After a fiercely fought battle between a range of political parties, ideologies, activists and narratives, it was ultimately democracy that emerged victorious in the 2019 election. However, a large section of the media, intellectuals and general public are bewildered over the magnitude of the victory obtained by the ruling party. The post-election analyses also look generalised and oversimplified. This article aims to explain some nuances on why the grand triumph of the ruling party should have been expected.
Let’s begin with good governance. This requires a better understanding because in the guise of trivial issues being taken up by popular media platforms, the work done by the Union government goes unnoticed. This is unfortunate because it is this grassroots-level work which has brought positive changes to the lives of people, and it is people who vote, who matter and who form the essence of democracy. Of the approximately 25 crore households and 90 crore voters, about 60 crore people (2.3 per household) voted in the election.
Will the 7.2 crore households who got free LPG connections for the first time under the Ujjawala scheme not think about voting for the prime minister? Will 3.26 crore below poverty line (BPL) households who have seen electricity for the first time in their houses under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana not feel urged to vote the government back into power? Will users of over 9 crore free toilets built under the Swacch Bharat scheme not feel grateful for receiving such basic necessity? Will 12 crore entrepreneurs (74 per cent being women, 55 per cent from the SC/ST households) receiving collateral free loans under Mudra scheme not feel empowered, especially when over 3 crore of them were first-time entrepreneurs?
Will beneficiaries of over 90 lakh houses under the PM Awas Yojana (Gramin) who are now getting a permanent roof to stay not feel obliged to vote for the current dispensation? Will 35 crore people getting zero balance accounts for the first time in their life not feel a sense of enablement in the area of financial inclusion? Apart from this, will millions of first-time air flyers under the UDAN scheme not find their lives changing? Will exceptional rate of infrastructural development not give households the forward and backward linkages for further economic activity? Will record-breaking beneficiaries under crop insurance schemes not feel secured when farming crisis is nearing? Is the visible decline in the numbers related to Naxalism not creating life more secure for lakhs of households?
All the points mentioned have been repeatedly mentioned by the prime minister in his speeches, but the media’s selective reporting on some issues (like words on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) got disproportionate coverage, conveniently ignoring how lives of people have been transformed. Luckily, it’s the people who vote in celebrating the festival of democracy. The above numbers are likely to get additionally impressive with schemes like Ayushman Bharat and PM KISAN coming in full force now.
Further, the undercurrent and the narratives throughout the elections were set by the ruling establishment and information is the currency of democracy. Rafale, EVM hacking were non-starters not just because they were manufactured but also because they had no validation from any institutions. One must remember the legitimacy which such institutions carry in a democracy, including India. It has been largely seen throughout the world that people want strong leaders who can set the right agendas of economic and social development. As quoted recently in a popular TV series, “There’s nothing more powerful than a good story.” A good story has no enemies.
Moreover, a popular saying in politics goes: “one plus one does not make two”. The surge in vote share of the winning party shows not just the limitations of arithmetic alliances, but also its side effects. Some of them include the rise of parallel political parties by the rebels, independent candidates, lack of clarity in agenda, disbelief among voters due to depiction of insecurity by leaders and solidarity among swing voters.
Abraham Lincoln famously said that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and this becomes particularly relevant in elections that are hard to win but easy to lose. When alliances are formed on what French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser called “subjective urgency”, the results might go haywire. Some lessons by Althusser are particularly appropriate at this point. “Politics is a protracted war. Try to see things far in advance, and know how to wait. Don’t live in terms of subjective urgency. Know how to put your defeats to use.”
Likewise, governance measures at various state levels like the technologically profuse organisation of Kumbh mela, decline in corruption levels, and crackdown on hoarders among others helped the Union government return to power.
Various foreign policy successes like the membership of MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group, the successful handing of Doklam standoff, the designation of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, Mission Shakti, surgical strikes, air strikes and the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman within hours magnificently gave the public an idea of the Rising India under PM Modi’s leadership. While the privileged ones complain that spending on missions like Shakti is futile when India faces difficulties in solving basic issues, the reality is that those actually facing these basic issues take pride.
Sadly, today, it is always easy to quote jargons like hyper-nationalism, social engineering, fake news, and public perception management to explain the victory because it’s not just convenient but also encourages yellow journalism. Investigation needs research, which needs an unbiased lens to judge every action of the government vividly. Hopefully in the coming elections, when schemes targeting micro-level ground realities aiming to get rid of deprivations faced by poor get laurels are included, the analysis should also start shifting from narrow lines of caste and religion to more inclusive parameters that are changing the lives of ordinary Indians and bringing Achhe Din.
The author is an Indian Revenue Service officer.