India’s mammoth exercise ends The Statesman 04 Jun 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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A mammoth exercise ends

India’s mammoth exercise ends The Statesman 04 Jun 2024

          The world’s largest democratic extravaganza has concluded. Seven phases spread over six weeks, catering to over 970 million voters, some located in remote regions, the exercise involved about 15 million polling staff, 5.5 million Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and over 11 lakh polling booths. Even the scorching heat failed to deter enthusiastic voters from fulfilling their national duty as also attending political rallies.

There were no reports of fraud, though those who lose will always claim rigging of EVMs, something which remains a global phenomenon. Localized incidents were well handled. Even trouble spots such as regions affected by Left Wing Extremism, Kashmir and parts of the North East were violence and intimidation free. Security forces, deployed to ensure security, had done their homework.     

The planning and implementation by the Election Commission was flawless. It was known that the ruling dispensation will return, though the margin of victory remained a topic of debate. The government would now have to work to fulfil its electoral promises.

          Envoys based in Delhi, who were closely monitoring the elections, were all praises. The German envoy, Philipp Ackermann, mentioned he is observing the elections with interest and no matter who wins, ‘more of India will be seen on the global stage.’ The US Ambassador stated, ‘It’s extraordinary to see the world’s largest democracy execute the biggest election in the world and we’ve seen incredible, vibrant campaigning, we’ve seen parties, we’ve seen rallies, and it’s something, just as a first-time observer, that is very inspiring to see.’

          The Netherlands envoy, Alphonsus Stoelinga, mentioned, ‘I admire the election process. It is also remarkable that Indians will be giving votes through EVMs. In my country, we still use the piece of paper to cast our votes.’ So much for the critics of EVMs. A group of 20 dignitaries including six ambassadors attended PM Modi’s rally in Delhi.

          Such was the changed security scenario that the BCCI was able to simultaneously conduct its IPL cricket league within the country, with no security concerns. In 2009, it was played entirely in South Africa and in 2014, part of it was held in the UAE, as in both cases the central government refused to ensure security as the event clashed with ongoing elections. This is the changed India.

          The Indian Election Commission recently commented, ‘Overall campaigning has been violence free, less noisy, less cluttered and intrusive, free of inducement and ostentatiousness.’ On the high voter turnout in J and K, the CEC, Rajiv Kumar mentioned, ‘They deserve their government. We will initiate that process very soon … very encouraged to do this.’ 

India’s elections are an example to other democracies due for the same in coming months, notably the US, where accusations of politicizing the judiciary are gaining ground. Trump has been found guilty on all felony charges, partially impacting his re-election bid. Had this happened in India, western media and governments would have had a field day accusing India of subverting democracy and targeting opponents. Being the US, there will be muted comments. 

          In comparison, the Indian judiciary displayed an independent streak, refusing to toe the government’s line. It ruled against the government on electoral bonds and granted parole to Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, enabling him to campaign, thereby strengthening the opposition to challenge the ruling dispensation. While his arrest was negatively commented upon, his release for campaigning was received with silence. Yet, as per global media, Indian democracy remains under threat and India is 101 in the global democracy index.

          Compare this to Mexico, which ranks far higher than India in the same index, and voted in its largest election in history on Sunday. 36 candidates were killed in the past year campaigning for seats at both, federal and local levels. Human rights groups mention that over 150 people associated with politics have been killed in the past year. In 2021 there were 32 participating candidates who lost their lives. Yet Mexico is never criticized.

Most western media commenting on Indian elections mention that the ruling dispensation has been projecting a Hindu nationalist agenda. CNN in an article last week stated, ‘Many have accused the prime minister of tacitly endorsing sectarianism to bolster his Hindu-nationalist credentials, while diverting from policy failures.’ Vox mentions in a recent article, ‘To ensure nothing can stand in the way, Modi has taken a sledgehammer to Indian democracy.’ There were similar comments in other media networks.

Anti-India biases are due to few reasons. Firstly, most authors are not based in India, nor are monitoring the elections and electorate closely. They base their op-eds on third party inputs. Secondly, where authors are Indian, they are known critics of the current government and earn by penning anti-India pieces in either the New York Times or the Washington Post. Their names are well known to the Indian reader. The publishers, due to own biases, consider these authors an authority on India.

Thirdly, there are organizations whose primary role is to push an anti-India agenda lowering the image of the country and displaying the ruling elite in poor light. These include members of the Soros group as also Chinese CCP funded fake media outlets and donor organizations run by Neville Singham.

Hitting out at the west, Dr S Jaishankar stated, ‘Countries which have to go to court to decide the result of their election are giving us gyan about how to conduct the election.’ He added that western countries want a certain class of people at the helm of affairs in India but when the Indian electorate decides differently, they feel disturbed.   

          Sam Stevenson, assistant editor of UK based Daily Express, who was in India to extensively cover the elections mentioned, ‘Unfortunately, a lot of the narratives that exist in London and across Europe are negative stories about India. We’re hearing things like religious divisions, but that’s not what we’ve witnessed on the ground.’ He brushed these accusations by mentioning, ‘We have seen Muslim women in full burqas attending Narendra Modi’s rally.’ 

           Truth flowed through those who witnessed elections closely, envoys or unbiased foreign journalists, detailed to monitor the mammoth exercise. The others were paid to criticize. Finally, elections have concluded without much turbulence, results announced, and is now time to rebuild national unity.    

   

   

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