We, the People, don’t need an emperor, nor an avatar

This mandate is to recover the expansive, accommodative idea of India, writes Apoorvanand

We, the people of India
We, the people of India


Democracy is back on the rails in India. A wounded country, bleeding from a thousand cuts inflicted by the BJP, has raised its hands to say it lives. The results of the Lok Sabha elections have proven that attempts to hijack Indian democracy by the thugs of the Hindutva gang have been foiled for now. Diffidence has given way to hope.

The BJP may still lead the next government but it cannot now turn India into a monarchical democracy. Indian citizens will not be turned into subjects. They have earned peoplehood after a long battle with a colonial power, and they will not hand over their sovereignty to a ‘desi samrat’. That is what the RSS had wanted after 1947 when it tried to collaborate with the princes of British India. That is what Narendra Modi had indicated when he placed the sengol near the seat of the Speaker in the new building of Parliament.

The primacy of the Constitution has been restored. At his presser on the evening of 4 June, Rahul Gandhi rightly said the poor, marginalised, Dalits and the working people of India have fought for the Constitutional rights the BJP wanted to snatch away from them.

Modi keeps saying the insistence on rights has halted the progress of the country; he has been firmly rebuffed. The electorate is made up of individuals who won these rights after hard battles, rights that cannot be given up at the altar of any supreme power.

The election results have made it very clear that democracy cannot accept any political entity as the hegemon. The first message of the results is the rejection of the idea of freeing Parliament of an Opposition.

The results are also a rejection of the Modi government’s demand for an anti-Muslim mandate from the people. Modi’s BJP fought this election on an anti-Muslim platform and was snubbed by the people with the disdain he deserved.

Rahul Gandhi has been saying for a long time that the Opposition is fighting a very unequal battle. Arrayed against it are the State institutions, this time led by the Election Commission itself. The Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the income tax department, even the judiciary did everything possible to disable the Opposition — their bank accounts were frozen and their leaders jailed or dragged into sundry cases or suspended and expelled from Parliament.

The Opposition, despite all these obstacles, fought a valiant battle. The opposition parties sank their differences and went to the people to alert them of the threat to their democratic rights.

It was not just about the survival of the opposition parties; it was about the supremacy of the people themselves. The people also took matters into their hands and rose to the occasion. Thousands of ordinary people worked day and night without any expectations — to protect the rights their ancestors had won.

This is not a clear mandate, but it could not have been any clearer than this. One has to consider how social sensibilities have been brutalised in the past 10 years, understand how difficult it was for society to recover its ability to feel and see reality.

The constant bombardment of fake news and hate messages have dulled the senses and damaged cognitive ability. For people to even see reality beyond this ideological haze was not easy. In this condition, what they have achieved is remarkable.

One must also salute the Muslims of this country. They faced daily, hourly violence, humiliation, brutalisation and isolation, but they never gave up on our democracy. With great forbearance, patience and dignity they exercised their democratic right, asserted their claim over India, showed that they cared for it and helped the ‘secular parties’, buffeted and dazed by the assault of Hindutva, to find their path. They chose accommodation and togetherness and refused communal partition.

The mandate is against the communal partition of India, to defeat the BJP’s bid to create a Hindu India and a Muslim India at loggerheads with each other.

The election results have created an opportunity for Hindus to distance themselves from those hell-bent on radicalising them. This is an opportunity to rehumanise Hindu life, which was being dragged on the path of Hindutva.

The mandate is to recover the expansive idea of India, an accommodative idea, not a well-defined one, as Nehru had told Mohit Sen. He had warned against the temptation of precision in defining India or its path. It has to reflect all kinds of faces, give space to different and differing ideas of life, he’d said.

The last three months people felt free. They expressed themselves boldly. Without fear. That is the message. To be in the battle for democracy. To be in that battle is to become fearless. This battle was fought with joy and hope. This spirit must live, it must be infused in all public action, in Parliament and on the streets.

People cannot lower their guard at this juncture. The mandate can still be stolen. One has to be vigilant so that the thugs who are dreaming of ruling India for a hundred years do not usurp it. Let’s hope the elites of India, who have the responsibility of safeguarding the Constitution, draw courage from this mandate and do not allow the BJP to take what does not belong to it.

Finally, rephrasing the IPTA motto, the election result ‘stars the people’. Let’s salute the people for an extraordinary performance!

Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University and is a writer

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