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For a PM like Modi to allege Pakistan interfered in Gujarat elections is sad and disappointing

Valson Thampu
Valson ThampuDec 12, 2017 | 15:47

For a PM like Modi to allege Pakistan interfered in Gujarat elections is sad and disappointing

The last American presidential election was, allegedly, swung by Russia. The outcome of the present Gujarat election will be decided, if Prime Minister Modi is to be believed, by Pakistan.

In the common man’s parlance this would be called spitting in one’s own face. All the more so, given the braggadocio that one is presiding over a hard state, as against the lamentably weak state that the UPA maintained. How come you can’t protect a state election from palpable external interference by a rogue state, which is not a patch on you?

The inability to protect an election is far more condemnable than the inability to protect the borders. If there is an urgent and compelling case for mounting a "surgical strike", it is here. All citizens of India, including professional patriots, must urge the PM to spare none involved in this outrage on our foremost democratic institution. Pakistan must be made to pay for this inexcusable villainy.

First, "the nation wants to know" - the PM must reveal to all of us the factual basis for making a statement as unnerving as this. The Election Commission must initiate a thorough inquiry into how the Gujarat elections is infiltrated by Pakistani saboteurs. The PM’s allegation casts a serious aspersion on the ability of the EC to conduct "free and fair" elections. It needs to redeem its credibility which is under a thick shadow, if the PM’s apprehensions are indeed true.

modi-pti__121217024338.jpgImage: PTI photo

Secondly, as responsible citizens, we must ensure that national debates are not reduced to jokes. It needs to be insisted that people - especially those who, by dint of the public offices they hold, are role models - make statements in a responsible manner. Statements of a serious nature must not be made in an opportunistic fashion and forgotten about when the given moment lapses. This not only demeans the dignity of the offices held, but also degrades our national character. It is an insult to the country as a whole.

Third, elections must not be won or lost by obfuscating real issues. All parties are guilty of this art of fooling the people. The development agenda is conspicuously absent in the Gujarat elections. Clearly it has outlasted its electoral usefulness for the BJP. As was clearly foreseeable, the shift from development to communal polarisation has already taken place, with Uttar Pradesh as the laboratory. The voters must know that this amounts to a de facto rejection of development as a national mantra. If that is indeed the case, was it not, seen in retrospect, a piece of propagandist chicanery practised on the people of India in 2014?

How come none of the issues that concern the welfare of the common man - rising prices, farmer suicides, malnutrition, alarming unemployment, the chronic bewilderment of the people, not knowing which economic blow to expect next, nightmarish financial insecurity on account of the profligacy of the banks countenanced by state inaction, growing anarchy and deteriorating law and order situation, near total neglect of education and health, and a host of other issues - figures in our elections?

The blame for this cannot be put wholly at the doorstep of the ruling dispensation. The Opposition parties are to blame even more. It is their utter failure that enables the parties (read persons) in power to do as they please, unmindful of any backlash. The opposition parties failing, in instance after instance, to be watchdogs of people’s welfare is mainly responsible for the morass in which we are today. They seem hand-in-glove with the treasury benches in obscuring issues concerning the people. The net result is that citizens of India are orphans in the political arena.

Going by the trends evident so far, Modi will forget the serious issue of "Pakistan's interference" in Gujarat elections as soon as the results of that elections are announced. In that case, what would it mean for the voters of Gujarat? That they were made to exercise their choice misled by a baseless apprehension? If so, could they vote freely?

I’m afraid, not. For, freedom of choice is real only when voters know relevant facts on which to base their choices. Falsehood amounts to coercion. It is easy to see why. There is no need to unleash falsehoods, if one is sure that the voters will "freely" vote for one’s party. Falsehoods are manufactured and unleashed on the people to force them to vote differently from what they would do otherwise. They are, in other words, coerced to vote in one’s favour. In that case, where do they have the freedom to choose?

That is why the Election Commission needs to address this issue upfront. It needs to be incorporated into the code of conduct that devious propaganda, clearly meant to coerce people to vote in prescribed ways, amounts to a violation of the code, because it makes a mockery of "free and fair" elections.

For the voters too this is a serious issue. If they, through their apathy, create the impression that such tactics are profitable, they will become party, willy-nilly, to legitimising bad governance. There will be no good governance - achhe din will never come - so long as there is no electoral cost for bad governance.

The people of India need to insist that they are not idiots and that they would expect their trust in leaders to be respected, not abused. The least they should demand is that all statements and claims made in the run-up to elections by all parties are substantiated.

Elections won on false propaganda should be treated as null and void and fresh elections conducted. This should be deemed a bottom-line requirement for conducting free and fair poles. 

Last updated: December 12, 2017 | 15:47
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