Election 2019 and India’s soul: The Guardian doesn’t know what it’s talking

Lalit Shastri

On the eve of polling for the Bhopal parliamentary seat in Madhya Pradesh, central India, where senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh was pitted against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur of Bharatiya Janata Party, a few prominent citizens were busy discussing their options for voting. All of them known Congress supporters, were having a different take this time. They were of the view that irrespective of who was contesting from Bhopal as BJP candidate, their vote would go to Modi. One of them underscored his stand by stating that the Congress party should be jolted into sitting up. Qualifying his position further, he said: “only a crushing defeat in this election would call for introspection and bring an end to dynastic rule in Congress. None of those engaged in this discussion were ready to digest the hegemony or the octopus-like grip of the Gandhi-Vadra family over the Congress party.

The result: Just like most Congress candidates across India, including Congress President Rahul Gandhi who lost in Amethi, Digvijay Singh also suffered a crushing defeat in Bhopal. Its time for the Congress party to do some soul-searching

The Guardian published a highly opinionated edit on 23 May, coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide victory, with the title: “The Guardian view on Narendra Modi’s landslide: bad for India’s soul”. This opinion piece plunges to abysmal depths. Surely, it competes with the pre-election issue of Time mgazine that has Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the cover with the tagline “Divider in Chief”. Now, after Modi’s historic victory, the Guardian says: “The BJP is the political wing of Hindu nationalism, a movement that is changing India for the worse. Little wonder, as it stands for the flagrant social dominance of the upper castes of Hindu society, pro-corporate economic growth, cultural conservatism, intensified misogyny, and a firm grip on the instruments of state power. The landslide win for Mr Modi will see India’s soul lost to a dark politics – one that views almost all 195 million Indian Muslims as second-class citizens.

No matter how hard these media brands may try to divide the Indian society, the fact that emerges from the 2019 General Election to the Indian Parliament is that the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Narendra Modi, has brought the curtain down on the vulgar and the dark side of Indian electoral politics that’s been dominated till now by sops and doles, appeasement of minorities, caste equations and rampant use of muscle and money power to rig elections where ever possible.

The Guardian is talking of “India’s soul” in the post 2019 election scenario, when the entire Opposition has been routed and shown its place. In sharp contrast, over the last several decades, till Modi stepped in as Prime Minister in 2014, one has kept wondering about what’s been left of India’s spirit and soul – a nation cursed to watch the so-called Congress leaders, the unworthy successors of those who had sacrificed their all for the cause of the country’s freedom, play second fiddle to Gandhi-Vadra family. The Congress first family’s minion – the satraps – who have commanded high positions during previous Congress regimes, have amassed huge wealth with the help and connivance of crony capitalists and pliable bureaucrats. They have flourished in an ecosystem characterised by a warped polity that allowed them to thrive on sectarian and divisive vote bank politics and the aping of the Venezuelan Hugo Chavez model underscored by politics revolving around neopatrimonialism. What compounded the situation with Congress at the helm, was the extremely poor and timid handling of the Kashmir crisis and terrorism exported from Pakistan during Congress rule.

The people of India have conveyed to the entire world that they are not going to take all this lying down and they voted with vengeance in the just concluded election.

During the 2019 election, Congress President Rahul Gandhi brought down the campaign narrative to its nadir when he started calling Modi a thief. For Modi, who had five years of positive governance as his track record, defeated Rahul à la the famous knockout bout between Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) and Sonny Liston in 1965.

Epilogue: Rahul was just no match for Modi in Election 2019. What proved a Waterloo for the Congress party was its professional leaders’ pronounced willingness to lie prostrate 24×7 before Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Vadra, who was annointed as party General Secretary just before the 2019 General Election.

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