• Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chintito

The Neighbours We Hate to Love

Chintito
Narendra Modi. Photo: AFP
Narendra Modi. Photo: AFP

Expectation of economic growth through a change of guards, the rising popularity of Hindutva sentiment, lack of focus in the Congress campaign, marginalisation of alliance partners within the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), a stand against inherent incumbency corruption, and perhaps to a large extent a growing aversion towards dynastic rule paved the rosy way for a resounding victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the just-concluded 2014 Indian general elections, albeit unpalatable to the secular forces within India and worldwide, and yet acceptable.
While one hopes Modinomics will augur well for India, and that the sub-continental nations too shall benefit, the greatest threat towards the endurance of the new government in Delhi is the great number of divergent factors that had to gel to account for its victory, for if one cracks the house may fall like a pack of cards. The secular forces have begun to hunt for hair cracks with all their munitions.

Mirza Fakhrul Islam
Mirza Fakhrul Islam

The Hindu sociocultural sentiment may not hold, Congress may find its feet under the lately discovered and as yet politically reluctant Priyanaka, the old UPA alliance may be fortified by newer equations, the incoming government may delve into corrupt practices, and opinion against hereditary governance may fade. But uneasy economy, if at all, will be the rooster that will signal a shift in the people's thinking. Usually a political honeymoon lasts for twelve months; and by the eighteenth month the fighting starts. And yes there is a hidden menace.
Despite the humongous number of BJP seats that were won in the aftermath of the wave led by the controversial Narendra Modi, opposed from the starting block among others by party stalwarts Lal Krishna Advani and Sushma Swaraj for his fanning of the 2002 Gujrat communal riot as State Chief Minister, in terms of popular votes BJP managed a little over thirty per cent.
That is the smallest number of votes that a party has polled while winning more than half the seats. According to the Times of India (19 May) “the previous lowest vote share for a single-party majority was in 1967, when the Congress won 283 out of the 520 seats with 40.8% of the total valid votes polled”.
The 16th Lok Sabha elections show how BJP benefitted from a fragmented vote giving the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Sawyamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed polity 282 seats with just 31percent of the votes, the lowest ever in terms of vote share, but the first time in 30 years that a party is in a position to form a government without the support from other parties in the alliance. (Psst! VHP has already demanded building of the Rama Janmabhoomi Temple and a ban on cow slaughter.)
This time round Congress polled 19.3 percent of the votes cast and got only 44 seats, which nevertheless is higher than the BJP's 18.5 percent, which in 2009brought them 116 seats. Politics can play funny tricks, and voters are unpredictable and always changing. Therein lies BJP's greatest danger, and Congress's biggest hope in the future.

Tofail Ahmed
Tofail Ahmed

The BJP-led alliance National Democratic Alliance (NDA) collected 38.5 percent of the votes, leaving more than 60 percent who voted for the secular parties. Yes, they are fragmented, but in splinters they opposed Modi and his politics of communalisation, which was his main façade up to the run up to the elections.
The anti-Modi psyche has been most pronounced in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Hopefully breathes the Bangalee heart, as despite the Modi quake all over India, a counter tsunami struck the BJP with Mamata Banerjee's All-India Trinamool Congress bagging 34 out of the 42 seats in West Bengal. This anti-scenario may have been created by Modi himself for his loose gallery talk at Serampore and Bankura election rallies in West Bengal in late April and early May when he declared that Bangladeshis should be ready to leave India with bag and baggage after 26 May, his solemn date of swearing. West Bengal voted for a secular India, but they were badly outnumbered this time in the number of LokS abha seats.
India's 15th prime minister Narendra Modi also won Round 2 by a welcome diplomatic gesture of inviting all the SAARC leaders – notably the Pakistan prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif (who have fought several wars with India and have outstanding major contentions with India, Kashmir being foremost), and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (whose country has serious issues with India's state of Tamil Nadu) to his swearing-in at Raisina Hill New Delhi on the day “Bangladeshi's in India” spent anxious hours with packed suitcases.
Going by the persuasion of Indian TV channel talk-show hosts and guests, peace parleys appeared West-bound with Mian Sharif more in demand. After a couple of days of dillydallying Sharif finally led a 30-strong delegation to the courtyard of the Rashtrapari Bhaban and sat beside the outgoing PM Manmohon Singh, as Modi recited his oath, which by the way is steeped in secularism by constitutional ordains.
Rajapaksa did not win any friends at least in Tamil Nadu and managed to keep away Chief Minister “Amma” J Jayalalithaa, whose party the AIADMK (literally All India Anna Dravidian Progress Party) won 37 of her state's 39 seats, the other two going to BJP, but who snubbed the oath ceremony suggesting that the Sri Lankan president was an unacceptable figure to the people of Tamil Nadu; Amma did not attend.In short, the ground is warming up for some scathing action later and bitter battles ahead.
Action-filled too was Bangladesh politics as soon as it became clear that Modi was going to form the government. Utterly humiliating that BNP's long-time acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgirshould draw first blood by saying, 'the Awami League has become nervous over the landslide victory of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party' and this was proven by 'comments of some Awami League leaders'.Pray, why do we have to open our mouth? Do we have to bark every time the cattle leaves the pen in India?
Fakhrul was critical of the government for 'its failure to resolve disputes….due to the subservient and loyal attitude (towards India) of the government….and Bangladesh has been a victim of multifarious aggressions'. But he also appeased Modijee in the same breath by quickly adding that 'India cannot be blamed for it, as it worked to serve its own purpose'. (The Independent, 26 May) Should we laugh or should we cry? Fakhrul Shaheb gave his verdict by adding that there was 'no reason for Bangladeshis to be enthusiastic about the Indian polls'. I mean, why should we be? So it's crying time then, after all.
Then it was the Awami League advisory council member and industries minister Tofail Ahmed's turn to get involved in a fray over our neighbours. He began by giving a lift to the BNP stalwart, “Fakhrul is a well-educated person'. Is this also something to say? Then Tofail Shaheb dropped a few bombshells, salvos if you like, beginning with 'it seems he (Fakhrul) hadn't gone through the history of India and Bangladesh politics'.
Tofail went on to elaborate, 'We have signed the Ganges Water sharing treaty with India in 1996 when Congress was not in power….Bangladesh got duty-free access of 23 items of goods from India during the regime of Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government….the buses taking people to Kolkata were started during the previous regime of BJP'.
While all this is going on, I have learned from no source but my intuition that Modi was having a laugh with his BJP comrades during a gop-shop, “Bachchahain”. In a changed tone he said, I think, 'let the Bangladeshis stay… after all they did send their Speaker of the House to the grand ceremony of over 4000-people…rahene do…good night'.
There shall be expectation through this change of heart.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2014

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