India goes to polls under shadow of polarisation, politicisation of armed forces

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, March 10: India goes into 7-phase elections to the Lok Sabha from April 11 next under the unprecedented shadow of politicisation of defence forces and polarisation, not just on questionable performance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Under scrutiny is his personal performance going the latest slogan ‘Modi hai to mumkinhai’.

Polling would be held in Punjab and Chandigarh on May 19 in the last phase and counting of votes would be on May 23.

Modi had started with the slogan of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ in 2014 but his government floundered with his two decisions causing major economic upheaval. These were demonitisation and implementation of GST. Going by one of the objectives of demonitisation that was to check terrorism, Pulwama should not have happened.

Both these decisions hit the small business the most and the economy just failed to generate employment at the rate that was needed to accommodate the ever increasing work force. Virtually every economic index indicates lack of performance of Modi government. The agrarian distress continues to deepen with no long term solution having been evolved at the national level.

BJP’s mentor Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh brought in the agenda of cow in a subtle move to divert attention from the real issues confronting the people and the economy. This agenda unleashed forces of polarisation with Muslims at the receiving end. The situation is the worst in the area that is known as the Hindi heartland or the Cow Belt. Even the Congress is soft-pedalling this fear factor as that might further deepen this polarisation.

Pulwama could not have happened at an  more opportune time as this terrorist action killing 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir changed the entire narrative in favour of Modi. Modi decided to act against Pakistan and the air strike has strengthened his image of He-man. In the process, Modi and his BJP has politicised the defence forces that did not happen in 1971 when India under Indira Gandhi broke Pakistan into two.

Modi has stopped talking of his performance after Balakot air strike and he seems to be contesting elections on this single point agenda. It is a different matter that the international media has questioned the outcome of India’s air strike.

However, Pulwama has changed the election narrative and the opposition is now trying to reshape its campaign.

Besides the economy and the failure to implement 2014 poll promises, the one issue on which the Modi government is finally at the receiving end is Rafale deal, especially after the admission by the government in the Supreme Court that documents on the basis of which The Hindu exposed certain vital aspects were genuine. However, the air strike is more dominating narrative, especially in the states like UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttrakhand.

India is at a critical juncture in the context of anti-minority agenda of the RSS. This election has to decide as to what course has India to follow 70 years after independence. A democratic country just can’t be a polarised state.

It is pertinent to mention that the issue of constructing Ram mandir at Ayodhya was revived by the RSS and its affiliate Hindutva bodies about a year back and that was the first indication about the shape of campaign.

The opposition would have to focus aggressively on Modi’s non-performance on governance front. That is his weakest spot.

Yet a major achievement of Modi is his taming of the media in general and the TV network in particular. Majority of the TV channels continue to out-compete each other in turning non-professional.

Jagtar Singh


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