Campaign for Elections 2014 in India


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Analyzes the election campaigns of the BJP and the Congress in 2014 in India

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Campaign for Elections 2014 in India

  1. 1. 1 Campaign of Slaughter in Election 2014 Barun Kumar Basu Election 2014 has finally come….is indeed almost over. The cause for BJP’s optimism (and conversely pessimism on the Congress’s part) lies in Campaign 2014 – an unparalleled and brilliantly choreographed montage of organization and technology, fueling dreams of plenty in a secular land where development would be the magic mantra. In contrast, the Congress’s machinery remained grouted in 1951, discredited, whimpering and wimpy, indeed even cry babyish, grasping to dynasty and thin air. There has been no such stark contrast in India’s electoral history. If TMC relied increasingly upon often irrational outbursts and musclemen, the JDU took it for granted that RJD would emerge as their replacement. It was only the BJP and the AIADMK whose relatively disciplined cadres imparted some class to Campaign 2014. None of the other parties were able to line up their allied organizations in the fray, so low was their credibility with their supporters. In the event, the RSS lined up its own, VHP, Bajrang Dal (with few stray irresponsible outbursts), BHMS, etc. and sent them on door-to-door campaign expeditions. These cadres, administered by several thousand BJP offices, formed the manufacturing and distribution channel for all propaganda material, meeting logistics for party meetings and keeping a hawk’s eye on their opposition (including an occasional thrashing). Evidently, such cadres were enthused by the ‘returns’ that would accrue to them if the NDA won the 2014 elections. They possessed enough common sense to realize that the Congress stood no chance against the BJP’s juggernaut; conversely the Congress cadres were understandably demoralized. Campaign 2014 also redefined secularism and totalitarianism. Secularism meant that if you tore out your lungs for minorities, wore religious caps and paid minority priests honorarium, you were secular. AAP’s Shazia Ilmi even encouraged hitherto secular minorities to go communal for votes. But woes betide you if you didn’t….you just polarized the vote! Likewise, totalitarianism was the antithesis of secularism with the majority overwhelming minorities. Having realized the futility of its six-decade non-performance, the Congress, in parallel, went to town over Mr. Modi’s allegedly murderous role in the Gujarat riots, portraying him as Mahish Asura supported by TMC’s dapper spokesperson’s graphic “blood dripping from his hands”. Not only this, the Congress and other parties redefined secularism to justify their own brand of communalism on behalf of India’s sulking and largest religious minority, alienating both Muslims and Hindus alike. Vanity and arrogance in taking the elector’s patience and aspirations for granted was in stark contrast to Mr. Modi who realistically wooed voters with catch lines like “The coming decade belongs to the marginalized sections of society. There is untapped potential among your youth and this is what will bring change in the nation” and “Development alone is the solution to all problems! We don’t want to pitch our tent on a single pillar but on the three pillars of agriculture, industries and services…we can’t see youth as new age voter but as New Age Power.” What was communal in Mr. Modi’s agenda? Anatoly Lunacharsky, Soviet Russia’s Commissar for Enlightenment, while proposing building a new God, admitted that religion cultivated emotion; moral values, desires and other aspects of life were important to human society and served as the psychological and moral basis for millions of people. Minorities in Gujarat do not seem to be complaining of any divestment of their religious rights. These supercilious arguments lost sight of precedents set by the Congress itself in 1975, CPM or TMC for Bengalis in Bengal to
  2. 2. 2 survive for 35+ years and the positive fallout of Emergency when babus were in their chairs from 10 am to 5 pm, ancient power plants worked furiously churning out innumerable MWs of power, retirees received their pensions in time, PSBs did not go on strike, DTU buses ran in time and halted at the designated bus stops, people stopped committing nuisance on the roads, etc. At the same time, totalitarianism in Italy respected the Vatican’s status while it created the world’s largest industrial empire outside the Americas, in Germany. Lest I be accused of supporting any form of totalitarianism, I must clarify that the abominable ignorance of history and half-truths that emerges from the above only shows the lowest ebb of our political discourse in Campaign 2014. Mr. Modi’s web site carried official statistics in support of their critique of UPA’s malgovernance. If Mr. Modi carried his Gujarat model of governance high, he justified it with official figures at least on his web site. Surprisingly, none attacked such facts and figures, rather only Mr. Modi himself, his unparalleled exploitation of media technology, his advertisement blitzkrieg and personal outreach. All that such vituperative and invective did was to attempt, half-heartedly, to drown truths that were being publicized by the BJP and divert Mr. Modi from expressing his vision of India. At the same time, Sanjaya Baru’s Accidental Prime Minister as the probable nom de plume for an embattled UPA PM’s sad memoirs hit the stands, stripping the UPA of its bullet-ridden armor altogether. What was even more interesting was that while the Congress attacked the Gujarat development model, it failed to project any of its states likewise, for there were none, although the Congress ruled major states like scam-tainted Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Feeble attacks by the Congress were based upon wild statistics, often from unknown and unverified sources. Statistics flew thick and fast, manifold faster than the Planning Commission ever generated. In the event, India’s most developed state – Tamil Nadu – had to be rescued by its CM belatedly while Netaji was unable to defend Samajwadi Uttar Pradesh as was the JDU for Bihar, for all had more holes in their armor than the armor itself. Mr. Modi, to his credit, spoke of the drug menace and anti-NE feeling in Imphal, and on several other occasions of the need to focus on infrastructure, education, women’s