Can politics of hate win elections?

Harsh Dev Singh
Five states of the country are going to polls in February –March, 2022. The parties of various hues and colours are fighting fierce political battles. The said elections however seem to be relatively different in so far as the ‘means’ and ‘ends’ are concerned. While the means appear to be insignificant and immaterial, the only objective appears to be to grab power and privilege. The issues of the public are hardly being touched. Manipulations, manoeuvrability, paroxysm, emotionalism have become the over-riding mantras for achieving the said goals. The politicians have coined new grammar for their political opponents. Attacking the political adversaries left and right, levelling wildest of allegations and unsubstantiated muck raking against each other without any qualms of conscience in a bid to score political brownie points. Such vitriolic attacks are extending to mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, children and even to ancestors of political opponents. Religion, caste, creed and color are being fully exploited and more so in a state like UP which is the largest democratic unit of the entire country. No bars, no red lines. Gone are the days of political morality. Power is the ultimate goal and the arena is free for all with no rules in the game.
Faith and State should be kept separate. This is the general rule. It has been believed that most sinister and oppressive states are those that use religion and God to control their population and to achieve power. The present day politics under the new regime however has transformed in functioning, character and facade. Inventive acronyms, deceptive adroitness, jugglery and unrelenting jugglery have become the major tools for success in today’s politics. And religion seems to have become the new currency of politics. The largest state of the country Uttar Pradesh seems to be leading in hate campaigns and witnessing growing legitimization of communal poison being administered particularly by the ruling party. The most petrifying and extremely wicked aspect of politicking of the ruling party was seen in UP with its Chief Minister Yogi giving the most abhorable slogan of 80:20 only to polarize the voters and thereby derive political gains. It’s shocking that rather than giving accountability of five year rule, he has been desperately attempting to create communal divide. At a time when he needed to give a track record of the double engine govt, Yogi was trying to alter the very basis of politics to create a perennial ethnic voting block. And sadly the election watchdogs are also behaving as mute spectators.
While religion has occupied the prime place in political campaigns, the economic issues have been relegated to the background thereby making a mockery of democracy, the rule of law and the constitution. The matters of Job, Health, Education, rising prices etc having been thrown out of the poll fray. And its the politics of hate that has become all pervasive and consumed all other issues. But can hate politics win elections? And even if it does, can it be termed a democratic victory? The recently held Dharam Sansad in Haridwar on the eve of elections is also seen to be a part of the wicked campaign of a particular party wherein the participants riding on hate gave a public call for genocide against a particular community. Was this the cherished objective of the Constitution and Indian democracy which our forefathers sought to achieve after the country’s Independence?
Democracy in the country is presently on the cross-roads of history. At a time when we needed statesmen we got politicians. And democracy for them is nothing more than elections, a route to ascend the thrones of power. Assuming unchallenged political power and unbridled authority they are behaving as unquestionable despots. Tailoring their slogans with the sole objective of retaining power, they have the least hesitation in dividing the people on communal lines to realize their goals. And in the process, the democracy is becoming the biggest causality.
According to the ‘Economist intelligence unit survey’ a leading Research and Analysis Organization, India has slipped on the Democracy Index from 27th place in 2014 to 51st position in 2019. Erosion of democratic values and civil liberties and growing recourse to religion in politics are believed to be the reason.
We are passing through unusual times. Value based politics is fast disappearing. The role of caste and color is growing and the civil servants in majority are allowing themselves to be used by the rulers to bully and browbeat those questioning the Government’s policies. Not only that the opposition is being bludgeoned through the iron fist of Police with other agencies also pushed into service. Policing those criticizing the government’s failures has become a routine feature. Opponents and those not subscribing to the ideology of rulers are delegitimized as anti-nationals, urban naxals, Tukde Tukde gang etc. Protests against rulers are met with imperious arrogance rooted in hubris. Civil society is being pulverized. Opposition is demonized and stigmatized. The posse of self-styled moral police has now re-inforcements in the form of oral police who determine what people may or may not put in their mouths. Politics of coercion, intimidation, detentions and persecutions is becoming the order of the day. The instances of malicious and trivial persecutions are too many to recount. And each outdoes the other blatant idiocy and malevolence. Such instances occurring on a regular basis in the ongoing elections shall remain etched in public memory as watershed moments in the perversion of constitutional guarantees in the current regime in particular.
The Independence that we have achieved is the result of countless sacrifices and united struggle made by people belonging to various religious faiths. This Independence has to be preserved. And no one can be allowed to destroy the freedoms that our ancestors and forefathers fought to defend. The Indian democracy can’t be allowed to be hijacked by fanatics and religious bigots. The pertinent question therefore remains, “Will the politics of hate win Elections”?
(The writer is former Education Minister & Chairman J&K National Panthers Party)