Electoral verdict defeats democracy in Gujarat by Vidya Bhushan Rawat (JANUARY 08, 2013)
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
The election results in Gujarat are out now and Narendra Damodar Bhai Modi has comfortably returned to power in the state for the third consecutive times though he could not increase the number of seats held by him last time proving all the pollsters absolutely wrong who had predicted a massive victory for him. Immediately after the verdict, a triumphant Modi spoke in Hindi to his ‘national’ audience who are now roaring for his ‘role’ in the national politics. Modi as well as BJP or NDA have a right to project him as the leader of their party and contest elections under his leadership as they have done in Gujarat but there is no need for reading too much into his ‘Hat-trick’ as there are political leaders in India who have got much bigger mandate than Modi and ruled their states for years including Jyoti Basu in West Bengal or CPM as a party. Many of the states like Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh, and Delhi have governments of Congresss Party for second to three consecutive years hence nothing to boast about his victory.
Ofcourse, he won the elections and his ‘tricks’ must be acknowledged simply because the opposition in Gujarat has not taken on Modi head on and simply fell in to the trap that he laid for them. Elections are not just using the social media or television channels but also reaching the masses and managing them to the polling booths. The opponents of Modi failed to do so as most of them actually hail from the same school of thoughts though wearing different cloths of political parties at the moment. Shankar Singh Vaghela and Keshu Bhai Patel do not have anything different in perception and ideology to Narendra Modi and hence they could not attract the voters towards them. It happened because the opponents have the same caste and power base quintessentially anti dalit, anti Muslim and anti OBCs. How would you ensure that these sections have fair representation without giving them tickets and strengthening their political leadership?
But there is a fact also in terms of Modi’s popularity which is on diminishing end now. He won 127 seats in 2002, 117 in 2007 and 115 in 2012. Also it is important to see that even 127 is not the best achievments for any political party in Gujarat as Congress did cross that number several times and the highest it got under Madhav Singh Solanki in 1980 to 141. So, a Modi wave would have decimated the Congress but it has a fairly substantial presence in Gujarat despite all odds and communalization process of the Gujarati society. The voting percentage in Gujarat increased this time massively to the extent of 25% from the previous polls in 2007 but the percentage of BJP increased to about 2% from 47% last time to 49% this time. Congress too has a marginal increase in their vote share while others got a heavy 13.5%. It indicate that the new voters have not really shown their preference for Modi so the hype being built about him is nothing but a propaganda unleashed by Modi himself to increase his ‘acceptability’ in the ‘market’ which is already enamored by his ‘developmental’ work in Gujarat.
There is no need to see Gujarat state as a ‘developmental module’ as Modi’s promoters are the builders and Hindutva clergy whose sole agenda is India’s ‘secular’ constitution. It also needs to be seen why the aadivasi dominated regions did not vote for Modi overwhelmingly like the ‘middle classs-upper caste’ dominated seats in rest of Gujarat. If we want to see ‘development’ of Gujarat, it is important to ask where do aadivasis in Gujarat stand for and what have they got in these years.
Gujarat’s ‘developmental model’ was being projected by people but the fact is that at the end of the day Modi returned to his favorite ‘Mia’ Ahmed Patel and his anti-Pakistan rhetoric like the issue of Sir Creek. Shockingly, BJP fielded ‘Muslim’ leaders to defend Narendra Modi and his tasteless jibes against his opponents. Modi has always projected him as the ‘voice’ of 6 crore Gujaratis and now after this victory his ‘followers’ are making him ‘larger’ than life so that he could be used for 2014 general elections.
There is no doubt that Narendra Modi has won elections. Nothing is shocking to us that there are many tainted people who have charges against them in his team including former home minister Amit Shah but any one for the cause of Hindutva can do anything without facing any charge-sheet. The state of India actually will welcome these Hindu fundamentalists as heroes. Very few of them have got into their required destinations otherwise it pays well to raise the Hindu sentiments. ‘Experts’ are now saying that Muslims have voted for Modi and perhaps that is the victory of his ‘sadbhavna’ mission that out of 19 constituencies where Muslim presence was sizable the BJP has secured 12 and the rest went to Congress Party, though it is the dark fact of Gujarat politics that BJP did not give ticket to a single Muslim during the elections. When asked about it, the party simply said that they look for ‘win-ability’ of the candidate and would serve the Muslims well as it does not believe in ‘appeasing’ them.
Democracy is not just a feeling of inclusion of minorities and marginalized in the power structure but also their participation through representation. It is here that Gujarat has miserably failed to provide us a model. If India were to go on Gujarat way then the country would lose everything that it has achieved in the past 65 years. How can a community, 14% of India’s population go without representation in our Parliament? If that be, will it ever call itself a representative parliament? Where are Muslims in Gujarat Assembly who constitute 9% population of the State? Only 2 members of Muslim community have won and their presence would be more symbolic than their ability to do anything inside the assembly where proponents of Hindu Rastra would be in an overwhelming majority. A party which wants to return to power at the Centre does not have enough people from the Muslim community to contest elections and it continue to call its policy as against ‘appeasement’. Is rightful participation in power structure is ‘appeasement’.
