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What Can India Expect If Modi Returns?

June 03, 2024 14:33 IST
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'The Opposition will continue to be attacked through misuse of agencies, civil society will be force-marched towards extinction and India's plummeting on global indices will continue.'

'Minorities and especially Muslims will continue to have open season declared on them. Institutions will continue their decline,' predicts Aakar Patel.

IMAGE: Namami Gange volunteers perform aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi on Sunday, June 2, 2024, after all the exit polls predict a hat-trick victory for the Narendra D Modi government in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Photograph: ANI Photo

A painfully long election in our hottest summer has ended. The tea leaves will be read in the exit polls, but one must keep in mind their imperfect record.

Even for a single state, West Bengal which went to election in 2021, one out of four got the result wrong.

Opinion polls, conducted before this longest cycle of elections was announced, were unanimous that the BJP would get a majority. Today, some are not sure this will be the case, but we shall see.

Without knowing the results however, what can be said about the election that is still important? Let us work our way through the possibilities.

IMAGE: Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (Convenor Arvind Kejriwal before surrendering at Tihar Jail in New Delhi on Sunday, June 2, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The first is that no matter who wins, this was not a free or fair election. Two chief ministers were jailed before campaigning began. Jailed not because they were convicted, but because the BJP wanted them jailed.

One of them was released for a few days of campaigning but returned to jail on Sunday.

The access to bank accounts of the Opposition was restricted, through attacks made by agencies controlled by the BJP.

The Election Commission compromised itself, sadly, and allowed the BJP to control both the planning of the phases and their execution.

The Commission's insolent replies to the Opposition, its refusal to act on the prime minister's hate speeches against Muslims and its refusal to release poll data on time has harmed democracy.

The electoral bonds scheme was determined to be unconstitutional but thousands of crores of rupees raised under it were used in this election, and this has tainted it, irredeemably in my opinion.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party supporters hold cutouts of Narendra Modi in Prayagraj on Sunday, June 2, 2024, as they pray for his victory in the Lok Sabha elections. Photograph: ANI Photo

Next let's look at what the possibilities are.

Since the opinion polls were unanimous, the most likely may seem to be that Narendra D Modi returns to office with a similarly large majority. What should one expect in that case?

More of the same of course. He has run the nation as one would a monarchy and his ministers are courtiers (see their social media accounts bleating his glories).

The Opposition will continue to be attacked through misuse of agencies, civil society will be force-marched towards extinction and India's plummeting on global indices will continue.

Minorities and especially Muslims will continue to have open season declared on them. Institutions will continue their decline.

The consolidation of what a former chief economic advisor has referred to as 'the two As' will continue, meaning corporate capture of the economy. In short what we see around us today will remain as it is.

It is unhealthy to have a single party state, as has happened in Gujarat. The Opposition exists, but only on sufferance.

What happened to opponents and prospective candidates in Surat and in Varanasi will repeat in more places.

It should be conceded that if he wins again Modi will be the most successful leader we have seen in our history, and delivering three consecutive Lok Sabha wins after three Vidhan Sabha wins all with absolute majorities will be a singular achievement.

IMAGE: Dancers celebrate the BJP crossing the halfway mark in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly elections at the party office in Itanagar on Sunday, June 2, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The second possibility is that the BJP gets a plurality of seats but not a majority. Say they get 250 and form the government.

In this case, the situation changes in several ways. First the allies will begin to assert themselves and it will no longer be possible for the king to ignore the courtiers.

Does Modi have it in him to function in more democratic manner? No. This will make such a government more volatile.

Within the party there will be people wanting to assert themselves. The old men in Nagpur, always playing the long game, will raise their heads and become more visible.

IMAGE: Students of the Gurukul School of Art in Mumbai on Saturday, June 1, 2024, paint portraits of Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Kejriwal and others ahead of the Lok Sabha elections result. Photograph: ANI Photo

Some of the things will shift though the attack on minorities will continue because that happens at the level of the states, where in several places the BJP enjoys a certain popularity because of its bigotry.

The attack on federalism will recede. Today India is federal only in name.

States have no power to tax after GST and the unhappiness of many has broken out into the open.

Law and order is a state subject, but from Delhi to Jharkhand to Karnataka to Bengal, the Union has sent out its agencies to undermine state governments and chief ministers.

With the Union government as strong and unwilling to change as it has been, there has been no attempt at redressal.

An alliance government will likely alter that and this will be good for our country.

IMAGE: Modi meditates at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari on Saturday, June 1, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The last possibility is, of course. that the BJP loses.

On the evidence of the opinion polls this is the least likely possibility but one that we have to consider.

To my mind this will be a good outcome and not because of personal preferences entirely. Democracy renews and refreshes itself with changes in government.

One man presiding for decades -- take Putin, Xi and Kim -- rarely produces anything positive.

Some of the things, many of them in fact, that we have taken on since 2014 need to be gotten rid of.

It is true that our democracy gives us the option of countering them in other ways, for instance through the courts or through protest.

But elections are the only way in which changes take place structurally.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024