India’s Sixteenth Loksabha Polls
by K Vijayachandran
Elections 2014: For whom the bell tools?
Around 825m voters are listed to vote in the sixteenth Loksabha polls. India is one of the very few countries that have perfected the art and craft electronic voting. The current elections will use about a million Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) designed, developed, manufactured, tested and continually maintained to perfection by Indian engineers and workers.
Indian EVMs were devised and designed by Election Commission of India in collaboration with Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (1). Unlike the controversial Adhar, EVR was a totally indigenous project and highly cost-effective. In many ways, its achievements are comparable to those in atomic energy, rocket technologies and space communications.
Election Commission of India is guided by the modern management principle of centralized policy making and decentralized administration. It has developed into an efficient autonomous institution under the care of Central Government after national independence. Unlike most other institutions under central government, ECI is truly federal and speaks in the local languages or the languages spoken by Indian people.
London Economist, the mouthpiece of global capital, has published a lead article on India’s Loksabha elections in its 5th April issue. Titled, “Can any one stop Narendra Modi? It argues that, “if Modi were to explain his role in the violence and show genuine remorse, we would consider backing him, but he never has; it would be wrong for a man who has thrived on division to become prime minister of a country as fissile as India. We do not find the prospect of a government led by Congress under Mr. Gandhi an inspiring one. But we have to recommend it to Indians as the less disturbing option.”
The sort of rhetoric by Economist reflects not only the fears and confusions that prevail among India’s elite classes but also its own traditional double-speak about Indian democracy and polity: It continues, “Starting on April 7th, illiterate villagers and destitute slum-dwellers will have an equal say alongside Mumbai’s millionaires in picking their government “.
Defeat of Congress and its UPA is conceded by everybody, including their own leaders: According to Indian corporates and the ruling elites that support them, the only alternative is an authoritarian leader like Modi for the holding together a multinational country of continental proportions, based on the great imperial principle of divide and rule! And Modi is presented by the Economist editorial as the joint pick by “illiterate villagers and Mumbai’s millionaires and slum dwellers”, who enjoy an equal say in deciding their government!
These experts and editorial writers have little sense of history to know, how Gandhi and Nehru succeeded in building up a united movement of the Indian people to fight against British imperialism and neo-colonial exploitation. Indian National Congress (INC) organized by its founder AO Hume, soon after the first war of Indian independence, had remained a mere talking shop or debating club of Indian intellectuals and businessmen for long. It was Gandhi who galvanized it into a fighting organization of Indian people of diverse cultures and nationalities (2). He transformed INC into a fighting united front of Indian nationalities that found a mention in janaganaman, the national anthem composed by Tagore.
And Nehru, Gandhi’s successor, had dreamed about the tryst with destiny by Indian nationalities when he spoke to the Indian parliament (Con-Assembly) on the day of deliverance from the Empire. In fact, even much earlier, he had been dreaming about the multifaceted liberation of the Indian people as he wrote the The Discovery of India while in Ahamadnagar jail in 1945. He gives a graphic picture of Science and Technology ( S&T) achievements of Indian society as well as its growth and decay under its caste based feudal system.
After explaining the tragic fate of Ramanujam, the great Indian mathematician, Nehru sums up the situation under British rule with emotion: “Of our millions how few get any education at all, how many live on the verge of star; of even those who get some education how many have nothing to look forward to but a clerkship in some office on a pay that is usually far less than the unemployment dole in England..(3)”.True, things have changed during the past seven or eight decades. But even today more than ninety percent of our working people are employed in the so-called informal sector, where even minimum social security is looked upon as a modern luxury (4).
Russian revolution and the liberation of a hundred nationalities from Tsarist oppression was a source of great inspiration for Nehru.That was how Nehru, the great grand father of Rahul Gandhi tried to follow the so called socialist pattern by introducing the discipline of national five year plans formulated as a consensus among various Indian nationalities or states. Public sector initiatives in key sectors and in infrastructure like irrigation, power, transport and communication etc, based on the policy of technological self-reliance could create millions of jobs that stopped the trend of dependent development by moderating or severing exploitative linkages with developed economies.
