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Whose Mandate?

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Now that the votes have been cast and the EVMs deposited in the strong rooms of counting centres in five states, it is time for speculation on who will win and the subsequent impact on Indian politics. The stakes are high for incumbents and the primary opposition parties, as also for the Prime Minister who has led the battle on the basis of his personal popularity. If one were to go by just the elitist narrative, recent developments on the Covid front have demolished this popularity among the people. It is, however, for the people to decide and an inkling of that will be obtained from the states of Assam and West Bengal, where the BJP is the primary contender. Setbacks there will soon embolden the media element of the opposition to demand the Union Government’s resignation. Indeed, social media posts have already started asking, ‘After Modi, who?’ And the Prime Minister too will be constrained to reconsider his politics for the remainder of the term.

There is also an alternative narrative for which some background work has already been done and that will focus, once again, on the neutrality of the Election Commission and the unreliability of the EVMs. The standard for this has been set by none other than the Judiciary, which has even accused the EC of ‘committing murder’ by carrying out its constitutional duty. Ironically, it was also the judiciary that rejected the Yogi Government’s plea to postpone the panchayat elections in UP.

Democracy imposes limitations on the exercise of power, particularly in the context of having to win votes. This limitation was more than evident in the treatment meted out to the many thousands of farmers laying siege to Delhi for months. The option used by the Myanmar military against those protesting against the coup is not thinkable in India. There are just so many unpopular actions a government can take even ‘for the larger good’. There were no voices heard from across the political spectrum seeking postponement of elections in the five states, but these are being projected as a result of the PM’s ‘hubris’ now that Covid has broken out again.

And, of course, should the BJP get a general thumbs up once the results are out, some of the more contentious decisions will become easier to take. The votes cast by the common people will shape the direction matters will take at a very crucial time in the evolution of the India nation-state.