब वह देखता है देश के संसाधनों पर वोट की खातिर एक समुदाय विशेष को पहला स्थान दिया जाता है, जब वह देखता है कि देश के शान्तिप्रिय बहुसंख्यक समुदाय को घृणित तरीके से आतंकवादी बताने की चेष्टा की जाती है तो असुरक्षा की भावना को कौन रोक सकता है। लेकिन जब कोई उनकी पीड़ा समझने लगता है तो वो उस आम वर्ग का हीरो हो जाता है।आप चाहें उस बड़े वर्ग को अंधा कहें लेकिन यही वर्ग एक दिन दुष्टों द्वारा तथाकथित ज्ञानी उदारवादियों के धूर्ततापुर्ण सहयोग से आम आदमी की छाती पर खड़ा किये आडम्बरयुक्त महल को छिन्न-भिन्न कर देगा।तब ना बचेगा दुष्टों का राजवंश ना बचेगी उनको टुकड़ो पर पालने वाली कीर्तन मंडली।

  23. Too much of vacuous punditry. Modi has done significant reforms in economic administration, he has scored high on corruption less administration, significant infrastructure project delivery, tax reforms etc. Unfortunately it is not enough as economics is not the strong point of even middle classes. He has to use some emotive issues in campaigning. Opposition plays into his hands which he milks fully. If Digvijay Singh can call: 1. Osama bin laden as Osamaji 2. Dispute Hemant Karkare’s murder by Paki terrorists 3. Question Batala House encounter and say the killing of the Delhi Police officer is staged by Police themselves, why not use it against Congress and Digvijay Singh himself. If you appease or if the Muslim community patronizes crooks like Digvijaysingh and Rahul, they will earn just deserts.


      • By social fabric if you mean:
        1) Freedom to convert majority
        2) Insult and demean majority on every platform
        3) Oppose the nation and do activities against the nation’s interest

        Then yes

        • You are no one to appropriate the authoritity decide what is nation and what is in the interest of nation.. Others are also part of the nation. Your fantacy is not nationalism.

        • hubris has two sequela. ate and nemisis. it is hubris now. but you will have comeuppance with the next two in succession.absolte and certain. best of luck

  24. All pretense of neutral journalism is off ! It seems as if the author is saying RaGa with his promise of 72,000 per person and Mahagatbandhan parties are the epitome of truth and honesty and secularism, despite.poltics of appeasement.

    • journalism should not be neutral. It should be objective.back in 2014 sekhar gupta also proped up this megaalomaniac demogaug Modi. Probably he is contriie about it. That is all

  25. It’s funny/ ironic how both the Right (BJP) and Centre-Left (Congress and others) have built a narrative that the nation is in danger. BJP would claim it’s the Congress, ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ allying with Pakistan and Naxals alike to create instability, and hence national security should be the only voters’ concern. Whereas the Congress says it’s the Constitution and Institutions that are in real danger, which will eventually bring the country down. I would want The Print and Shekhar sir to comment on this seemingly different narratives of both factions, which remains same at the very core. And also, is the country really in danger?

  26. Part of lutyen narrative to defame bjp and modi. There are traitors within the country who eating the roti here, praise pakistan as if it is heaven.what modi shah did was to expose such elements,combat their masters in pakistan. The result, outside kashmir, not a single terror atrack because modi shah will not appease anyone at the cost of the nation.
    Pray for the duo to return with greater strength to safeguard India and take it newer heights.

  27. I was hoping for a good news. This is really heartbreaking that youth of India are going to vote on zombie issues.

  28. An old proverb : those who live by the sword, die by the sword. And a Rajkumar dialogue : “yeh bachhon ke khelne ki cheez nahin hai, Jani. Lag jaye, toh khoon nikal aata hai.” (Rajkumar the hero in the movie, Waqt. He twirls a knife in his hand and says the above dialogue.)

    Modi and Shah do not realize that they are displaying the hallmark trait of a coward – – going extra verbally belligerent in front of a weaker opponent. Why make extra effort to incite a man with a knife? They have set a tone of aggression merely to win an election which they will find difficult to tone down if they do win. What will be the consequences? I am least bothered about what happens to Modi and Shah personally. What will happen to we the poor countrymen, we’ll see!

    • The contrimen are to be blamed for electing leaders like Modi.Of course most of them are gullible and naive. You can’t help. see what happen in USA and Israel.People elect wrong leaders and end up destroying themselves.This is what Amos Oz the famous writer and peace activist observed when he said democracy is facing serious crisis sitting the election of Trump and Netinyahu.

  29. Your hatred on Modi and Shah has shown that You are a IDIOT FOOL and Moron.They are nothing in India.It is people who were awakened by both on the dangers emanated from people like you who reap the harvest from sky.It is no more Sonia Gandhi who can pay you daily bucks.Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are not JINGOIST but Practical.The knows the dangers from people like you who are working against own country.It is Modi who has tolerated your blasphemy in last 5 years.It need a YOGI Adityanath who will not tolerate you people and will put in Hell soon. Wait till 2024 when YOGI will be PM and deal with you people.
    Modi shah both are lenient on you and your clan.When the notification to stop lies rumours news in media you cried out and MODI withdrawn the notification.But That was a fallacy.You need a Pakistan type govt where Govt will put you in Jail fro spreading hatred lies and rumours.You may have seen the condition of Journos in Pakistan.India is far better than these countries who you adore like your long lost brother

  30. I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Gupta. He is an out of touch, old India, Lutyens mediawallah, marinated in a false, manufactured idea of India of the Congress party. The people have finally woken up to the monumental fraud perpetrated on them by the Congress party with the help of its minions in the media, academia and the foreign funded NGOs. No amount of wailing from Mr.Gupta will shake the power of the truth.

  31. Who cares or bothers. In many places a perception has gone into poor people’s mind that only Modi can manage all ills. Some places they are not even bothered about candidate but claim they would vote for the sake of Modi. It was something similar when people voted in the name of Indiraji. Thankfully she did not use jingoism to get votes

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