Lok Sabha polls: What to expect on 4 June — and the days after

Mr Modi can be expected to move heaven and earth to continue in power. There will be no repeat of 1977

BJP star campaigner PM Narendra Modi at his roadshow in Varanasi (photo courtesy @BJP4India/X)
BJP star campaigner PM Narendra Modi at his roadshow in Varanasi (photo courtesy @BJP4India/X)

Avay Shukla

I sincerely hope the Hon'ble Lordships who dismissed the petitions for mandatory counting of VVPAT slips (with wholly unwarranted aspersions on the petitioner, the Association for Democratic Reforms) are able to sleep soundly these days.

I also hope they have by now realised how misplaced their touching faith in the current Election Commissioners was. 

For every round of polling brings fresh disturbing news of malfunctioning of EVMs, of only the BJP symbol being displayed no matter which key one presses, of EVMs being 'captured' by ruling-party goons with the connivance of the police, of Muslim voters not being allowed to vote, of a BJP candidate (who has no business being inside a polling booth except to cast her vote) forcibly lifting the burkhas of Muslim women to verify their ID, of CCTV cameras in strongrooms being rendered ineffective by electricity 'failure', of en mass deletion of names of voters of a particular community — all accompanied by the sepulchral silence of the Election Commission.

In one of the laziest judgements delivered in recent times, the hon'ble judges premised their order on complete faith in the Election Commission and its impartiality.

How wrong they were is being proved on a daily basis.

For the present Election Commission is the most deplorable, partisan and incompetent one we have had since 1947. It is as transparent as a block of granite, as communicative as a Trappist monk who has taken a vow of silence and as straight as a corkscrew.

It takes no action on hate speeches and allows a communal video to be shown for four days before taking it down just hours before polling. It is petrified of even taking the Prime Minister's name, let alone calling him out for persistent anti-Muslim baiting.

Its 'notices' are targeted mainly at the Opposition parties.

It changes, without any explanation, the practice of revealing polling numbers instead of just percentages. It takes days to reveal even this information in the age of 'Digital India'!

And, in order to leave no doubt as to which corner of the ring it is in, it castigates the president of the country's largest opposition party for raising just this issue in a letter!

The credibility of this Commission has hit rock bottom, but it continues to dig deeper every day. All of us knew this, but apparently the hon'ble judges did not.

I fear the nation may pay a huge price for this indefensible misjudgement of the Commission's character and intentions. For the real mischief will happen on counting day.


It appears that some of Mr Modi's divinity has rubbed off on me too: These days, perched in my mountain home at 7,000 feet, I feel like Moses on Mount Sinai, surveying the frenetic goings-on far below with cynical disapproval.

Things haven't changed much since the days of Moses either — what he beheld was worship of the golden calf, what I see now is hysteria about the saffron cow (speaking metaphorically, of course). To provide a non-Abrahamic analogy, I feel a bit like Jamlu Devta of Malana village, on the heights of Chandrakhani Pass, observing the other inferior devtas of Kullu conducting their road shows (it is election time, after all!), each trying to impress the voter — sorry, devotee — to be declared the numero uno. (Incidentally, Jamlu Devta is not to be confused with Jumla Devta, that reigning deity in Delhi.)

And what I see is that, notwithstanding the indulgence (or worse) of the Election Commission, the misuse of the official apparatus and the thousands of crores of bribes as electoral bonds being allowed to be retained, the BJP is going to fall short of a simple majority by at least 30-40 seats.

The ragtag NDA allies may garner another 30 or so seats, but it is unlikely that they will bail the BJP out.

For, as Parakala Prabhakar explained to Karan Thapar in a recent interview, these parties are "contextual" and not "ideological" allies of the BJP. When the context changes, they will jump ship like the proverbial rat.

And that is when the fun begins, or the shit hits the ceiling. It is something we all should be discussing and worrying about, because this moment will put to the test every single institution, convention and law we have so painstakingly created over the years.

Mr Modi has been in power continuously for the last 22 years, and has made no secret of the fact that he loves it so much that he is not likely to hand it over to any one else, election or no election.

He has, after all, been ordained to rule by God himself.

Moreover, he has much to lose and fear if he must relinquish power.

His atrocities and excesses have made him many enemies. Having lived by the sword, he can expect no quarter from them. His imperious decisions will be called into question and investigated: Rafale, demonetisation, the PM Cares fund, electoral bonds, Pegasus, the Panama and Pandora papers, the Hindenberg expose on Adani, the award of contracts, ports, airports, mines, railways to cronies...

Cadavers from the past will be exhumed to point their gory fingers at him — the Gujarat riots of 2002, the North-East Delhi riots of 2021, Judge Loya, the Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi encounters, the killings in Manipur, the imprisonment of Sanjiv Bhat and human rights activists... Many more may emerge once the repressive lid is lifted off a citizenry and media muzzled for the last ten years.

He will not, however, be without powerful allies who have been his accomplices in his megalomaniac excesses — bureaucrats, the police and defence forces, institutions like the Election Commission, the Reserve Bank of India and other banks, SEBI and other regulatory bodies, even the judiciary.

Just about every organ of government has, in the last 10 years, been infiltrated by right-wing sympathisers, if not outright bhakts. For all of them, this will be a moment that will endanger not only the continuance of Mr Modi but their own survival. They will provide the pushback to (and try to prevent) any change of regime and, since they will continue to occupy positions of power in the system, they will constitute a potent challenge.

With the kind of resources he will still have and the strength of the backing from within the governmental structure, Mr Modi can be expected to move heaven and earth to continue in power.

There will be no repeat of 1977, when Mrs Gandhi handed over power peacefully.

This is for good reason: our institutions and systems of checks and balances have been thoroughly eroded over the last decade, an independent media no longer exists, the character of our politicians has plumbed unimagined depths, and the very fabric of society has been torn and shredded.

The engineering of large-scale violence on the pattern of the 6 January violence in Washington cannot be ruled out either, giving the present regime the perfect excuse to declare an Emergency, suspend all rights and call out the uniformed forces, who have shown that they are not at all averse to a touch of highhandedness and have their own take on how best to preserve the 'sovereignty of the nation'.

The fate of the nation will then depend on the President and the Supreme Court. Somehow, I cannot muster up much confidence in or hope from either.

If, in spite of the election results (or because of manipulated results), Mr Modi and the BJP/NDA manage to retain power for the next five years, India will cease to exist as a genuine democracy.

But then, as Satan said, for some it is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.

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