Not only me, many other analysts both in this forum and outside have reacted with shock as to how a government that literally committed murder of governance and a mockery of performance could be voted back to power by the people.
It is not only the Maharashtra elections – the national elections earlier this year had reflected the same shocking results. In an earlier post, and as described in the attached article (Moderator willing), I had listed out the pathetic performance of Central UPA government 2004-2009 point-by-point. This article also contained the reasons – precisely the manipulation of Public Opinion Makers (POM) – that explained the divergence between performance and electoral outcome. Furthermore, the article described clearly what steps may be taken by the RSS school-of-thought to recapture the lost POM space. While that remains a perfectly valid solution in the long term, there are quicker, short-term means that we can adopt to transform our half-democratic processes into electoral victory and national transformation.
First we have to convince ourselves that we are living in a half-democracy – self-flagellation around that point will jettison development of responsive strategy and tactics. While the above examples should be sufficient, I will go a little deeper. Remember Lalu’s fifteen year rule in Bihar. The second and third victories were totally unbelievable. At the end of ten years, Lalu-family had totally ruined that hapless State. The only industry that flourished was that of kidnapping. All else – agriculture, industry, service and law-and-order were in ruins. In the third election – February 2000 – some exit polls suggested that Lalu may be losing now. Then this man declared – as long as I have MY (Muslim-Yadav!) with me, I will win. Jab matpeti khulegi usme se jinn niklega – ghosts will emerge from ballot-boxes when these are opened for counting! And that actually happened!
The NDA government appointed honest, upright officers as Election Commissioners who rigorously saw to it that all forms of direct electoral manipulation (in Lalu’s case it was booth-capturing combined with bogus voting which together made about 20 per cent of net votes counted) was ended. But that did not prevent the urge of the international forces to manipulate governments in the nation that was the cradle of the world’s civilisations (refer Will Durant) and the world’s first democracy (Vaishali). Direct physical electoral malpractice simply metamorphosed into sophisticated electoral malpractice – the manipulation of public opinion. We want party X to form the government, and never-never party Y in government. When government of party X robs the public, commits murders, renders millions of people jobless, foodless (inflation) and securityless (terrorism), bleats before the American cowboy for Oscars, panders to crass minority fundamentalism – give it all a twist so that everything appears goody-goody. When party Y’s government (somewhere) does not even do anything resembling the above, conjure up issues and repeat it hundred times in different locations in true Goebbelsian fashion till the hapless people believe it. Mind it, this is done in an organised fashion – taken care of by foreign intelligence agencies and other manipulative entities like the church who work symbiotically with corrupt power brokers both in the media and politics within the country. Simply, the booth capturers have now been replaced by organised media manipulators – but the end result is the same – perversion and derailment of the genuine interests of the people and nation.
Having realised this reality, we are left with the stark question – then can we at all transform our nation, our civilisation and the world through this half-democracy – or only dream of “revolution”?
There is one key attribute of our own very Indian half-democracy that still makes it amenable as a vehicle of national transformation – provided we realise what it is and know precisely how to use it (strategy and tactics) in elections.
The emotional content of Indian elections
And that is the preponderance of emotion in electoral selection – both in our semi-literate masses as well as among our grassroots level workers (whose motivation levels make a lot of difference).
The judgement by the senior central BJP leadership, post 2004 – that performance is the only thing that determines people’s choice in elections (and its corollary that poor performance will lead to booting out of incumbents), was totally wrong – a blunder almost comparable in scale to Nehru’s Kashmir-to-UN one. First and foremost, theoretically in a perfect electoral democracy – close to the sort that prevails in “developed’ countries – that is indeed true. In India, because of the above-stated reason (i.e. manipulation) that is NOT true. Should not the central BJP leadership have had the maturity to see this – that we live in a half-democracy? That they failed to see Indian democracy as in real and tried to judge it in theoretical terms is the first reason why BJP is in central decline today. More importantly, they failed to judge the deep relevance of emotion in Indian democracy; but to expect theoreticians who cannot read the writing on the wall (the first point) to be able to read between-the-lines on the same wall would be too much.
While the proof that Indian democracy is manipulated is presented above, in the attachment as well as in many other writings by various analysts, the proof that common mass emotions determine electoral outcome is presented below.
