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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

Hatred rejected

Pro-BJP media and analysts have tried to give a spin to results by claiming BJP has won & that Modi has retained prime ministership; but the truth cannot be denied no matter how it is spun

Mehmal Sarfraz Published 13.06.24, 07:42 AM
Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi Sourced by the Telegraph

Last month, when I wrote about Narendra Modi’s imminent win in the context of Indo-Pak relations and a new government taking charge in Pakistan after the February 8 polls this year, I was not expecting the results that came out on June 4. Modi has become the prime minister of India for a third time but the results made him and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party eat humble pie. The 642 million votes that were cast over a period of six weeks made sure that the BJP did not get a clear majority this time around and had to form a coalition government. Indian voters broke their silence and, in turn, silenced the ‘chaar sau paar’ brigade. My favourite headline from the Indian media was from this newspaper, “India cuts Modi down”. This headline was a depiction of what the results really meant.

The pro-BJP media and analysts have tried to give a spin to the results by claiming that the BJP has won and that Modi has retained prime ministership; but the truth cannot be denied no matter how it is spun. Indian voters have shown the world that there is still hope for democracy, that voters can and will cut populists down to size, that the narrative of hate will be rejected and that vile propaganda can be countered through the power of the ballot. The fact that the BJP lost the seat in Faizabad — Ayodhya is a part of this constituency — where it played the Hindu card like nowhere else; that Smriti Irani who thought she was invincible lost to a hardworking Congress worker; that a woman who crowdsourced her election won a seat in Gujarat and defeated a BJP bigwig; that the Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, who has been mocked for years by his detractors, shone like a star in these elections; that almost all the exit polls were astonishingly wrong; that a 29-year-old YouTube sensation, Dhruv Rathee, had more of an impact on the electorate than the pro-Modi legacy media all go to show that Indian voters could take no more of an authoritarian ruler who thrived on a narrative of hate.

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This should be a lesson for all those leaders who take voters for granted because they think they are popular; those who assume that they can target minorities and get away with it or arrest their opponents and humiliate them and be lauded for it; those who surround themselves with sycophants who do not have the spine to tell them the truth. Those who have compromised the media to an extent where they act like party spokespersons for the government rather than journalists; those who target sections of the media that stand up to them using their troll armies and making fake cases against them to harass and silence them; those who castigate dissenting voices as ‘anti-national’ and think they are demigods must also learn from this. When such leaders are given a reality check through the ballot, it is only then that many people find it easier to breathe, easier to voice their anger, easier to tell the truth.

This is not to say that the politics of extremism, hatred and divisiveness does not work at all. It has its own pull, but there is an expiry date attached to it. The downfall of populists is inevitable; sometimes it just takes longer than expected. The election results in India and the subsequent debates on television, the opinion pieces in the press, the explosion of joy on social media among those who opposed Modi and the frustration of Modi’s supporters are things we did not expect. This is mostly because we were dismissive of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, we refused to listen to the anger of the minorities, to the disgust of those in the majority who said, ‘not in my name’, to the reporters on the ground who kept saying this time the results would be different. We only heard what the pro-Modi legacy media was telling us, what the exit polls told us, what the Modi troll brigade was dishing out on social media. A lot of us were wrong — thankfully. Had we been right, it would have been a complete disaster. The Indian voter deserves a round of applause for rejecting hate.

Mehmal Sarfraz is a journalist based in Lahore; mehmal.s@gmail.com

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