Skip to main content

2019 to be last polls India to have? Need to "prove wrong" such doomsday pundits

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
General Elections 2019 are round the corner! The dates of the elections have not yet been announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI). In all probability they will do so by March 15. The ECI has within its powers to announce the dates 28 days before the actual elections, though by precedence they do so between 30-45 days earlier. Elections are expected to be held between April 20 and May 15 in various phases (unfortunately, there is plenty of fake news doing the rounds on social media!).
There are some ‘pros and cons’ for a delayed election dates announcement. It gives more time to those who are not on the electoral rolls to register themselves; secondly, it provides lesser time for the actual campaigns by political parties/candidates (so perhaps lesser time for extravagant spending and also for the viciousness in the campaign speeches).
However, a delayed announcement also means that the ruling party makes hay when the sun shines. A clear indicator is the full/half page advertisements which the Government has sponsored in several friendly dailies (at huge expense to the exchequer) and the slew of inaugurations and other melas being organized everywhere.
In Gujarat itself, the PM has spent the last few days hopping from one event to another, with plenty of publicity. Once the elections are announced and the model conduct is in place, none of these tamashas can officially take place!
One positive fallout of the delayed announcement is that those who are on the electoral rolls can still register themselves- provided they do so immediately! One has to visit the National Voters Services Portal http://www.nvsp.in of the ECI and/or download the voter helpline app from the Playstore; one can also visit the website of the Election Commission of India (https://eci.gov.in/ ).
Clear instructions are provided; one has to upload some necessary documents like proof of birth, address etc. So do so now -- before it is too late! Kindly also help the poor, the marginalized to ensure that their names are on the electoral rolls!
Plenty of news/rumours are doing the rounds! Apparently from some areas, (particularly those dominated by the minorities) several names are already missing from the electoral rolls. Just having an Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) is not sufficient for exercising ones franchise; one needs to make sure that ones name is also on the electoral rolls (check online).
There is an online campaign (www.lostvotes.com ) #LostVotes to allow ‘Indians on the Move to Vote from their Current Location’ in the 2019 elections, initiated by the Times of India. On February 24 in a panel discussion Can our Democracy Afford Crores of Lost Votes, at the 2019 Times Litfest in Bengaluru, it was said that in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, there were 28 crores enrolled voters who did not cast their ballot.” A move worth joining in and popularizing but whether at this late stage the ECI will have the wherewithal to comply, is very doubtful.
Then there is the issue of faulty voting machines! A news item in the Indian Express of 7 March (Pg. 5,ed. Ahmedabad),said that ECI had found in Gujarat 3,565 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and 2,594 Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)machines defective and had rejected them.
It is an accepted fact that EVMs can not only be manipulated but also hacked. Several major democracies have done away with electronic machines and use only paper ballots. It will be impossible at this stage for the ECI to return to paper ballots; besides there has been no consistent outcry from the major political parties for a change.
There are several objective analysis done on the performance of the current government. The ratings given on every parameter are from dismal to very bad. Economically, the country is at its lowest: demonetization has taken its toll on those living from hand to mouth; corrupt crony capitalism is on the upsurge; an Oxfam report of January 2019 highlighted the growing gap between the rich and the poor; of how just nine individuals in India own 52% of the nations wealth.
Communalism (which has made lynching, the new normal) continues to rear its ugly head, with the minorities on the receiving end. A UN Report of September 2018 puts India in the category of the worst offenders against human rights defenders. Several have been killed or put in jail!
A recent Reuters report highlighted that India is the most dangerous place for women. Millions of tribals/adivasis/other forest dwellers are on the verge of being evicted from the forests. There is massive agrarian distress with several farmers committing suicide.
There is an upsurge in unemployment. A leaked version of a report ‘Annual Survey on Employment and Unemployment' for the year 2017-18 from the National Statistical Commission (NSC) showed unemployment rate in India at a 45-year high during 2017-2018.
Recently, two government officials, including the acting chairperson of the NSC resigned, protesting the withholding of the report. There has been great interference in the functioning of independent/autonomous bodies of the country-the Judiciary, the RBI, the CBI, the Information Commission and quite obviously the ECI too: A clear undermining of democratic institutions processes and even a threat to the Constitution of India!
The less said about the so-called ‘mainstream’ media the better: most are owned by a couple of pro-government corporates. They kowtow to the powers and they dish out blatant lies and false propaganda.
Attempts are made to put the controversial Rafale deal, under the carpet, despite incontrovertible evidence! India as a nation has never been so corrupt! Sitting members from other parties are being bought up with mind boggling amounts. Indian politics has been criminalized as never before!
The Ram Mandir is in the spotlight once again. The Pulwama attack and the subsequent surgical strikes on Pakistan -- ‘seem’ to have given the Government a fresh impetus. The unfortunate thing is that everything seems so dicey and that any question, asked impartially for transparency and truth, is bound to be regarded as anti-national or unpatriotic!
There is already talk that this may be the last elections the country will have. Such doomsday pundits must be proved wrong! The people of India have demonstrated in the past, a wisdom that is able to see through betrayals, false promises, lies and empty rhetoric. The coming elections will hopefully see that: a vote for change!
---
*Indian human rights activist. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

Top academic claims he warned farmer leaders of Hindutva plot on Jan 26 morning

By Shamsul Islam* The photographs here show a Hindutva protagonist, Deep Sidhu, with his real masters. He is said to be the culprit who tried to derail the historic farmers' struggle by putting up a religious flag at Red Fort on January 26, with no Delhi police which works under the Indian home minister Amit Shah, a senior RSS cadre who is often described 'Iron Man' by Hindutva camp-followers. 

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.