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How Modi won? What lies ahead?

A brief overview on the reasons behind Modi’s victory, a contrast between the 2014-2019 elections and the huge mass of wealth behind it which ultimately led to BJP’s domination in the Indian General Elections and win.

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Amjed Jaaved |

India is numerically the world’s largest democracy. The Election Commission announced the schedule for the 2019 Lok Sabha election on March 10. Elections to the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies were held in seven phases and the results were declared on May 23rd. Aside from the isolated complaints about electronic-voting machines, the losers eventually accepted the election results. There were 814 million registered voters speaking 1,652 languages.

The Indian voter could stamp none-of-the-above (NOTA) if there was no congenial choice on the ballot paper. As usual, the NOTA option affected some results where margin of victory was narrow. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, about 1.04 per cent of the voters stamped NOTA. In 2019, 1.08 per cent did so.

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections stretched over six weeks and the voting percentage was the highest-ever, 67.11 per cent in Indian states. However it was as low as two per cent in Anantnag (re-named Islamabad) and some other valley areas. Even 63 per cent voting in the Hindu-dominated Ladakh could not raise the overall average in IHK above 13 per cent.

The poor are prone to be influenced by cash doles, booze, and freebies. Money plays an important part in determining poor voter’s electoral choice. Historically, the richer party wins.

Before the election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies were in power in 22 of India’s 29 states. The Congress was in power in only two big states, Karnataka and Punjab. But, the elections results indicated how Modi defeated the anti-incumbency wave. Congress citadels in the two states were dented.

The elections cost parties a flabbergasting Rs30, 000 crore (or US$5 billion) that parallels the costs of a US Presidential election. The only difference is that most of the money spent in India was in the form of illicit cash. Much of it was brought back into the country from tax havens, such as Switzerland, Mauritius, Dubai and Caribbean Islands, where industrialists and politicians stash their illicit fortunes.

Money Power

India, the world’s largest democracy, stands divided into two worlds, the affluent and the poor Half of India’s population lives below the poverty line (US1$ one a day). The poor are prone to be influenced by cash doles, booze, and freebies. Money plays an important part in determining poor voter’s electoral choice. Historically, the richer party wins.  In 2014, BJP spent more than the Congress so it carried the day. They approximately spent about Rs714.28 crore ($115 million) on the 2014 general election campaign. Congress spent Rs200 crore ($32 million) less than the BJP’s expenditure during the 2014 polls.

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A big chunk of money goes towards media advertising, for instance, BJP spent over one-third of its funds on advertising. Key recipients of funds were two firms, Madison World and chartered aviation provider, Saarthi Airways, which is promoted by the Delhi-based, now turned film-producer, Gulab Singh Tanwar, reportedly a close friend of former BJP’s president and current home minister, Rajnath Singh.

The party spent Rs77.83 crore ($12.57 million) on chartering aircrafts for its key campaigners, of which Rs60 crore ($9.7 million) was paid to Saarthi Airways alone. Political parties shun paupers and nominated candidates with hefty wallets.

Corporate Donations

Corporate contributions, up to five per cent of a company’s net profits to political parties are legal. In reality, huge funds are collected from individuals and companies by extortion or as a consideration for past or future favours. The disclosure norms are very feeble and un-enforced.

India’s Income Tax Department found sacks-full of banknotes worth Rs 10.48 crore stashed in a warehouse owned by a worker of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a major political party in Tamil Nadu.

One could judge who would win by the mood of corporate donors. The BJP is the richest party followed by Congress. The Congress has ruled the country for 49 of its 71 years as an independent nation, however, during the recent elections, it was short of funds. It had to appeal for the first time in its history for donations. In 2017, it had an income of $33 million as compared to BJP’s $151.5million. During 2016-2017, Congress income decreased by $5.3 million while BJP’s income doubled from what it had in 2016.

Lack of Transparency

India’s Representation of Peoples Act forbids politicians to distribute or transport illegal cash, narcotics, drugs, liquor, gold and silver and a host of freebies and gifts amongst people to lure them to vote in their favour. Yet, recent Lok Sabha election saw the biggest seizure of drugs, cash, liquor etc. till date in any Indian election. It is historic because for the first time the Election Commission cancelled polls to a Lok Sabha constituency-Vellore (Tamil Nadu) because of the rampant use of money power.

Seizure of cash, drugs/narcotics, gold and other valuables crossed the figures of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Enforcement agencies let the offenders slip off with a slap on the wrist and the election commission kept issuing clean chits for all sorts of violations of the election code. As on May 20, cash, drugs/narcotics, liquor, precious metal (gold, silver etc.) and freebies worth Rs 34,56,22,00,000 (Rs 3,456.22 crore) were seized in India. This amount almost (90per cent) equals official expenditure on holding the elections.

