Why 2014 was an incredible and a terrible year for democracy

2014 was a terrific year for the democracy; 2014 was a terrible year for the democracy.

Akshaya Mishra December 31, 2014 21:40:46 IST
Why 2014 was an incredible and a terrible year for democracy

2014 was a terrific year for the democracy; 2014 was a terrible year for the democracy.

It was a year which witnessed dynasties and established political entities humbled across the country; it was also a year that saw the country fall victim to the biggest political con act. With the rise and rise of Narendra Modi the resilient democracy scripted one of its most spectacular success stories; his success also brought out of the woodwork dark forces which could put the democracy in peril.

The general election of May was the most significant in the country’s history, after that of 1977 – the post-Emergency one. The template of politics practiced over the decades after Independence got a rude overhaul this time. Both the idiom and the language were different as were the lead players. A regional satrap decided to make ‘change’, in all its connotations, his weapon and take on the entrenched power centres in the national capital. He achieved the unthinkable.

It was a battle unique in its intensity, expanse, and finally, impact. It was fought on many fronts, some hitherto foreign to the country’s electoral politics. It required efficient foot soldiers, mercenaries and the die hard faithful; it required ammunition, intellectual and otherwise, of the strongest kind. It also needed an idea good enough to be the holding theme of the battle. It was development, wrapped in the can-do spirit. It was juxtaposed with the culture of governance which reduced the masses to beggars, made incompetence of rulers almost a certificate of their political maturity.

Why 2014 was an incredible and a terrible year for democracy

PTI

All of this required assiduous planning. Modi’s victory was no ambush act, it was a product of at least three years of solid thinking and strategising. Before the final attack was launched, there were many guerilla attacks on the enemy. It was left weak, confused and bleeding. The Congress’ defeat was a foregone conclusion. In May, Modi merely completed a formality. With this he diminished Delhi as the hub of power and influence and made the rest of India relevant in his own way.

However, the bigger story is his subsequent victories in state after state post the general election. He has made the BJP the new Congress in the country. If his party does not act extraordinarily foolish, it can stay secure in that position for a couple of decades at the least. The opposition knows where it erred, but it cannot think of that big idea to market. As long as it tries to fit the changed times in the old template, it will go nowhere. It will happen at some point, but till then the BJP is safe.

2014 was a terrific year because it saw someone like Modi breaking the glass ceiling to make it to the top on his own, and also because it marked the end of old, insipid and purposeless politics. But that’s half the story.

The year also saw the biggest con act being played on the people of the country with Modi acting as facade for something sinister. There were efforts to fool people with grand, lofty rhetoric. And none failed. Modi spoke of development and aspiration, and everyone was impressed. They bought the Gujarat growth story despite it many flaws. When he proclaimed in rally after rally that growth was the panacea to all the problems of the country no one complained. After all, he was promising change, selling ideas that are agreeable.

When he said he didn’t believe in the politics of religion and hate he made himself believable. People decided to forget 2002 and all the angry speeches he made in Gujarat. How can a man with such lofty ideas be accused of being so mean and narrow-minded? Of course, he is being hounded, more sinned against than sinning – that was the perception then.

Seven months down the line, as the Sangh Parivar flexes its muscles, the Hindutva groups run amok in the country and the prime minister of the country stays indifferent to all that, there’s reason enough to question that perception. Was there an ulterior design? Was the promise of economic development a cover for something else? These questions have been doing the rounds for sometime now. The prime minister has avoided an answer so far.

The votes of May were not supposed to be about ideology, Hindutva, reconstruction of the country’s past, re-conversions and tinkering with our icons. Modi didn’t talk about all these in his election speeches. Had he done so, maybe the results of the elections would possibly have been different. Former prime minister Vajpayee was accused of being the mask of the Sangh Parivar, but it’s a mask that never sat well on him. It appears it fits better on Modi. Now, it’s up to him to dispel that growing impression.

2014 was a terrible year because it unleashed many regressive forces. With no political will to stop them, they would just get bigger and unmanageable.

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