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regular-article-logo Sunday, 26 May 2024

Four Ds at the heart of pivotal elections as central agencies clear field for BJP

General Election 2024 is about four Ds: Democracy, Diversity, Dissent and Dictatorship

Sagarika Ghose Published 17.04.24, 10:04 AM
Sagarika Ghose with other Opposition leaders.

Sagarika Ghose with other Opposition leaders. PTI

Ah the rollicking merriment of India’s usual election tamasha! Where is it this time? Gone. General Elections 2024 are the darkest and bleakest elections in 75 years of Independent India. The fiesta is over. Today, a harsh government-media machine churns joylessly, cracking down on opposition leaders and slathering images of Narendra Modi on every available platform.

The coercive agencies of the Modi government — CBI, ED, IT, NIA — have come galloping out into the poll field like horsemen of the apocalypse. They’re attempting to clear the field for the BJP, even as Narendra Modi takes to the skies, rampaging across India bellowing “Abki baar char sau paar”.

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Modi plays politics by weaponising the instruments of state. In 2024 the opposition is up not just against the ruling BJP but against coercive state power. As soon as the poll bugle sounded, Modi’s cavalry cantered out of the citadel. The Enforcement Directorate stormed into action against opposition chief ministers. The ED brought an old case against Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, Soren resigned and the ED carted Soren off to jail. The ED next appeared at Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence. They came at night bringing a year-old ‘liquor scam’ case against Kejriwal and by the morning Kejriwal too was in jail. The ED, CBI, and even the
NIA have been deployed against Trinamul Congress candidates.

The Income Tax Department has come thundering out too. An I-T notice to the Congress demanded a humongous Rs 3,000 crore. Model Code of Conduct busting leaders from the BJP have taken to the airwaves. Prime Minister Modi raucously stoked religious divisions for votes in Tamil Nadu. The Bengal BJP leader Dilip Ghosh publicly questioned Mamata Banerjee’s parentage. The EC is yet to censure the PM and Ghosh received only a light rap.

Which is why General Election 2024 is about four Ds: Democracy, Diversity, Dissent and Dictatorship.

Democracy’s not just about winning, it’s about following the rules so that the voice of every citizen is heard. Democracy is about institutions, the Election Commission, courts, judiciary, neutral umpires maintaining a level playing field between contestants. What happens in cricket if the umpire only allows one team to make runs? Or only one team to take wickets? The game collapses, as does democracy.

Diversity is at stake too. India is defined by wellsprings of vivid diversity, of language, food, dress, identity. Regional innovations have moved our nation forward. Kanyashree and Rupashree schemes in Bengal, the Midday Meal scheme from Tamil Nadu, the IT boom in Karnataka and Andhra, Kerala’s high literacy and healthcare. Will we now be forced to forget our regional identities and successes and accept a noxious homogeneity emanating from New Delhi? Modi’s one-leader-one-party-one-language-one-religion-one-thought mantra is the deadening antithesis of diverse India.

Dissent is also at stake. Stand-up comics are facing the wrath of vigilantes, journalists are being jailed under anti-terror laws, Harvard-honoured academics and former RBI governors are being dubbed “anti-national”.

Dictatorship looms as a single party, the BJP — armed with over Rs 6,000 crore from Electoral Bonds alone — has shown what kind of politics it wants. Over 100 opposition MPs suspended in the last Parliament session, opposition governments toppled in Maharashtra in 2019 and Madhya Pradesh in 2020. This year in the infamous Chandigarh mayoral polls, the returning officer was caught on camera defacing ballots to benefit the BJP.

But the battle has been joined. The opposition INDIA alliance rally in Delhi’s Ram Lila Maidan drew significant crowds. In Bengal, a resurgent TMC forced a misogynist BJP candidate to withdraw. In Delhi, the AAP-Congress alliance looks united, in Maharashtra the Shiv Sena (UBT) has taken the lead.

In General Elections 2024, voters must decide if India is going to be a one-person-one-party-one-thought state. The one-leader-one-party politics has resulted in unprecedented concentration of power and socio-economic inequality. Oxfam says 77 per cent of India’s national income today is held by just 10 per cent people. Staggering.

Should a handful of politicians and oligarchs enjoy a bounty of freedom while citizens suffer under autocracy and propaganda? 2024 is a pivotal moment.

The writer is Rajya Sabha member, Trinamool Congress

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