In a few weeks time will take place the largest democratic exercise on the planet. Bharat will be voting in its parliamentary general election. In a country of 1.3 BILLION people, a whopping 900 MILLION people will be voting. In contrast, in the 2016 US election, a tiny 137 million Americans voted.
Bharat’s electoral process is vibrant and people of Bharat take a lot of pride in their democratic right to vote and let their voices be heard. It is a real feat – fair and free elections for almost a Billion people. Utilizing a remarkable cutting edge technology, it is the only country that uses predominantly an electronic voting system, for casting and counting of votes. Almost a Billion votes and the results can start to take shape in a matter of hours!
Which brings me to my point, why this particular election is so crucial and effects not just the future of Bharat but the entire world by proxy. We are living in an interesting conjuncture point in the evolution of our country. People who may not know much about the history of Bharatiya polity, will be surprised to know that in the 72 years post colonial invasion, 57 of these years have seen one political party, called the Congress party, in power.
This is a dynastic party which has given past prime ministers from one family – Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi. Even Dr. Mahmohan Singh was a rubber stamp PM with real power vesting in Rajiv’s wife Sonia Gandhi. This hegemony of governance has had severe negative consequences such as corruption, lack of accountability, fascist rule and dynastic elevation.
Only in 15 of those years did we see other parties at the helm, the most noteworthy period being the 11 year rule (across two separate terms) under the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) – a nationalistic party, which takes pride in Bharatiya history, values and culture and puts the country first. It also happens to be the largest party in the world by size due to its 110 million members.
Let’s not make any qualms about it- Bharat needs a strong mandate moving ahead in 2019. You may think it is a shoe in for a strong global leader like Modi, however, anti- incumbency and negative media propaganda as well a common obsession to unseat Modi from power has bought a lot of regional parties together on one side. This opposition is spearheaded by the Congress party, which is a mere shadow of what it once used to be. All these opposition parties offer no solutions and only share a common disdain of the party and leader in power.
A strong mandate will let important laws and issues to be debated and passed in parliament. With a weaker mandate and fragmented coalition government, several regional parties will be fighting for space for their own state level issues and the larger national issues like national security, economy, job creation, will be neglected. There is a growth momentum now which will come to a halt.
The 2014 general elections saw the clearest mandate over the preceding 30 years. Narendra Modi’s BJP Party got 282 seats out of 543 and BJP’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 54 more seats taking NDA’s total to 336. By crossing the 272 simple majority mark on its own, BJP ensured they don’t have to appease smaller parties for the sake of cobbling together a Government.
A lot has been done in the last 5 years, during Modi’s reign. Bharat is shining on the global stage and Modi is seen as one of the strongest leaders globally. Bharat is the fastest growing major economy, becoming a leader not just in space programs but also as a spiritual teacher of the world.
Perhaps the one issue that affects the world at large is the fight against terrorism. Particularly radical Islamic terrorism by groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen which have an active base in Pakistan, a country known to harbor and train terrorists like 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden, 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed and Pulwama attack mastermind Masood Azhar. These terrorist organizations have killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans, thousands of US troops in Afghanistan and thousands of Pakistanis as well.
In the wake of the dastardly Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in February, where over 40 Indian armed forces soldiers were martyred, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is at its height. The involvement of state funded terrorism by Pakistan has alarmed the world, with most international leaders condemning this attack and pressuring Pakistan to take drastic steps to curb this terrorism.
Religious terrorism is the biggest hurdle towards global peace that is facing the planet today and more needs to be done to address this problem. We have seen a new Bharat rise to the occasion, which retaliated by using air strikes and wiping out scores of jihadists in the Balakot training camp. It showed the enemy and the world that we have a ‘zero tolerance to terrorism’ policy and that serious actions will be taken. A strong message has been sent out and an unexpected election result in 2019 may push back this military stance by several years to the dark days when there was absolutely no response to the infamous 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Bharat is at an exciting point where the size of its population is finally an asset instead of a liability. In the next 10 years, it will move to becoming the 3rd largest economy, with one of the strongest militaries and second largest consumer market. It is in Bharat’s interests that it appoints the right kind of decisive, strong, forward-thinking leadership to see it through to the future.
Hopefully, common sense will prevail and the people of Bharat will vote for their future. Regardless of which party comes to power, it is important to get a strong mandate so that parliament can govern on the issues that matter the most. Will it be “Phir Ek baar, Modi Sarkar”? Time alone will tell.
-By Preity Upala (freelance journalist based in Los Angeles who covers mainly Geo-politics, religion and Spirituality)
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