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2019 polls: "Mainstream" Indians accepted Hindu nationalism for their safety, security

By Nava Thakuria*
Amidst talk of majority-based politics and Hindu-centric propagandas vertically dividing the country and one man worship, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) triumphed again in the recently concluded national elections of India. There was an undercurrent of cautious nationalism, which led to the NDA crossed the tally of winners up to 353 in the 543 member Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.
BJP alone emerged victorious in 303 Parliamentary seats crossing the magic number (272) to form the federal government in New Delhi, where the prime opposition party Indian National Congress along with its allies remained restricted within hundred seats in the Lok Sabha.
The rightist political party, led by hardliner Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in spreading its presence to almost all corners of the huge south-Asian country. States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh along with Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand witnessed massive victory for candidates belonged to BJP or its allies, which was far better than the 2014 general elections.
The billion-plus nation witnessed seven-phase polling exercise (April 11 to May 19) through electronic voting machines (EVM), supported by the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) mechanism, where over 700 million voters participated in the process.
As the counting of votes began on May 23, which started reflecting the prediction of exit polls to indicate for a comfortable majority of NDA in 17th Lok Sabha, various foreign media outlets began circulating articles to downplay Modi’s magnificent poll-victories. Those media contributors termed the achievement of Modi as one man’s over ambitious aggression to saffronisation of democracy to anti-minority trepidation.
Modi planned the electoral campaigns as Presidential style of polls where the prime slogan was Phir Ek Bar Modi Sarkar (Once Again Modi Government, not NDA or BJP government). Even though putting exclusive focus on one individual simply contradicts to the concept of India’s decades’ long Parliamentary democracy, but the entire opposition could not resist the tendency.
None could match to Modi’s personality, oratory skill and the leadership quality. Riding on a pro-incumbency wave, Modi along with saffron party chief Amit Shah promoted national pride with the clean ideology of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The Hindu nationalist leaders projected their “aggressive” foreign policy, which allegedly enhanced India’s relationship with various superpowers like USA, Russia, China, Japan, UK, Israel etc.
While the opposition leaders repeatedly termed Modi as a liar and thief, millions of electorate, including a large section of young and educated voters seemed to accept Modi’s campaign for referring to corruption free image, digitization of economy, skill development, new bank accounts to poor families, etc. At least 220 million Indians were claimed to have directly benefited from various welfare schemes of the Modi government ranging from new toilets to houses for poor families, cooking gas and electricity connection to health insurance schemes etc.
More than this, Modi projected himself as a capable leader to address terrorism, homegrown or exported from outside (Pakistan). He campaigned against dynastic politics of not only the (Indira-Rajiv) Gandhi dynasty, but also the political families of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, Bhupinder Hooda, Ashok Gehlot etc.
Even in the restive Northeast, where separatist militants once ran parallel administrations, the lotus bloomed for the saffron party. The region with 25 Parliamentary seats was swept by BJP and its allies to elect 18 members to the NDA tally. Voters of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim hopted for BJP and NDA constitute Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) for their province governments in Itanagar and Gangtok.
Keeping alive the national trend, where many veteran Congress leaders lost the electoral battles, northeastern voters also rejected many influential Congress candidates. While the grand old party was losing its vote-shares, BJP nominees had two Lok Sabha seats of Tripura and one seat in Manipur for the first time.
Unlike many parts of the country (particularly West Bengal), where various phase of polling marred with violence, northeastern region witnessed very peaceful, participatory and smooth electoral process that might have helped the residents of various ethnic communities to nurture a new kind of nationalism where the electorate came forward for a “strong, safe and prosperous” India.
With Islamist-sponsored terrorism continues grabbing the international media headlines, the mainstream Indians perhaps accepted the Hindu nationalism for their safety and security. During the elections, an invisible wave of nationalism defied the relentless campaigns generated by those who claim to be secular, tolerant and liberal sections.
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*Political commentator based in northeast India

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