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India’s Income Tax Department found sacks-full of banknotes worth Rs 10.48 crore stashed in a warehouse owned by a worker of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a major political party in Tamil Nadu.

Comparison with the 2014 Election Seizures

Rs. 2,99,94,30,804 (that’s nearly Rs 300 crore) in cash was seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha election. This figure excludes 1,61,84,508 liters of liquor and 17,070 kg of drugs/narcotics (worth hundreds of crore of rupees) which was seized from different parts of the country. The cash seized during the 2014 Lok Sabha election was equivalent to 75 per cent of the donation received in cash at the Sai Baba temple in Shirdi in 2011.

The quantity of drugs and narcotics seized was roughly same as the weight of three adult male Asiatic elephants and a baby elephant put together. (An adult male Asiatic elephant weighs nearly 5,000 kg.). The liquor seized in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections could fill up to six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools

Government expenditure for conducting 2014 Lok Sabha elections was Rs 3,870.34 crore while authorities have already made seizures worth Rs 3,456.22 crore in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

2019 Seizures

Between March 26 and May 20, Rs 841.11 crore in cash was seized. This amount is 180 per cent more than the total cash seized in 2014 (Rs 299.943 crore).

Comparing the seizure data for 2014 with the data for this year, we find that the total quantity of the liquor seized this year has already surpassed the quantity seized in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, authorities confiscated 1, 61, 84,508 litre of liquor. The figure for the 2019 Lok Sabha election so far is 1,86,00,000 litre. The quantity of drugs/narcotics seized so far (77,631.65 kg) is equal to the weight of 15 adult male Asiatic elephants and a calf. The liquor seized (1.86 crore litre) would fill nearly 7.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The cash seized is more than twice the cash donated at Sai Baba temple in 2011.

Comparison of 2014 and 2019 Seizures

Since March 26, 2019, quantity of drugs and narcotics seized stands at 77,631.65 kg. It is 354.78 per cent more than the total quantity seized in 2014. According to India’s Election Commission, as on May 20, cash and goods (drugs, liquor, gold, silver etc.) worth Rs 3,456.22 crore were seized across the country. This comes to Rs 60 crore a day.

Read more: India-Pakistan relations post-Indian elections 

Government expenditure for conducting 2014 Lok Sabha elections was Rs 3,870.34 crore while authorities have already made seizures worth Rs 3,456.22 crore in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Preposterous Expenditure Ceiling

Individual candidates can spend up to Rs70 lakh (US$120,000) on election campaigns. This amount is too little to even meet the poster-printing costs in important contests. Key candidates spend between Rs75-300 crore (US$12-50 million). Lesser stars spend between Rs15-50 crore ($2.5-8.25 million) and marginal candidates between Rs1-10 crore ($600,000-1.8 million).

The Jawaharlal Nehru University was forced to consider a proposal to set up a study centre in the name of Hindutva ideologue, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

Mammoth rallies where half a million people cheer candidates cost upwards of Rs3 crore ($500,000). Every major party holds at least one major rally or counter-rallies a day. Add  it to the cost of sending thousands of workers out in cars, trains, planes, rickshaws, bicycles, bullock carts, tractors, camels, horses, and boats to woo voters with speeches, street plays, and songs.

Other Factors Contributing to BJP’s Win

Besides profligate expenditure, mythical surgical strikes and anti-Pakistan propaganda, several other factors helped Modi beat the anti-incumbency wave. A sustained Hindu rashtra (nation) campaign since 2014. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamta Bannerjee, criticized BJP for mixing religious slogans in the electioneering. She complained: `There is a deliberate attempt by the saffron outfit to propagate an ideology of hatred through vandalism and violence’. She called upon the people of India to rise up and “oppose such moves” so as to “keep secular character of the country as enshrined” in the Constitution intact.

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BJP’s militant fascist arm, RSS, portrayed itself as a cultural organisation. A biographical documentary, by Narendra Sehgal, was shown on national TV re-imaging Hedgewar as a freedom fighter.  The brute reality remains that he never let RSS participate in any anti-British agitation and in the Independence struggle. Countless missing voters remained missing from the voters’ list. Muslims were scared to vote. Even Muslim-majority pockets votes in Karnataka went to The BJP.

Post-Election Trend

Now Muslims are being lynched for wearing caps or going to mosques. “ghar wapsi” (homeward) campaign to reconvert ajlaf (local better-caste converts) and arzal (Dalit) Muslims and Christian converts are in full swing. Muslim contributions to India’s architecture, music, language and arts are being spurned. Affluent Muslims are moving to safer places. Those living abroad are afraid to return to India.

