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Anonymous? Following BJP debacle, social media began getting memes calling voters 'traitors'

By Rathin Das* 

It was an election with a difference that taught the 'party with a difference' a lesson it will never forget. The planet's largest party, the BJP, had put its stakes so high that even a normal victory looks like a defeat.
Within a day of the Lok Sabha poll results showing a considerable reduction in the number of seats the BJP won, sections of social media, especially WhatsApp groups known to be sympathetic to saffron politics, began getting videos, text messages and memes dubbing  Indian electorate "traitors." 
It is for the cyber experts to find out whether it was the party's powerful IT Cell and its troll army which was circulating such memes, which called voters as 'namak haram' (traitors) simply because the BJP was denied a landslide victory it had predicted for itself. There is suspicion in the minds of concerned people that this might well be so.
Sample the three year old video below, shared on a WhatsApp group, seeking to ask top BJP leaders as to why were they troubling themselves so much when people care to trust them. The other two screenshots shared in this article from WhatsApp groups call voters "namak haram" and support only those offering them "revdi" (doles) and their caste brethren, caring little for the long list of developmental work over the last one decade.  
In more than seven decades of the world's largest democratic exercises, many parties have lost elections several times but none had ever blamed the voters as traitors as  the results indicates that the party would need 'crutches' for climb to power for the third time. Ironically, these social media posts came even as the BJP has yet to humbly proclaim that "we probably couldn't convince the people of our good intentions". 
The old proverb that one cannot ‘fool all the people all the time’ would be the best lesson the BJP and its supremos should learn from this election, even though it has formed the government at the Centre and would be able to "stabilise" it later through questionable means the party is best known for.
The message of BJP's inability to fool all the people is most profound from Ayodhya where its nominee lost the election despite all the pomp and show in building the Ram temple and hastily inaugurating the incomplete structure in spite of a section of saints crying foul over the issue.
Inebriated with concrete and construction led "development', the BJP couldn't guess the resentment brewing among the local common people, small traders and travel trade who were harassed and cordoned off behind curtains every time VVIPs arrived at the temple town.
True, the temple town now has an airport, star hotels, a swanky railway station and air-conditioned taxis shuttling between them, but the local people who lost their traditional livelihood at Ayodhya have their own way to know that the contractors and owners of these hail from another state.
Defeat in Ayodhya has probably annoyed and irritated the BJP most as a section of its troll army has not even spared Lord Ram for not bringing the desired electoral benefits from the temple construction and its hasty inauguration. The biggest lesson from Ayodhya is that religion cannot be mixed with knowledge of entire political science in the long term.
A cadre based and well scheming party like the BJP cannot probably be unaware of the Ayodhya people’s local resentment leading to a debacle in the constituency. Thus, it seems to have gambled away the Ayodhya seat in exchange for the major gains elsewhere in the Hindi belt due to the resultant rise in positive Hindutva sentiments.
For the Opposition parties too, the important lesson is that an autocratic regime can be halted in its tracks with unity of purpose -- or even a semblance of it.
But an ominous lesson emanating from this election is involvement of the television channels and their exit polls in manipulating the share market for bringing benefits to a particular section of the people. The embedded media, aptly nicknamed 'godi media', is best known for singing paeans about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government led by him.
Reports suggest that the exit polls had shown a huge victory for the BJP with the precise purpose of boosting the share market so that some people cosy with the ruling elite could make huge profits, before the post result fall.
That's a dangerous nexus entering the political arena of the largest democracy, a phenomenon that needs to be nipped in the bud if India is to be saved from the manoeuvres of eminent economic offenders affectionately called wealth creators.
Other lessons for the ruling party and its leader include the clear message that meddling in personal choices of people is unacceptable. In the initial days of Modi regime, the series of lynchings by cow vigilantes, attacks on what the right wing people call 'love jehad' and shaming of people for their food choices were described as stray incidents by the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar. 
But, during this Lok Sabha campaign the Prime Minister himself legitimised all these by stooping as low as scaring the people about snatching away women's Mangalsutra, buffaloes and properties. People's verdict has proved they were not scared by the lowly speeches.
Dark clouds are still hovering over Indian democracy, though some silver linings are likely to emerge soon
Mutton, fish and eggs are part of life for a vast chunk of people is a fact that should be known to the Prime Minister of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country like India. Taunting them for their food choices has not been liked in vast regions, even if many hostels, airlines, government guest houses and catering institutes may discover new pretext to turn 'all veg'.
Besides the many lessons, there are strong warning signals for all to take note of. Prominent among them are that the Indian voters just do not care about allegations of rape and molestation of award-winning athletes or judiciary being admittedly partisan till a day before joining politics.
Threatening and lampooning of minorities will not work anymore, is another message from this Lok Sabha result.
Despite so many bitter and better lessons, the fact remains that dark clouds are still hovering over Indian democracy, though some silver linings are likely to emerge soon.
Writers, journalists, cultural activists and other dissenting people are likely to regain their lost freedom to think, as they did at the end of the declared Emergency nearly five decades ago.
Lakhs of retired people are likely to feel free to express their opinion on matters of public and national interest, a privilege they were denied for a decade.
*Senior journalist based in Ahmedabad



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