By Waled Aadnan:
On the other hand, we see archaic arguments proposed and communal passions ignited in order to polarise the electorate and garner as many votes as possible. A particular case in this regard is the treatment meted out to Salman Rushdie on the eve of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. The Booker-Prize winning author was threatened not to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival by religious fanatics who raised the skeleton of ‘The Satanic Verses’ to life. The Rajasthan Government, not to be outdone, recreated the Mumbai Underworld and vaguely mentioned an assassination threat that was eventually laughed off by the Mumbai Police. Two months later, and crucially, after the UP election results, Mr. Rushdie was in New Delhi, the fanatics as well as the Underworld suddenly conspicuous by their absence.
In U.P., Rahul Gandhi came down to the poor huts of Dalit families to spend the night on mattresses arranged by local Congress workers for the night. In the morning, the customary photo-shoot with children done, he would rush back to the comforts of New Delhi. Indeed, the political scenario portrayed by leaders of Indian political parties often resembles a Kafkaesque Castle, inaccessible and remote.
The reason for the obsolescence of the Congress and the BJP is that on the other hand, a discourse of “noblesse oblige” that worked for the likes of Rajiv Gandhi no longer does for Rahul. Nor does Hindutva by itself win elections. For the first time since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the BJP has lost the Ayodhya Assembly constituency to the Samajwadi party. If Narendra Modi works in Gujarat, it is not simply because of his pro-Hindu image as built by the genocide of 2002 but because he keeps the dhanda going smooth in a state with tremendous commercial interests.
The future bodes well for India. On the one hand, the people have started rejecting blind economic liberalisation at their expense. On the other hand, in an increasing number of states, archaic arguments to win votes are being rejected out of hand. At the end of the day, the two amount to the same thing: the voters will side with whoever they feel will address their concerns and stimulate their aspirations better. No longer does India worship its leaders, nobody is a demigod anymore. Or, to be more accurate they are less so, less than they ever have been.
The next Lok Sabha elections shall be the coming of age of the subalterns in Indian polity.