This election is poised for a surprise outcome - Hindustan Times
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This election is poised for a surprise outcome

May 23, 2024 10:00 PM IST

People are realising that life, religion, places of worship and education will all be safe if the Constitution is safe.

As we draw towards the last mile of the general elections, some things have become clear. This is not an election of the “willing suspension of disbelief” that carried the majority for Narendra Modi in 2019. There is considerable scepticism seen in the landscape. In recent weeks, people have been emboldened to put a declining figure in the number of seats for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and each passing phase is consistently pushing the figure far below the majority number.

People at an election rally in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on April 17. (AP Photo) PREMIUM
People at an election rally in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on April 17. (AP Photo)

Meanwhile, the top BJP leadership has broken into far-fetched, unpalatable, plainly divisive arguments that one is reluctant to reproduce. Yet the attempts to polarise between the majority and minority, the South and the North, proponents of oneness and diversity, were clearly not successful. Nor, hopefully, will marginal handouts of free food obscure the concern for jobs, remunerative returns for the farmer, safety and dignity of women, security and respect of Dalits, tribals, backward classes and minorities. Remarkably communities have united in the defence of the Constitution. People are realising that life, religion, places of worship and education will all be safe if the Constitution is safe.

The ruling party concentrated much of its effort on the minorities with the usual allegations of appeasement. Even the Congress manifesto was attacked as a minority document. In all fairness, therefore, a word needs to be said for them. Seldom in the history of independent India have the minorities acted with such determination, sagacity and self-control. Despite attempts to divert their attention or even obstruct their resolve on voting day, they chose to quietly join their majority brothers and sisters in affirming their faith in democracy, going beyond real or imagined differences and grievances of the past.

The INDIA bloc together deserves credit for its combined effort, but, hopefully in the celebration, the sacrifices made will not be forgotten. The success of a social movement depends on fighters in the field as well as those who stand and wait. The alliance cannot be only an electoral event if the commitment to the Constitution has to be taken to a logical conclusion. Our politics on the road ahead has to undertake imaginative changes. The Prime Minister had instructed the civil service to be ready with a 100-day plan. We were, on the other hand, preoccupied with stitching the alliance together and cautious, though determined, in our projections. The prime ministerial face discussion too was assiduously postponed to later, although the ground situation is somewhat clear.

Awaiting us are decisions of huge import in Constitutional terms, those impacting the ideology of the alliance, our relations with the world, commitment to social justice, and delivery of the benefits to women, farmers, students and youth in general, described as Nyay in our manifesto. The teams to operationalise these will have to include personnel from all partner parties in the alliance and broad language of decisions to be passed by all contributing leaders.

Whatever the ruling establishment might say about our intentions, it is clear that morality and ethics are missing from their worldview. Politics is well-nigh impossible without a level of pragmatic decisions in an imperfect world. But the shameless use of investigative agencies and political power to crush free will and choice of citizens has reached an extreme limit of oppression. In times to come, this must be replaced by a sensitive, compassionate administration equipped to legislate reasonable and fair laws that are enforced objectively.

Economic offences can be where there is defiance of basic principles that protect the State economy as indeed where mistakes are made that can be adequately compensated by imposing hefty fines. Prevention of financial loot must be carefully pursued but converting us into a nation of thieves, particularly to seek political advantage, must be abjured. Incentives to be honest have enough scope if decisions are taken with the intent to be fair and forgiving. Laws that force citizens to become dishonest, begetting further dishonesty in prolonged investigations, are no less than inimical of the nation. Changing the system will involve educated attitudinal changes that will need a national renaissance involving civil society, the civil service, intellectuals, media, the judiciary, and the political leadership, in this case cutting across party lines.

From the churning, a new India will be born. It will be a challenge for the leadership of the alliance to steer the moment.

Salman Khurshid is a former minister and senior Congress leader. The views expressed are personal

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