Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
The BJP swept the February-March, 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The instant reaction of BSP supremo Mayawati to her party’s miserable performance in Uttar Pradesh was that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were manipulated. Soon the Samajwadi Party and AAP leaders joined Mayawati’s outcry. Even some Congress leaders in Uttarakhand also started talking about EVM manipulation. Meanwhile, a discussion on the fragmentation of non-BJP votes in Uttar Pradesh had also started (the BJP got so many seats with a vote share of less than 40 per cent while the combined vote share of BSP and SP was over 44 per cent plus six per cent of the Congress share).
The subject of EVM manipulation has been cropping up almost from the time EVMs were introduced. A sort of campaign on this issue was launched by then Madhya Pradesh Congress President Suresh Pachouri after the 2008 Assembly elections which had returned BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the second term. A distraught Pachouri had threatened to expose EVM manipulations with the help of his “friends in the UK and the US”.
Before Pachouri could carry out his threat, Lal Krishna Advani jumped in the fray after the BJP lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and his dream of becoming the Prime Minister was shattered. He demanded discontinuation of EVMs and going back to the printed ballot papers. Advani’s demand was supported by the leaders of various parties like the AIADMK, CPI (M), Janata Dal (S) and the Lok Janshakti Party. Advani had the support of a bureaucrat also. Former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal had surfaced to claim that he knew a secret code in the EVM, through which the machine could be programmed to transfer every fifth vote to a particular candidate. Petitions were filed in courts on the fallibility of EVMs, one of the most vocal petitioners being BJP’s Kirit Somaiya.
There was so much noise in the country that the Election Commission felt it had to do something. In August 2009, the Commission randomly obtained 100 EVMs from 10 States (Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh). The Commission invited political leaders, petitioners and other critics of EVMs and also made the media announcement that the EVMs would be kept in the Commission office for a specified period and anyone could come and show how these machines could be manipulated. No one did. The EVM bogey, though, has one merit. It keeps occupied the politicians who have been defeated in the elections and have nothing else to do at the moment.
The following editorial in The New York Times gives a timely warning to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against frittering away his electoral gains:
Since he was elected in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has played a cagey game, appeasing his party’s hard-line Hindu base while promoting secular goals of development and economic growth. Despite worrying signs that he was willing to humor Hindu extremists, Mr. Modi refrained from overtly approving violence against the nation’s Muslim minority.
On Sunday, Mr. Modi revealed his hand. Emboldened by a landslide victory in recent elections in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, his party named a firebrand Hindu cleric, Yogi Adityanath, as the state’s leader. The move is a shocking rebuke to religious minorities, and a sign that cold political calculations ahead of national elections in 2019 have led Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to believe that nothing stands in the way of realizing its long-held dream of transforming a secular republic into a Hindu state.
Mr. Adityanath has made a political career of demonizing Muslims, thundering against such imaginary plots as “love jihad”: the notion that Muslim men connive to water down the overwhelming Hindu majority by seducing Hindu women. He defended a Hindu mob that murdered a Muslim man in 2015 on the suspicion that his family was eating beef, and said Muslims who balked at performing a yoga salutation to the sun should “drown themselves in the sea.”
Uttar Pradesh, home to more than 200 million people, badly needs development, not ideological showmanship. The state has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. Nearly half of its children are stunted. Educational outcomes are dismal. Youth unemployment is high.
Mr. Adityanath has sounded the right notes, saying, “My government will be for everyone, not specifically for any caste or community,” and promising to make Uttar Pradesh “the dreamland” of Mr. Modi’s development model.
But the appointment shows that Mr. Modi sees no contradiction between economic development and a muscular Hindu nationalism that feeds on stoking anti-Muslim passions. Mr. Modi’s economic policies have delivered growth, but not jobs. India needs to generate a million new jobs every month to meet employment demand. Should Mr. Adityanath fail to deliver, there is every fear that he — and Mr. Modi’s party — will resort to deadly Muslim-baiting to stay in power, turning Mr. Modi’s dreamland into a nightmare for India’s minorities, and threatening the progress that Mr. Modi has promised to all of its citizens.