security, and other critical sectors. The Congress, after van Winklean hibernation of six decades, realized the virtues of development. However, its campaign centered on kindergarten apprehensions of authoritarianism, Fascism, Nazism, and interpretations of women’s empowerment, Lokpal and RTI to fill empty bellies, vilify the Adani group, etc. The fatal flaw in this campaign was the centrality of slander against Mr. Modi that only served to draw curious larger crowds. The Congress’s web site promised the Milky Way in the next five years. It also attempted to live off fault-finding in five years of NDA rule while brushing its own mega failures over six decades under the carpet. It promised 8% plus growth rate within three years, zero aversion to foreign investment, Direct Tax Code and the GST Bill to increase aggregate revenue, Jobs Agenda to create 10 crore new jobs, Universal Right to Health under which healthcare vans will reach every part of India, and increase health expenditure to 3% of GDP and 60 lakh new jobs in health sector by 2020, notwithstanding the fact that the party had been in power for nearly 60 of India’s 67 years of independent existence. The end result was that Mr. Modi, by default rather than design, was projected as the Lord Protector of our nation. Organization and optimally leveraging technology marked the BJP’s campaign in 2014. Constituencies were mapped for their demographic profile, infrastructure deficiencies, past voting trends, local pending demands, etc. Even within constituencies, specific residential areas were marked out and thousands of campaign offices were set up. The map having been laid out, the Ahmedabad war room was put together with the nation’s, indeed
  3. 3. 3 even the best overseas Indian diaspora on sabbatical, best technologists, statisticians, draftsmen, managers, etc. overseen by Mr. Modi’s Chief Principal Secretary. That the BJP was able to attract such talent, mostly gratis, is, by itself, spoke of the realism of its epochal campaign. Technology took over with satellite leased circuits to telecast 3D images of Mr. Modi to hundreds of towns simultaneously, Modi masks, BJP flags, and festoons, real time broadcast of the Supremo’s speeches via the party’s web site, a media advertisement blitzkrieg, et al. BJP’s ‘War Room’ precision-timed Mr. Modi’s visits to the largest number of constituencies ever by any leader, particularly to Amethi, Krishnanagar and Asansol on the day campaigning was to end. Mr. Modi traversed several lakh kilometers and spoke to crores of eager-to-hear electors in person and in live multi-venue 3D telecasts. If Mr. Modi used private aircraft for his travels, so did all others, presumably using identical sources of funds. BJP campaign mangers realized the aspirations of electors, particularly the young and women and drafted the speeches with the development agenda plugged in. In stark contrast, stood the Congress with ludicrous first-form spokespersons on national media, interviews that gifted the Delhi durbar to the opposition, personal attacks on Mr. Modi including his child wife, travel expenses, liaison with young women (forgetting identical cases within their own ranks), and even ridiculing Mr. Modi’s designer kurtas. This was when there was nothing prevented UPA from advertizing their mainly illusionary achievements in the last decade. There was no fitting reply to Mr. Modi’s power-filing of his nomination in Varanasi for Amethi and Rae Bareli. Instead dynasty jumped into the fray to save its own to a voluble and attractive fresh BJP face of Smriti Irani. The Congress stuck to its disdain of the electorate. Instead of defending or projecting their party’s achievements Congress worthies shouted down TV debates to self-defeating ventures by finding fault with five years of NDA rule and living off personal attacks on Mr. Modi, all the while forgetting that the good times of UPA-I were of NDA making while the misdeeds of UPA-II were their own. Neither was there any effort to quantify the Congress’s development model nor was there any vision of a ‘new’ India. Even ad clips of the BJP were far slicker than those of other parties whose central focus was either Akhilesh Yadav or Rahul Gandhi. Social media had its own share of BJP supporters that attacked a helpless Congress with cartoons, You Tube videos, old newspaper (maybe Photoshopped too!) clippings comparing Snoopgate to Indira Gandhi’s eviction of Maneka Gandhi from her Safdarjang Road residence. BJP’s Subramanian Swamy enjoyed himself at Congress’s expense as he cast personal aspersions on the Gandhi siblings’ characters. The Congress’s answers came thick and fast as a desperate Congress hunted down Jashodaben (Mr. Modi’s child wife) and Madhuri Soni (the young architect that allegedly fascinated Mr. Modi). Supremely, all these infantile games were being beamed live across India and the world to a discerning audience. Yet the Congress remained oblivious to Euripides’s warning that “When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.” What was ironical, yet comical, was the fact that it was the UPA and others, like TMC and JDU, campaigns that made a Nemean lion of Mr. Modi. Sixty three years after the first general election, the average Indian voter is neither illiterate nor stupid even as the Congress, TMC, JDU, etc. campaign managers think they are. Indeed the campaign appeared to be driven by an overweening desire to stay out of the locker in the coming months. Hence Congress’s rush to appoint the Lokpal, appoint a new Army Chief, instigate PILs for fresh SITs into the Gujarat riots of 2002 and inquiry into Snoopgate, and appoint CBI’s Special Director, et al. Evidently, the Congress, remained mired in the distant past with its unhealthy contempt of the electorate, aptly encapsulated in Guy de Maupassant’s remark that “You have the army of mediocrities followed by the multitude of fools. As the mediocrities and the
  4. 4. 4 fools always form the immense majority, it is impossible for them to elect an intelligent government.” Given the several thousand crore Rupees the nation has expended, in means foul and fair, stability of a lion ought to be the logical conclusion, for the nation has had enough of snakes and goats. As TS Eliot pithily said, “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.” Let the best head of the chimera of the Indian polity emerge and his poultry remain safe and prosperous for the next decade! The author is a retired Ambassador of India