Economic development was seen as a continuation of freedom struggle by the united front of Indian nationalities, and Union Government in Delhi seen as a friend, philosopher and guide by state governments. However, with the Indian corporates and other vested interests pulling and pushing Central Government and its five year plans in different directions, the Nehruvian vision was short-lived (5).
INC had entered a phase of irreversible decay even during the days of Indira, despite her commitments to her father’s visionary plans for nation building. Gandhi-Nehru legacy of INC got totally depreciated during the the two decades of IBRD dictated economic reforms. Economic planning based on national consensus degenerated into a system of crony capitalism manged by an all-powerful Prime Ministers Office, during the Manmohan Singh regime (6). Sonia-Rahul leadership of INC is seen as a liability, today, by Indian Corporates and the English speaking intelligentsia that supports them.
Despite the claims of India moving up the global GDP ladder, India is far less respected today by the comity of nations. Indian market is flooded with imported consumer goods and consumer durables when its own manufacturing industry is collapsing. Infrastructure is getting costlier by the day thanks to dependence on imports and its performance is deteriorating in every sector: electric power, water supply, public transport, health, and even education. Our agriculture continues its primitive existence. IT exports are not helping to contain galloping current account deficits. National economy is shamelessly dependent on manpower export and the fears about macro economic instability are genuine.
Special and English medium schooling, the hot favorites of our elite classes, are destabilizing the national economy as well as the national culture. Neighborhood schooling has to be made mandatory and mother tongue has to be the medium of instruction at all levels for salvaging our education system. The massive IT investments made in Adhar, e-governance etc etc have turned unproductive and unsustainable: NGOs and computers cannot be substitutes for real governance by real people.
Governance in our country is failing at every level. Our election campaigns as well as the media are silent about this. Voters in Kerala, where polling was completed on 10th April, were heard grilling the candidates and political parties for the collapse of infrastructure at panchayat and state levels. True, these local issues were not fit for a Loksabha campaign. However, these were real issues: local governments and even state governments were seen as utter failures and there was an urgent need for capacity building and capacity improvements from the street level and reaching up-to the national capital.
A Color Revolution was in the agenda of our English speaking media, print as well as visual, when they launched an anti-corruption movement around Anna Hazare. And, Delhi Assembly election turned out to be a great opportunity to try out Kejariwal who proved himself to be a god that failed. Modi’s men were waiting on the wings and they have galvanized the Indian Corporates and the English speaking media once again, and ask: Can any one stop Nareandra Modi?
Vast majority of Gujarati diaspora living in USA (about 14 Lakhs) are members of Viswa Hindu Parishad of America that supported the Ayodhya movement by sponsoring Karsevaks from various states. RSS supporters are trying to create a Modi wave across India by using this large resource base of Gujarati diaspora. However, no such wave is visible anywhere and there are fears that such open moves for mobilizing NRI support may boomerang. Trend analysis of past Loksabha elections indicates that instances of all India waves were rather rare (7). And, there is nothing unique about the so called Gujarati model and such claims are unlikely to inspire all India waves (8).
In fact, Regional and Left parties dominate the campaign scene in most Indian states. They command vast organizational resources and have a better feel about the crisis of governance facing the country, today. They are better placed to provide an alternative vision for governing the country better and in harmony with the spirit of Indian polity (9). There is a large inventory of sensible recommendations made by the learned bodies appointed for this purpose during the past few decades that remain unimplemented. Only a United Front of regional and left parties and AAP will implement them, considering their priority and relevance. (10).
Notes and references:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_voting_machines, for the details of EVM project
2. See Mahatma and the Ism, Book by EMS Namboodiripadu
3. The Discovery of India-page 221 of 1993 edition
4. Report on Unorganized Sector 2007, by Arjun K Sengupta Committee.
5. Public Sector in India, K Vijayachandran, Marxist December 1988
6. See recent books of Sanjay Baru and PC Parakh
7. Indian Express April 2 2014: Why Waves Don’ t Matter, Praveen Chakravarty & Saumya Tewari
9. Spirit and Form of Indian Polity- Sri Arabindo, 1966 Sri Arabindo Ashram
10. See the article, Center State Relations and the Indian Left, by K Vijayachandran as reproduced in Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism, 2013 Partridge India (Website: ISBN 978-1-4828-1353-1) .