The ideological battle between political parties is part and parcel of the democratic process. It is the desire of liberal democracies to have a system that allows as much freedom of expression as possible. It is taken for granted that the people, whose votes are being sought, have the ability to discriminate between the good and the not so good, and even the bad. Credit goes to the constitution’s founders that, at the time of independence, they did not discriminate on any basis and accepted, wholeheartedly, the principle of universal franchise. This was at a time when most people were ‘illiterate’. Looked at from the present standpoint, the people – despite all the shortcomings – did a good job in making their electoral decisions.
This does not mean, of course, that the average politician did not take advantage of the system’s loopholes – the kind the people of the United States are worried about nowadays. But, overall, the elections reflected the general mandate of the people, which was respected by the mainstream leaders. At the same time, there have been ideologies, such as that of the extreme left and the secessionist movements, which have refused to do so and the nation has paid the price for it. Religious supremacists, too, have made a major comeback after the initial embarrassment of Partition. This poses a challenge to the mainstream political narrative, which looks on the Indian nation-state as the fundamental pivot of the democratic narrative.
In the present day, the fringe ideologies have acquired disproportionate visibility because of technological developments and the erasure of well-defined boundaries in the ‘virtual’ world. Conventional politics is finding it hard to counter this effectively enough, as much of the propaganda is based on ‘fake news’, which is exploited in turn by powerful forces from behind the scenes. So, as has been much spoken of in the United States, the ability of political and economic adversaries such as China and Russia to interfere in elections and manipulate public opinion has greatly increased. It has become much harder to distinguish between right and wrong.
The problem is much worse in India because of the many potential fault lines. These are being identified and exploited to weaken the nation. All it needs is to infiltrate legitimate political movements and slowly but surely ‘nudge’ them towards violence and disruptive behaviour. Anybody who closely examines the turn so many protests have taken in the recent past would realise this. It must not be forgotten that the forces inimical to India, such as China, have enormous financial resources to back these willing collaborators. It can only be hoped that the wisdom of the Indian voters, which has seen the nation through past crises, will recognise this manipulation and prevent democracy from being derailed.