Gujarat’s poll results have again shown us the need for genuine poll reforms and shift to Proportionate Electoral System with effective check and balances so that even the most marginalized communities are represented in our system. If the parties are allowed to win seats on the basis of their poll percentage, BJP would have got only 88 Seats out of 182 as their poll percentage was just 49%. Similarly, Congress with its 39% votes would have got 70 seats, 10 more than what they have got. The biggest beneficiary of it would have been Keshu Bhai’s Gujarat Vikas Party who got 13% of total vote polled with 2 seats at the moment would have got around 24 seats. A proportionate system is the most genuine method of converting people’s mandate into seat gains. It would have then forced the parties to give 9% representation to Muslims during elections which meant that they could have got at least 17 seats to contest if not won. Gujarat has a bad track record of Muslim representation and except in 1985 when it had 7 members from Muslim community in the legistlative Assembly and later in 2007 when there were 5 Muslim members, the situation by and large remain the same. Congress Party has not really taken care of them. In fact, when the Congress was ruling Gujarat, even the number did confine to 1 or 2 in the assembly. For Modi and his party communalism or Hindutva is essential as they know well Muslims would not vote for them but the Congress remain more dangerous in this front as it actually wanted to benefit from the helplessness of Muslims. If Modi has not given tickets to enough number of Muslims, that is the stated politics of BJP but what stopped Congress from doing so. It is sad that Muslims have to pay a price for creation of Pakistan and during every election the ‘appeasement’ issue is raised.
India’s second majority cannot be allowed to languish in isolation as the non-representation of the community in power structure will only strengthen the hands of those who believe India essentially a Hindu Rashtra in ‘secular’ garb. The Gujarat elections have broken those myths and in the din of Moditva we are ignoring the harsh realities and dark side of our democratic structure. Modi have used Hindutva card with middle class Hindu voters for his own purpose. BJP has used that in the past in various state elections but due to growing assertion and proximity of the Pasmanda Muslims with Dalits and OBCs, the Hindutva March is halted so far. Unfortunately, Hindutva always worked on the growing cultural gaps between different communities and it is easier for them to use these cultural gaps against Muslims by continuously raking up non relevant issues and pushing them to further marginalization. The current electoral system is always helpful to powerful corporate groups who used these contradictions for their own purposes. Gujarat cannot be a model for rest of the country. It will be a blunder if such dictatorial model is imposed on the country in the name of democracy. We cannot ignore the fact that Hitler came to power in the name of German ‘nationalism’ and destroyed humanity. Germany opted for the proportionate electorate system after that and made enough check and balances so that the Fascist forces are not able to come to power by exploiting the ‘communal nationalistic’ ‘sentiments’ of the people. India needs to prepare itself for future, a country where democracy is inclusive and widely representative and where victory of one party does not result in isolation and marginalisation of a particular community. It is also important that the judicial process of providing people justice who are victim of the Gujarat state and its highhandedness and absolutely communal approach in the aftermath of 2002 riots engineered by the protégé of Hindutva. Though India is a much complex country yet it is important that the secular agenda with inclusive democracy is well placed before political parties claiming to be secular so that fascist demagogues never get a chance to even think of being at the helm of affair of Indian nation. Gujarat has given us an opportunity to think of an electoral system which could be inclusive and ensure each sections of our society is represented in our power structure. That is the only option for India today to save it from Fascist onslaught through democracy when each community would have a fair share in our assemblies and Parliament. A truly democratic society would never allow certain sections as marginalized and isolated which Muslims in Gujarat today are reduced to.
Election results are nothing but popular sentiments of the people and in the First Past the Post System ( FPTP) these results are basically manipulated easily particularly when the religious identity becomes a tool to unite all the others against them. Gujarat society has unfortunately made these elections into Muslims verses others and hence their marginalization is further. No political party could challenge that idea of Muslims and that is where we say the democracy has been defeated in Gujarat. Let India does not turn into Gujarat and the only condition for that would be for political parties to focus on what makes them different than Modi, Moditva and Hindutva. If the political parties want to play second fiddle to political Hindutva then there is no need to have so many political parties, Modi can provide us that model better. Unfortunate situation in Gujarat may be a boon for those who want to replicate it elsewhere and have made their presence stronger. Elections are made to strengthen democracy but our electoral system is responsible for the defeat of democracy and unless the trend is arrested, it would damage India’s future as a democratic society which is already facing lot of challenges from the fundamentalists and communal forces without a real counter from the parties claiming to be secular and those who believe in inclusive politics.