The return of hope

On days like 4 June, the world looks a better place

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge briefs the media in New Delhi on 5 June (photo: Getty Images)
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge briefs the media in New Delhi on 5 June (photo: Getty Images)

Aakar Patel

Let's focus on the positives of 4 June. To the Opposition, congratulations and best wishes. You fought an election against heavy odds. You weren’t blessed with resources, you were harassed by the media, molested by the agencies, many of you were in jail, but you still fought well.

In the days before counting, many on social media said they were proud of the way you joined the contest. Even defeat would have been honourable under the circumstances, but this was a magnificent performance, exceeding all expectations. The task ahead, for the next five years and for the longer term, is enormous, but this is not the time to talk about that—for now, enjoy your performance.

To the prime minister, congratulations and best wishes. You have been returned to office, but the people have asked you to be more inclusive in your decision-making. One hopes this is possible. There are many things some of us want you to stop doing, in particular, the ideological stuff, but let’s put that aside for now. One hopes the curtailed win for the NDA will give you and your party the impulse to reflect on change.

To the institutions of India, you have covered yourself in shame over the past decade, but this is a time to consider how you can free yourself. There is not a single one that stood fully for the Constitution.

The Election Commission, which is not even independent anymore, being appointed by the ruling party, should use the opportunity to assure the public that it can be honest. The manner in which it withheld data, the tone in which it addressed the Opposition, the way it made the election schedule to suit one man, the way it ignored his abusive speeches… none of this went unnoticed.

But that pressure from above has lessened now. You have a chance to restore the ECI to its lost glory. Hopefully this chance will be used.

What can we say of the investigative agencies—the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which have allowed themselves to become puppets of the BJP? Nothing posi tive unfortunately, and so we’ll refrain here. They have been rightly accused in the past of being caged parrots; now they are like canines on a leash who can be set upon opponents at will. But they should keep in mind that times change, governments change, men come and go.

For India’s civil society, one has only love—alongside political leaders, they bore the brunt of authoritarian law. They’ve done so with courage and dignity. Many of them are still in jail, for nothing other than dissent. Their fortitude has given crores of people inspiration.

What is the danger we have averted? That India would slip into the sort of one- party state Gujarat has become. Where there is democracy, but where the Opposition exists on sufferance. Where the only concession to constitutionalism is regular elections, which are neither free nor fair.

Last and not the least, thank you, voters. The statistics indicate there was no drop in the numbers who voted for Modi and/ or Hindutva. But this time, the other side showed up and were able to mount a defence of the Constitution of India. Many, including me, often think India is a lost cause. But days like these make us feel the world is a much better place. Even the heat outside is suddenly more bearable. The future is still a concern but some of the dark clouds are lifting

(Views are personal)

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