The notification for the 17th Lok Sabha electdions has been issued generating heat and temper that defies summer, setting the stage for intense political tussle and debates. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora and his team decided to hold polling from 11 April to 19 May in seven phases, with Kerala going to the polling booth on 23 April. With the issue of notification, the model code of conduct (MCC) has come into effect, and thus begins another round of political wrestling in the ring of world's largest democracy.
But the first wave of heat hit the Election Commission (EC) itself. Allegations have already been raised against EC that there was a political motive behind the deferment of election declaration by a week, and that the voting date was decided at the BJP office. Congress leader Ahmed Patel hit out that the Commission was waiting for prime minister Narendra Modi to complete his tours. And similar statements by opposition parties including Aam Aadmi Party, can be taken as a taste of things to come in political debates. Now that the MCC has come into force, the central and state governments hence cannot take policy decisions or issues orders in line with them. In other words, the coming days will also see the administrative machinery coming to a virtual halt. In this indefinite state, we will be tuned in to heated political discussions, since the coming election will be that crucial.
One of the social media bits doing the rounds is " When the voters stand in queue for polling, if it invokes memories the old ATM queue, the country will be saved.' Beyond the unpleasant memorires of demonetisation introduced by Modi government, this rings the voice of protest against the onslaughts on democracy by a government. The statement also underlines that the country yearns for a new leader. Read with it the opinion of political observers that if we are going to give a chance to yet another fascist regime the 2019 election will be the last one for democratic India. That is to say, the citizens of the country are looking forward to a liberation from the clutches of fascism that is gripping it now.
And that should be the manifesto for the popular verdict in the upcoming election. The entire picture of deception of the people and breach of promises by the Modi government is before us. Besides this, over the past five years, we have also borne witness to the atrocious scenes of divisive communal agenda implemented with eyes set on the goal of a Hindu nation. In addition, the betrayal of the grassroots segment of the population including farmers, and the stories of corruption like the Rafale deal have emerged now. So, what is to be watched is whether the public feeling against a government that has pilfered the country will be reflected in the electdion. The setback suffered by BJP in assembly elections to the Hindi-heartland states a few months ago, give indications of such an anti-Modi sentiment. It was probably in realization of this fact that BJP was prepared to re-establish its ties with allies like Shiv Sena who had locked horns with it. And the party has also forged alliances in Tamilnadu, Punjab and Bihar along the same lines probably with the perception that it will not be able to come to power on its own as it happened in 2014.
However, on the part of the Opposition there is an all too evident lack of matching vigilance. In spite of the recognition that the arch (common) rival is BJP with its fascism, national parties including the Congress are yet to reach agreement on how a popular alternative government can be formed. And it is also doubtful if Rahul's party has been able to form an alliance in line with the political circumstances in each state. In UP, although the SP-BSP alliance is at the working level an anti-Modi alliance, it cannot be forgotten that Congress is outside that opposition line-up. Among other opposition parties, left parties included, this lack of clarity is patent. And this creates a political uncertainty. Not only that, it even erodes the very concept of a 'grand alliance against fascism'.
At this stage, all that can he hoped is that an anti-BJP grouping will be formed post-poll, as was seen in Karnataka. But at the same time, long before the election notification, the citizenry of the country and voluntary organizatdions had released their manifesto. These manifestoes opposed to hate mongering - the hall mark of neo-fascism- mob killing, corruption and corporatisation, and highlighting issues like unemployment, farmer woes, economic crisis, national security, have by now become subjects of debate. The crucial question staring at us at this juncture is whether our mainstream opposition parties are prepared to internalize them as an election agenda. Let us hope that they will take up that historic role in today's murky circumstances of the country. And now on, let the political narrative and debates be with focus on those themes.