Totalitarian societies come into being not only when people become less sceptical about their governments, but also when their political behaviour becomes more predictable.
The predictable behaviour of voters gives a definite and precise cue to political leaders to understand the kind of words, metaphors, speeches, signs, languages and philosophy they can use in order to get favourable results for their totalitarian ambition.
In the era prior to 2014, there was no certainty as to what would and what wouldn’t appeal to the people. We saw communal politics failing in the 90s when Lal Krishan Advani did the Rath Yatra.
With Hindu-Muslim riots in almost every metropolitan city, his party lost the general elections in 1991. Although they won more seats, communal hatred fuelled by the Rath Yatra didn’t get them in power.
In 2014, we saw the defeat of the Congress party (a government with attitude), with people questioning the efficiency of its leaders in tackling corruption in almost every sector and ministry.
It’s not to claim that caste, religion and regionalism did not appeal to people then, but there was scope in this period. While voting, people also had different issues in their mind which guided them towards their political decision.
After the emergency, Indians got a variety of choices with many parties emerging all over the country. We saw many governments come and go, some in coalitions and some in majority, but that did not affect the sincerity of the people towards their problems.
Instead of continuous efforts of polarisation, people maintained their unpredictability.
But the situation today is very different. We are more fragile as a country in terms of brotherhood and democratic morals.
With the emergence of social media as a platform to affect people’s political thinking with fake news and communal hatred, we have not only lost our sceptical nature but we have also become more predictable. Our political thinking is like a code fitted in an electronic machine.
Now, people in this country are not just divided by caste, religion and nationalism, but also with a tag of being anti or pro party. We have ceased to become the citizens of India.
The government in power and its leaders know how and when to inject a dose of nationalism and communalism to get what they want. They know that employment, health services, environment and education are far behind as issues when it comes to a strong nation in demand.
The leaders know what words to choose, what to eat and where to visit and what to wear to get the support of the people. Hence, people should know the power of their political behaviour and must not disclose it if they want democracy to survive in this country.
In Les Temps, modern French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre wrote an essay about the ignorance of his countrymen towards the devastating condition of Algerians caused by their military.
Sartre said, “It’s not by sabotaging its morale that you demoralize a nation, it’s by degrading its morality.”
We as citizens of India need to understand this.