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Debunking the Modi Wave!
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
The late Ram Manohar Lohia got one fact indisputably right. It led him to formulate his strategy of anti-Congressism which invited criticism from ideologues for being a negative approach. Recent events seem to vindicate Lohia and prove his critics wrong.
Lohia contended that there were as many factions and differences within the Congress as were between opposition parties. The only difference was that the Congress vote was consolidated while the opposition vote was fragmented and divided. That helped the Congress to romp home to power with a minority vote. All that was required was for the opposition parties to unite against the Congress to consolidate the opposition vote to obtain defeat of the government. He claimed that he could formulate a unifying agenda for a united opposition within a day since there were no real differences between the parties.
As an unorthodox socialist, Lohia at that point of time did not highlight federalism as the fundamental polarizing issue against the Congress. Democracy through empowerment of opportunities as a superior device for egalitarianism to socialism through distribution of wealth had not been clearly perceived those days. But Lohia’s impulse for democratic empowerment became clear from his demand for indigenous languages to replace English which had created a class barrier to empower the privileged class. His language policy also has been overtaken by history. English today is a global language. It should be taught to every child of every region in India. Ironically, in Gujarat the IT industry has not thrived because till the age of ten children are not taught the English alphabet in most schools. However Mr. Modi did create facilities to teach school children Chinese Mandarin even while the Chinese themselves are making furious efforts to spread knowledge of English in China!
Lohia’s basic view about anti-Congressism is vindicated if perceived as anti-centralism which characterizes both the Congress and the BJP. The voting share of parties in the latest poll amidst the so called Modi wave dramatically bears this out. It is true that no party in the first-past-the-post multi-party system has ever obtained more than fifty percent of the national vote. But this time around the BJP despite its massive seat share has obtained the lowest vote share ever for a single party majority. It obtained vote share of just 31%. The previous lowest vote share for a single-party majority was in 1967 when the Congress won 283 out of 520 seats with 40.8%. What, then, did the great Modi wave really achieve?
Let it be understood that there was indeed a stupendous Modi wave generated through unprecedented resources, campaigning and media blitz. But it created only nationwide awareness of Modi and aroused curiosity about him. It did not translate into votes. The BJP seats share was obtained through Mr. Amit Shah’s effective deployment of resources to make new allies and divide opponents to fracture the opposition vote. The combined BJP-Congress vote share was just 50.3%. In other words the centralized and decentralized forces obtained just about equal vote shares. If the decentralized forces were to unite they could decimate the centralized forces which are in any case deeply divided between Congress and BJP.
For the regional parties to unite it will not be enough to replace Lohia’s anti-Congressism by a new anti-centralism. What will be required are a genuine alternative policy agenda, and poll issues that create a popular wave. Both can be formulated. But it is the will and courage among regional parties to chart a new radical path that needs to be created. There is no evidence of that emerging as yet. To win, one needs the courage to dare.
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05/28/2014 08:30 AM
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