But first, I will try to explain what is meant by “common mass emotion”. 1984, 1997 and 1998 national elections are good examples of common mass emotion. While 1984 (Mrs. Gandhi assassination) and 1998 (Kargil and Jaya’s betrayal) are well known, 1997 reflected people’s urge to bring the towering Vajpayee (whose 13-day period terminated in 1996 with his immortal phrase “Now I am Free”) over the squabbling sickular Gowdas and Kesris whose governments fell every 11 months. There are endless examples at State level – 1991 UP elections (Sri Ram Janmabhoomi), 1983 & 84 Andhra Pradesh elections (NTR), 2002 December Gujarat elections, and so on. A common characteristic in all these elections was the figure of a benevolent leader – who has been wronged – leading the campaign. And that the people are emotionally strained on an issue that is the central issue raised by this benevolent leader. The word “benevolent” is very important here.
Now returning to the proof of the fact that common mass emotions rather than performance determine electoral outcomes. First, the copybook election which the senior BJP leadership cites to demonstrate that elections can be won only on the basis of performance is Gujarat 2007. But remember, BJP got fewer seats in Gujarat in 2007 compared to 2002. Moreover, the tipping point of that election was Sonia’s “Maut Ka Saudagar” statement. From that point onwards Modiji became a hero – the odds were even till then. So that was also an emotionally determined outcome and not a performance based one – the latter was an interpretation made by the central BJP to suit their theory.
Next, look at the two Bihar elections in 2005. Election commissioners had put paid to Lalu’s booth capturing. Unlike 2000, 2005 ended in a deadlock with Nitish’s JD(U) finishing above Lalu. The NDA with independents was just above majority – but Buta Singh as Governor and Lalu in the Cabinet used all weapons in their armoury – including signing of presidential rule declaration by a president who was in mid-sleep in Moscow! The people felt that Nitish had been grossly wronged. In the elections held ten months later – belying all exit polls – NDA led by Nitish formed a government with clear majority.
There are countless other examples, including the central ones cited above. Yediyurappa in 2007 (betrayal by the Gowda clan), Keshubahi Patel in Gujarat (betrayal by Waghela) in 1998. We can also see the opposites – where a pathetically performing government is returned to power precisely because the opposition did not have a central benevolent leader to give an emotional punch to the campaign. Maharashtra in both 2004 and 2009 serve as examples, Delhi in 2008 is another. And examples of the opposite kind – where governments providing very good performance are either returned or booted out based on whether they have a benevolent leader to lead the electoral campaign. MP and Chattisgarh in 2008 are examples of the former, the central NDA in 2004 and Rajasthan in 2008 are examples of the latter. In 2004 Vajpayeeji was not physically fit to lead the national campaign – it was led by others. Vasundharaji in 2008 had unfortunately lost the qualification of “benevolence” due to the many police firing incidents that occurred during her rule.
By this time I have hopefully proven that in our current Indian democracy it is not performance of a government that wins elections (or its corollary – poor performance blotches elections), but the right emotional mix presented before the people that wins elections. And now we move on to the strategy and tactics by which the BJP can use this fact to win elections and transform our nation.
(Please note that in a non-mathematical frame of events absolutes do not work. When I am saying that emotional mix and not performance wins elections I am not saying performance has zero effect; its effect is possibly between 0.2 and 0.3, with 1 the other absolute).
Just by the side, it is not as if the central BJP leadership was always so rootless as not to realise the unique characteristics of Indian democracy. Recall the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign and BJP’s election victories – starting with UP – in the 90’s decade. In these recall BJP’s prime slogan: Ram aur Roti. Baki sab sirf roti ki baat karte hain – ham Ram aur roti dono ki baat karte hain. Who framed this slogan – Govindacharya, Uma Bharati and Kalyan Singh! Where are they now – alas nowhere in the BJP! Who drove them out – I need not answer. What did Ram aur Roti represent? The right combination of emotion and performance (respectively)! Realised and executed with no hair-splitting retrospective analysis like this one, being done after twenty years. Simple enough to appeal to our semi-literate masses, and to motivate our workers to work with selfless zeal! These leaders felt the pulse of the people with their own hands!
(To be continued)