Kashmiri leaders who publicly expressed pro-Pak sentiments are being prosecuted. It is an everyday phenomenon to dub Kashmiri natives as `terrorists’ and kill them during `encounters’ or nocturnal searches. The Indian government admitted that about 75 percent of `militants killed in occupied Kashmir are local.

The Expo attracted nearly 25000 visitors from 55 countries and regions around the world and more than 150 exhibitors from 25 countries, including the US, UK, Germany Russia, and Israel.

After winning West Bengal, BJP leaders announced to swarm Maqmta Bannerjee with a million post-cards saying `shri ram jee ki jai’. They even dubbed her `mad’ and mailed sarcastic `Get Well’ cards to her.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University was forced to consider a proposal to set up a study centre in the name of Hindutva ideologue, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) has called upon Modi to explain exclusion from the cabinet of Brahmin leaders from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and several other states. Momentum for building Ram Temple as demanded by VHP will be accelerated. BJP MLAs are imparting live-ammunition training to students. Harder times await the Muslim.

Nathuram Godse, who killed Gandhi, is being glorified. A serving IAS officer reflected anti-Gandhi sentiments in a tweet demanding the removal of Gandhi’s statues and his picture from currency notes. Anti-Gandhi social posts are ignored but anti-Modi tweets and Facebook posts are prosecuted.

Secularism’ became an anathema word in the Indian lexicon. Even Congress did not use this word in recent elections.  BJP is vigorously popularising a fake version of Indian history, claiming that the Hindus invented airplanes and genetic engineering thousands of years ago.

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To isolate Pakistan, India is trying to wean away China. India participated in the 5th International Big Data Expo, hosted by Guiyang, capital of China’s Southwest Guizhou Province from 26-29 May. The Expo attracted nearly 25000 visitors from 55 countries and regions around the world and more than 150 exhibitors from 25 countries, including the US, UK, Germany Russia, and Israel. A symposium on ‘Sino-Indian IT and DT Industrial Development Cooperation’ in which software experts from India and China participated was the highlight of the Expo. The two countries want to achieve the target of $100 billion bilateral trade soon.

BJP is determined to remove the special status of occupied Kashmir, in its final communiqué at the Mecca Summit, the Organisation of Islamic countries reiterated its support for the “legitimate rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir” and even appointed a special envoy to investigate human-rights violations in the disputed state.  India, ambitious to become the full OIC member, was so irked that it retorted that `the grouping has “no locus standi’’.

In Conclusion

Being the richest party, the BJP won the elections. But Modi would find it harder to play its second inning. Despite being in financial straits, Pakistan is undeterred. India’s real problem is the half of its population that lives below the poverty line. India’s cosmetic progress is most visible in the use of cars, aviation, mobile telephony, cable television, outsourcing, and automobiles. Such progress is meaningless when less than five per cent of Indians can fly, or own a car. Electoral abuses, caricatures and the shinning face of India’s democracy.

The solution lies in the state funding of elections. Reforms suggested in Tarkunde Committee, Indrajit Gupta Committee, and Dinesh Goswami Committee and N. S. Gehlot, could not be implemented.

“Elections (in India) are being increasingly seen by people as devious means, employed by the rulers to periodically renew their license to rule, more often to misrule,” writes SG Sardesai in “India’s democracy accepts right of cheats and bullies to rule”. Regrettably, at all levels of government, the upper castes are holding the decision-making positions. Persecution of religious minorities and the so-called untouchables (who prefer to call themselves dalits) is endemic to the social and cultural systems that circumscribe the Indian polity.

A four-year-old girl, named Surjo, was boiled in a tub and then beheaded to please gods as part of a religious sacrifice.

The police disclosed, “In a country where sons are sold for paisa 25 and women are thrown into the fire to please sati, goddess of chastity, such events cannot be foreseen or forestalled”. The solution lies in the state funding of elections. Reforms suggested in Tarkunde Committee, Indrajit Gupta Committee, and Dinesh Goswami Committee and N. S. Gehlot, could not be implemented.

Read more: Indian Election Vibes

Hindutva supporters want to convert India into a centralised state for the Brahmans only. The rise of the BJP from a marginal Hindu nationalist party of the 1980s to the majority party in parliament in 1999 and thereafter vindicates ascendancy of the Hindutva trend. Obviously, India is the largest democracy in form but not in substance.

Amjed Jaaved has been contributing to free-lance writing for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies in Pakistan and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, etc…). He has served the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in several fields such as economics, business administration, and law. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy. 

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