The Telegraph
Friday , April 11 , 2014
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Target Modi, teachers cast strategic votes

New Delhi, April 10: The Narendra Modi-centric discourse appears to have caused such a churn that some academics have responded with strategic voting.

The academics who were fiercely questioning AAP’s methods and outlook till the other day were this morning calling up friends, requesting them to vote for “jhadu” (broom, the AAP symbol) as the Congress was not in a position to stop Modi in Delhi.

They contended that the AAP should be used as an instrument to block the BJP’s march, even if Arvind Kejriwal did not form the government at the Centre.

Conversations with three lady lecturers, who come from diverse backgrounds and political beliefs, after the polling in Delhi on Thursday revealed the extent of the thought that has gone into the decision-making process.

Shobhna Warrier, who teaches history at Delhi University, said she supported the AAP as it was trying to position itself in the “liberal, democratic space” and raising issues which forced mainstream parties to undertake course corrections.

“Modi is asking for a vote for himself. We don’t want individuals to rise above the constitutional and legislative structures…. We are witnessing a travesty of history as Prime Ministers are supposed to be chosen after the election.”

Asked about allegations that the AAP has scant regard for the constitutional culture, Warrier retorted: “That’s bogus. Leaders of the AAP are as capable as leaders in other parties. The media has contributed to the weakening and undermining of the AAP’s position more than the actions of the AAP itself.”

She said the Congress option wasn’t viable this time as the people were fed up with lack of governance and corruption. “The AAP is the future of India,” she said, clarifying that she was not a member of the party.

Ila Sahay, who teaches mathematics at the Noida centre of the Birla Institute of Technology (BIT, Mesra), has no ideological issues with the BJP.

But she is supporting the AAP this time as Rajmohan Gandhi was “the best option” in her constituency (East Delhi) because of his lineage.

But she made a larger point. “I am opposed to Modi as he has a record of supporting big business and corporates. His credentials do not inspire confidence that he would work for the poor and the middle class. His personalised campaign has undermined the party and that is also a sore point.”

On the Congress and the AAP, she said: “The Congress has been given enough opportunities. The AAP might have adopted wrong methods but its intentions appear to be right. They lack experience but they can learn. I also want them to do well as we need a strong opposition in a democracy. The kind of politics we are witnessing at present, there will be much greater need for strong opposition in the near future.”

Savita Singh, who teaches at the School of Gender and Development Studies at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), took the Nota (None of The Above) option in frustration.

A political scientist, she did not take refuge in the AAP despite opposition to the BJP as she is not an admirer of their politics.

She said: “Modi’s excesses are already visible. He hasn’t left this as an election. He has turned it into a psychological war. Media has brainwashed people, disrespecting their free choices.”

She added: “There is an attempt to make democracy something else. We are told day and night that there are no options. We can’t take the media, specially the electronic media, anymore as the fourth column of democracy. In such times, suspension of judgement can be an option. Hence the Nota option.”

The three academics’ choices need not leave Modi unduly worried.

Another shift was also perceptible today. Sections of the poor who have been promised the moon by the short-lived AAP government in Delhi appeared to be reviewing their option.

Random conversations suggest many poor voters in Delhi felt that the AAP was not the right choice for the parliamentary election and voted for Modi instead. In the affluent New Delhi constituency where the rejection of Sheila Dikshit was writ large on the walls during the Assembly election, the unending stream of enthusiastic Kejriwal fans that was visible three months ago was missing today.

In East Delhi’s unauthorised colonies where AAP’s emergence surprised most pundits, young men outside the polling booths spoke of the need for a new “PM”. “Jhadu kitni bar chalengi, is bar PM change karna hai (How many times the broom? We have to change the PM this time),” said a young voter who did not want to be named.

Asked what he saw in Modi, a Dalit slum-dweller said: “Tarakki layega (He will bring development).

A college student in Mayur Vihar, who has begun to worry about jobs, echoed the sentiment. “Modi has changed Gujarat. People say he will solve all the problems. Let us give him a chance, after all, we gave decades to the Congress.”

Several auto drivers, day labourers and shopkeepers too merrily sang out: “Abki baar, Modi sarkar. (This time, a Modi government).”