Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Beyond hype

More than 10% of the global population ~ nearly 970 million people ~ will vote during the world’s largest elections, which is set to begin in India on April 19 amid claims that the battle to lead the country has already been won by the saffron brigade. Due to its colossal geography, voting is not on a single day but is instead split into seven phases across different States ~ lasting nearly six weeks in total. Voting will close on June 1 and results will finally be counted and declared on June 4. Should Narendra Modi secure for himself and his party yet another majority stake when the results are out and win a third tenure, he would equal the feat of Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister. It is said that democracies function best when there is equal competition and equitable treatment of all citizens in day-to-day government. That has not been the case in India under Modi. In the last decade or so, opposition parties in the country have faced a sustained attack by powerful Central agencies, which has left them in a severely weakened position. Dozens of opposition figures have been investigated or arrested in financial and corruption cases they allege are politically motivated. The Hindu nationalist policies of Modi and the BJP Government have reshaped the political and cultural landscape of the country over the past decade, steering it away from the secularism enshrined in the Constitution ~ which guarantees equality for all religions ~ and towards Hindu majoritarian rule. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”, is a timeless saying by Abraham Lincoln that has great resonance in today’s political environment, particularly as the country goes to vote. The electorate’s confidence in the elected officials is crucial in a democracy. But the dishonesty and manipulation of politicians is eating away at this confidence more and more. Lincoln’s comments must be considered in their entirety as the citizens take part in yet another democratic exercise that comes loaded with especially high consequences. People from a range of socio-economic backgrounds make up the electorate, and they all have different goals, desires and complaints. However, in order to win over the voters, politicians far too frequently turn to deceit, pandering and downright lying. The spread of propaganda and false information is one of the most alarming features of Indian politics nowadays. False narratives have the ability to spread quickly thanks to social media ~ skewing public opinion and undermining the democratic process. Quick to take advantage of this situation, political parties and their allies distribute inflammatory speech, fabricate tales and manipulate visuals in an effort to influence voters. The democratic process’ integrity is seriously threatened by the widespread use of force and money in elections. Rich candidates frequently use intimidation tactics or vote-buying to ensure victory. In addition to undermining the ideas of fair competition, this also denies rights to marginalised communities who are powerless against such intimidation. The absence of accountability and transparency in political fundraising, which makes electoral fraud a bigger issue, is alarming. In India, black money is a free-flowing stream of funding that influences Governmental choices behind closed doors and finances political campaigns. In the absence of sufficient legislation and enforcement measures, politicians are unlikely to refrain from engaging in corrupt acts in order to hold onto their positions of authority. Voting is a right that citizens should use wisely and they should base their choices on the truth rather than on promises or hype. Additionally, there is a pressing need for electoral reforms that promote transparency, curb corruption and level the playing field for all candidates. As the world’s largest democracy, India has the potential to set an example for other nations in upholding the principles of democracy and good governance. However, this requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders to confront the pervasive culture of deception and ensure that the voice of the people is heard and respected.