Will the elections this year change India irreversibly?

Special to Times of Oman

After a lonely day in the City and passing through Fleet Street, a homesick WB Yeats wrote in The Lake of Innisfree:

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and
wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive
for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there,
for peace comes dropping slow."

All of us at some time or the other would like to drop it all and escape to our own Innisfree.  In the past few months, I've been driven by the same overwhelming longing. To drop it all and escape somewhere—to my own Innisfree.

In the past fortnight or so when I was back home in India, this urge to break free was at its wildest.  I was weighed down by a foreboding sense of doom and gloom, as though something terrible was certainly going to happen.

Amid all the fun and games and at times sheer madness, the hallmark of an Indian election, one kept asking oneself — Is it really happening? India has never seen an election like this before.

This is not an election. It's been more like a deluge — a tsunami, in the words of the BJP's prime ministerial contender. It's Modi, Modi and Modi everywhere.  You can't escape his face and hard, admonishing stare wherever you go.

This may well be the most defining election yet, changing the direction and very nature of the polity.  It has already changed and transformed India in profound, irreversible ways.  

Year 2014 may go down in history as the year that changed Gandhi's and Nehru's India forever—giving it a 360 degree turn. One has never seen such toxic, bitter political campaigning. Cutthroat battles are being waged for every single seat. Tension everywhere is so thick you could slice it with a knife.

Of course, caste and communal equations have always played a role in India.  But what one sees today is something unprecedented — not witnessed even during and after the Ayodhya upheavals in 1990s. It's as if 2014 is not about electing a new government. It is a referendum on one man and his view of India.  

And the whole nation — political establishment, all arms of the state, mighty corporates, media and middle classes — appears to be driven by one single mission to enthrone the man who already acts like the Emperor. In the end when the history of this extraordinary election is written, it will not be about how one man — determined, calculating and leaving nothing to chance —clinched it but how another one simply threw it away.

Rahul Gandhi had everything going for him — his youth, the most celebrated name and brand Indian politics has seen and a powerful organisation with pan-India presence.

 Above all, after 10 years in power, the Congress-led UPA can claim some formidable achievements. In the face of BJP's 24x7 propaganda blitz, the Congress campaign is nowhere to be seen.  

An ailing Sonia's campaigning has understandably been limited yet brave. Rahul has finally found his voice but it's clearly too little too late. One of the party's strategic blunders has been the decision to not deploy its most lethal weapon in this election.

Look at the impact Priyanka Gandhi has created with her limited campaigning in the constituencies of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

Similar disarray has been seen among Muslims, the so-called vote bank which has often played an influential role in battleground states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.  

The Muslim electorate has been thoroughly confused by the pulls and pressures of various 'secular' parties and appeals of 'community leaders' like Delhi Jama Masjid imam.

Bukhari's appeal endorsing Congress may have singlehandedly delivered millions of Hindu votes to BJP.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?

There has been a great deal of enthusiasm among Muslims for the Aam Aadmi Party, with Mushawarat, an umbrella body of Muslim organisations, endorsing Arvind Kejriwal.   Frustrated with the Congress and fearful of BJP, Muslims, like millions of other Indians, see hope in the AAP.

 Given the party's limited footprint though, it could end up eating into the Congress' vote share. AAP as a healthy alternative to Congress and BJP is a great idea. But its time is yet to come.

This is a serious do-or-die battle for the future and very idea of India.  

2014 may very well determine the future and fate of the world's greatest democracy. This is no time for fun and games.

The author is a Gulf based award winning journalist. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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Yeats poem is titled "the Lake ISLE of Innisfree"