It looks like the BJP‘s money is going to beat the Congress’s money.
D-Street made a tepid start to 2014, but the market is now swaying to the so-called “Dance of Democracy”, close to the 22,000 mark, with the Nifty already beyond the 6,500 level. Indeed, the day the Election Commission announced the schedule for the 16th Lok Sabha elections, the markets scaled a new high. We are reminded of a popular “Vietnam Song” by Country Joe and The Fish, hugely popular at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, and we paraphrase and adapt a few lines thus: “Come on Dalal Street, don’t be slow/Why man, this is Modi au-go-go/There’s plenty good money to be made…” Yes, the big players on D-Street, including the foreign institutional investors, are betting on Modi. “It is the ‘Modi theme’ – he moves the market”, as one punter put it.
If “There’s plenty good money to be made” on D-Street, the close involvement of the oligopolistic media houses with our money-driven political system makes Indian democracy a business opportunity. In this there is no real debate; it is a propaganda exercise financed by capital. What then results is a mockery of political equality at the polling booth. The oligopolistic media and the political system with the black money that has inundated it have drained elections of their meaning; they have robbed the people of India of their democratic potential. With more of the moneybags backing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it seems, this time around, BJP’s money will beat Congress’s money.
If one scans through the opinion poll results and the so-called “agenda-setting thought pieces”, what you get is the following: there is a Narendra Modi “wave”; there have been no “riots” in Gujarat after 2002; Modi’s performance in the realm of “development” speaks for itself, and so the voters are bonding with Modi; Congress is going to do worse than it did in the 1977 elections; correspondingly, the BJP is going to witness the largest ever increase of its vote share; AAP’s influence does not go much beyond Delhi; forget the Left and the regional and caste-based parties, for the advent of Modi will mean a return to the “democratic norm” – a two-party system.
But what of the reality of Modi and of Gujarat under Modi? Gujarat’s growth over the last decade has indeed been higher than that of the country’s. Critics have countered this by asking whether this growth has benefited the chaiwalas, i e, the self-employed and small businesses. But, in the light of what the eminent economist Partha Dasgupta has recently written in this journal (“The Nature of Economic Development and the Economic Development of Nature”, EPW, 21 December 2013), should not we be asking about the damage that this process of growth has inflicted upon “human and natural assets”? The net loss of livelihoods, human displacement and degradation, the irreversible damage to the environment, permanent loss of natural resources, and so on, have been detailed by the environmental and human rights activist Rohit Prajapati. Tragically, the “murky politics and economics of GDP growth” has prevailed over the cause of “habitat” – the habitability of the natural environment as well as the security of people in their sociocultural environment. And, of course, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, driven from their homes in the 2002 pogrom, have been languishing for years in squalid refugee camps without the basic amenities of life, including running water and electricity.
This month marks the 12th anniversary of the Gujarat pogrom, which witnessed a form of Hindutva-cum-state terror not seen before, and the criminals responsible for the genocide are still in power. There has been a total denial of justice; the right to life with human dignity has been denied to Gujarat’s Muslims. What a travesty of secularism and democracy! If even the wife of a former Member of Parliament (MP) who was brutally killed is unable, as yet, to get justice, then what about the aam Muslims? The mastermind, Narendra Modi, who, according to the dead MP’s wife, is the main culprit responsible for the killing of her husband, is now the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Did the “Masquerade of Democracy” in the oligopolistic media remember the Muslims who sacrificed their lives defending their near and dear ones against the Hindutva-vadi marauders, this on the 12th anniversary of the Gujarat pogrom?
Sadly, this is not the age of independent journalists; it is the high noon of media corporations. The “Masked Ball of Democracy” toasts to the coming “free and fair elections” – “There is a magic to it that people in totalitarian states can never grasp”, the largest English-language newspaper pompously declares. The truth is that elections often go to the highest bidder, and this election may indeed bring a totalitarian party to power.