We’ve only just saved democracy from dying...

This mandate is a victory, but a lot remains to be done, writes Sabika Abbas

Congress MP Geniben Thakor crowdfunded her campaign (photo: @GenibenThakor/X)
Congress MP Geniben Thakor crowdfunded her campaign (photo: @GenibenThakor/X)

Sabika Abbas

To be honest, despite a few reports from my political journalist friends who have been on the road since the elections began, and despite what my father kept saying, I totally believed that hate has triumphed. Hindutva nationalist fervour had engulfed my dear country and we needed to put our heads down and work hard till we succeeded in overthrowing the very well-funded, organised and fascist nexus of the media-Modi collab.

But I hand it to the optimists, who believed otherwise.

I really appreciated the work done by the INDIA bloc, from the Bharat Jodo Yatra to their articulation and embrace of the PDA (Pichhade–Dalit–Aadhi Abadi) millions. The organisers of people’s movements worked so hard. Comrades distributed pamphlets, union workers organised rallies, volunteers registered voters.

It is really the workers, the Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan, Muslim, marginalised folks that have made the whole country believe that no one is divine, no leader invincible. Oh, and how can I forget the feisty YouTubers who spoke up and relentlessly countered propaganda?

The Opposition put up such a tough fight! In the face of impossible odds — think electoral bonds, the conduct of a blatantly partisan Election Commission, the sold-out media, a supplicant judiciary, think of all the lies and hate peddled by the BJP IT cell, of the arrest of opposition leaders, of attacks on civil society, of the freezing of the bank accounts of the Congress, of the hate speeches by the prime minister himself…

The people’s faith in our Constitution has fed the BJP and its supporters a big humble pie. Imagine what it might’ve looked like had the elections been free and fair.

I’ve always believed that every zaalim (oppressor) sees their end, I just didn’t know that Modi-Shah’s BJP would see it so soon. Happy to be proven wrong; happy to have found hope.

Kishori Lal Sharma celebrates his win over Smriti Irani (photo: PTI)
Kishori Lal Sharma celebrates his win over Smriti Irani (photo: PTI)

What gave me hope was that the Opposition did not allow the BJP to set the political narrative for this election, it didn’t let them divide voters by peddling hate. They stood strong in their own ideology and kept flagging the everyday concerns of common folk — like mehngai (inflation) and berozgari (unemployment); they kept talking about the BJP’s assaults on the Samvidhan (Constitution).

I heard the speeches of Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav and a few others, and I was impressed with their socialist acumen. This electoral verdict is also a victory of the political commitment to people’s welfare.

I was asked why we were celebrating when Modi will remain the PM. Gubbara toh rahega hi, bas iss baar uski hawa nikal gayi hai (true, the balloon remains the same, but it’s deflated). The Supreme Leader will have to learn to defer to ‘coalition dharma’, not easy for autocrats who’ve begun to harbour delusions of divine origin. People won’t be afraid to speak up. You bulldoze homes, you make over national resources to crony businessmen, while the poor get poorer and find it impossible to make ends meet… how delusional to think it can carry on endlessly.

I’d say no single party should ever be in majority in a democracy. A coalition government with a strong Opposition ensures checks and balances. The people of India have managed to save democracy by electing a strong Opposition that will hopefully keep the ruling coalition accountable.

The people also gifted us some feel-good victories. Even atheists might become Ram-bhakts after the BJP’s ouster from Ayodhya. How fittingly sweet! They humbled the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, considered an impregnable fortress. The people of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan also let them know they were not amused by the way they treated our farmers.

Smriti Irani at a press meet after her defeat (photo: PTI)
Smriti Irani at a press meet after her defeat (photo: PTI)

It was heartwarming to see Rajkumar Roat, an Adivasi, win from Banswara, where Modi set a new benchmark for Islamophobic hate speech. It was good to see the arrogant Smriti Irani lose to Kishori Lal Sharma. It was special to see Geniben Thakor, the woman who ran a crowdfunding campaign, win against the BJP in Gujarat.

I’m excited that Parliament will have some incredibly articulate first-time MPs. I can’t wait to hear the likes of Iqra Choudhary, Sasikanth Senthil, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sanjana Thakur, Geniben, Rajkumar, and so many of our comrades. I’m proud to call some of them my friends. Oh, to think of the questions they’ll ask!

On 4 June, as the results started showing up the cooked-up exit polls, the forlorn faces of news anchors were quite a sight to behold! I really enjoyed the confusion and sadness in the eyes of those vultures. Or shall we say maggots eating away at the last remains of our democracy?

But I must also say this is not a victory of love over hate. It is a victory of people’s issues. People did not vote against the ruling party’s Islamophobia; they voted on other matters and it worked out. We still need to fight the hate.

Dare we hope the judiciary will be freer, will act freer? That the Opposition will demand the release of political prisoners like Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Gulfisha and others?

We haven’t truly won. Democratic institutions are still hijacked, the media is still sold out, corporations are still having a field day, and it is worrying to see that the BJP has support in urban India.

We have only just saved democracy from dying — it is still in the ICU!

Sabika Abbas is a poet, organiser and educator based in Lucknow

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