While the whole country is in an expectant — not triumphalist — mood following the massive and pervasive support the people from all sections have given to the Narendra Modi-led BJP in this election, predictably one group is mourning — the ‘jholewalas’. One of them, Harsh Mander (A battle for India’s soul, Democracy Wall, May 29), portrays the winning side as just one out of three and the losing side as two out of three. The blame for this majority not getting reflected in the results he pins on the first-past-the-post electoral system.
While millions came out in cheering the winners — that included people from all walks of life, including minorities — Mander sees only “despair and desolation of the people” (perhaps the winning side of 300 MPs and the crores who voted for them are not among the “people” ).
He weeps for them and has already concluded (by what sort of survey or public opinion he does not clarify) “that it is they — and not merely the parties they support — who have been vanquished”.
His comment is that the election has seen “majoritarian consolidation” and that it is against pluralism and welfare economics of the poor. This thesis ignores the reality that if the Congress (the custodian of pluralism and welfare economics for 60 years) was in power so far it was because of the same first-past-the-post electoral system.
But when the BJP wins under that very system, it is “majoritarian consolidation”. He does not tell us where the BJP has said in its manifesto or in its campaign with development as the pivot, that it has abandoned the poor or the minorities.
Such crying for the poor and claiming to speak for the “people” is the stuff of Leftist parties for long decades. If the past governments were upholding welfare economics and pluralism why is it that the country has over 400 million people with below $2 a day per capita income?
Why is it that the data of the “lifting of 170 million out of poverty in the last 10 years” was manipulated by simply lowering the poverty line from $2 to $1.5 a day?
These ‘jholewalas’ were dominating the elected government of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a decade. Their so-called ‘pro-poor’ programmes like the rural jobs guarantee scheme, the ‘livelihood’ mission and the food security legislation were imposed on a government that had serious concerns over their practicality or even utility. So much so that the proposal went back and forth for well over two years between the Cabinet and the National Advisory Council (NAC).
Mander forgets that it is his food security hyperbole that forced the government to store up 80 million tonnes of foodgrains, which, as economists have revealed, reduced grains in the open market and pushed up prices.
The previous government’s growth programme created no additional jobs while the NAC’s rural job guarantee without asset creation led to money being pushed into rural areas and the consequent rise in inflation in food commodities hurt the very poor the jholewalas were claiming to help.
The writer should have read the writing on the wall when the same poor in lakhs of villages rejected the Congress’ claim of being pro-poor, ignored the Congress accusation of ‘divisive politics’ against the BJP and voted 71 BJP MPs out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh, 22 out of 40 in Bihar and all of the BJP and its allies in state after state, even in the North-East, supposed to be the bastion of the Congress and its ‘welfare economics’.
Mander, who includes Christians among those stunned by the results, forgets that even in Christian-majority states like Meghalaya and Nagaland, BJP-supported candidates have won. What if there was no Muslim candidate from Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha when there are Indians there?
Is it that people like him are alarmed when perhaps for the first time the Muslims, who participated in the polling in large numbers, did not bother to look at the religious tag of the candidates? Probably, they pressed the button for the ‘Indian’ by his capacity to deliver development, thereby rejecting the permanent divide that the fashionable secularists have been propagating. They want to label candidates by their faith rather than by their Hindustaniyat.
The Mander thesis raises the question of who divides the country. How does the support from the very minorities, for whom he weeps, to candidates endorsed by Modi become “majoritarian consolidation”? If the caste-based appeal and the religion-based appeasement of the BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh and of the JD(U) in Bihar are rejected, that could only mean a response to Modi’s projection that we must all think and act as “Indians first”.
To characterise this consolidation of all across castes and religions as “majoritarian” is to keep the country divided into majority-minority camps that so-called secular parties and intellectuals and jholewalas have been propagating over decades.
When the Muslim weaver of Varanasi votes with his Hindu trader for the same Modi that is consolidation for the country and the death of divisiveness. The NAC members, who ran the country without any accountability for years, are “stunned and frightened” by the result, not “the Muslims and also Christians”.
In reality the “exiles from hope” are the very NAC members who henceforth cannot ride roughshod over the elected government and hammer out policies without any accountability.
The likes of Mander are disturbed because their game of keeping India divided on caste, community and religion lines has collapsed. He talks of the battle for the soul of India.
Surely when there is such consolidation of diverse people around ‘one India’ and one cause, that is development, the battle for the real soul of India has already been fought and won by and through the BJP under its new mass and decisive leader.
(Balbir Punj is national vice-president, BJP. The views expressed by the author are personal.)