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Are We at the Threshold of History?

Peter Fernandes Peter Fernandes
20 May 2024

"Abki baar 400 Paar" is a terrific catchphrase for an election campaign, but what is the catch? Why 400 paar? Human history is weaved with so many layers of civilisation that it fascinates and intrigues the minds of every generation. One of the deepest desires of humans is to live in freedom, and numerous battles are fought for that very reason. Freedom is endowed by our creator, and rational beings should learn to respect the freedom of every individual person. Sadly, but true, freedom comes with a cost. However, sinful human nature has an odd desire for power and dominance, which explains the cost of freedom.

India, the largest democracy in the world, is enfranchising its right to vote, and it's not the first time, but it could be the last if we are not mindful. It seems we are at the threshold of crossing history. The country's citizens are lining up in this sweltering heat to cast their vote, but are they mindful of the reality and the trajectory so that the nation can move forward to uphold freedom and establish peace and prosperity in unity in diversity? Dr Ambedkar said, "Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of jointly communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards our fellow men."

If the BJP wins these elections with "abki baar 400 paar," India will no longer be the same. Once again, freedom will become a distant reality, and history will condemn us for not standing for truth and freedom. Remember, to form a government requirement is just about 272 MP's; therefore, such a majority "400 paar" will allow the BJP to nullify democracy and the Constitution and promulgate a new constitution as per the Hindutva notion of an authoritarian form of government. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's husband, Parakala Prabhakar, has said that if BJP comes back to power after winning the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, "India's map will change."

To fulfil their egoistic plan, the ruling dispensation has systematically tried to sabotage the level playing field by employing agencies to squarely threaten and dismantle the opposition's plan to win the elections. In fact, elections without opposition have been their main motto since 2014. This assumption is not unfounded or fabricated. Hear the slogan, "Congress Mukt Bharat," which was not an ordinary campaign jab but loaded with a deep, dark secret for authoritarian ideology.

Since 2014, India has witnessed unprecedented election-related machinations aimed at quelling the opposition's enthusiasm. It is supported by the mainstream media to disseminate their narrative, "If not Modi, who?" The whole nation is taken for ransom with false narratives, fake news, and lies glorifying Modi. Look at the number of places where the BJP subverted the elected government by horse-trading to form their government. The BJP's strong pitch for "one nation, one election" is not to uphold democracy. Although it appears to be a good idea superficially, the aim is to decimate democracy and freedom and turn India into an autocratic country like North Korea and Russia. Such elections are just for namesakes.

On April 22, the BJP's Mukesh Dalal was declared the unopposed winner for the Surat Lok Sabha constituency. The lack of an electoral contest has robbed lakhs of voters in Surat of their franchise. A similar saga has unfolded in Indore, with Congress candidate Akshay Kanti Bam withdrawing his nomination. The developments in the two constituencies run counter to democratic principles and procedures. Dr Ambedkar said, "If things go wrong in the country, the reason will not be that we had a bad constitution; what we will have to say is that man was vile." At this juncture, if the nation is unwilling to recognise the gravity of the political upheaval and its trajectory, then be prepared to walk back to the dark ages.

The ruling dispensation finds it hard to display any of their achievements on the campaign trail. Still, they are fully engaged in polarising the nation based on religion and caste. The mainstream media, which is supposed to be the voice and conscience of the nation, spoke little about the fact that the bank accounts of the opposition parties were frozen. Freezing the bank account during the election period is a blatant violation of the moral code of conduct, and it bothered no one. In normal circumstances, the citizens would have come to the streets to protest and voice their disapproval. But these are not ordinary times.

Elections are supposed to be a time of celebration for democracy and ought to be truly celebrated with a true spirit of freedom and the hope of a better tomorrow, but the BJP has totally killed the spirit of democracy. The election bonds had already changed the level playing field, and freezing the bank accounts compounded to make these elections one-sided. Besides, imprisoning the opposition leaders at the time of the election is a clear sign that we have ushered in a new era of politics in India.

Does the Election Commission have the responsibility to uphold the spirit of democracy? Why are they playing to the BJP's gallery? One good example is EVM's devices, which are questioned by many yet remain the only means of election. If the election commissioner is sincere about EVMs, what happened in Manipur regarding the paper audit trail? The six polling stations within the Outer Manipur Lok Sabha constituency were repolled on April 30. The directive came after reports of tampering with electronic voting machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems emerged during the initial voting on April 26. Will the Supreme Court take cognisance of this episode, or will it turn a blind eye and rely totally on the Election Commission's assurance?

India is a very diverse country, and the beauty of this nation is its unity in diversity. To rise above the ordinary quagmire of hate and divisiveness requires a noble soul and upright teachings. In 1947, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru voiced the nation's feelings, saying, "At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom." What will the nation, on June 4, 2024, wake to? Will it rise again to freedom or back to tyranny?

Since 2014, minorities have not fared well and are living in fear that they may lose everything. The number of communal attacks and deaths of those belonging to minority communities has grown exponentially. The volatile political atmosphere, and given the past history and all that transpired since 2014, even the international community has taken cognisance of hate speech by the Prime Minister. Amnesty and other international rights groups say Modi's comments 'demonise the Muslim community' and put them at risk of human rights violations. And therefore, the question lingers: what happened to the election promise, "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas"?

One glaring example before us, the BJP not contesting the Lok Shaba election in Kashmir, speaks volumes about their dictatorial stance on Article 370, against the will of the people. The scary scenario presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's husband, Parakala Prabhakar, is that if Modi becomes Prime Minister again in 2024, India will never witness another election process. Rise India to save India is a clarion call. All we know from the horse's mouth is that all that has happened since 2014: "Ye 10 saal ka kaam abhi toh trailer hai, mujhe toh aur aage jaana hai."

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