Modi was both hero and villain of 2019 story: Prakash Belawadi
BENGALURU: The 2019 election was a strange one: there was no narrative or counter-narrative. The only narrative was ‘Narendra Modi’, no matter which side you were on. Any story can have only one hero and one villain. He was both. Modi came with a story in 2014.
A lot of people who voted for Modi in 2014, like I did, did it this time too. It is not because he fulfilled all his promises. People still hold on to the idea that he is somebody who tries and cares for India. If he fights like a streetfighter, it is not a pleasant sight, but let us remember, the street is ugly. He can’t even change his clothes without the media saying something about it.
The level of political discourse this time was ugly on both sides. This is the ugliest election I have experienced. I did not turn on the television, although I’m a news junkie. In 2014, I followed the news, I was quite active on Facebook, I asked questions, appeared on TV debates and so on. This time, I tried my best not to switch on the TV, I decided not to be available for debates. I am out of it. But I did, inevitably, tune into the discourse and read the newspapers. I’m not saying one side was better or the other was worse. My feeling is that it’s not going to get any better even after the results are announced.
On both sides, it was a fight for power, not an election about issues. One side promised development, but said nothing about development. The parties on the other side were no better — no common minimum programme, manifesto or positive agenda. A lot of noise was made about unemployment, but it was not about unemployment.
A lot of noise was made about Dalits, but it was not about Dalits, or about minorities. The Aam Aadmi Party came into being making a lot of noise about corruption, but it was not about corruption. It was a naked fight for power, with calculations made purely on identity politics. There was brazen hypocrisy on display.
The Modi story is still a work in progress. If he gets a chance, it will be a mandate of clinging to hope, and not entirely a reward. It the Opposition cries about VVPATs and delays the declaration of results by hours, or even days, it will make no difference to the narrative. If you can rig an EVM, you can rig the VVPAT too.
Going back to paper ballots won’t make it better, and if we want reform, it has to be systemic, not with sullen, knee-jerk responses. There is a crisis in India: widespread inequity and poverty, ecological degradation, malnutrition and illness, lack of education and skills, mistrust between communities divided by identity conflicts, fostered by the political and pseudo-thinker classes. We deserve better politics. And Parliament must mean business.